Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Books of the Week: 6/26/2012

Hmmmm... I'm running out of funny/sarcastic introductions. Would a sorta meta one work instead? No? Darn... Anyway, I haven't read much this last week--I just discovered the evil joy that is Overlord--but I somehow managed to still provide a dissecting of the customary three books: We have a Narnia knock-off, a pseudo-pulp fantasy novel, and a true old pulp collection by the author of Conan the Barbarian (the stories, not the Ahnold movie).

Red Moon and Black Mountain
Joy Chant

Red Moon (because I'm too lazy to type the whole name) is a kind of Narnia knock-off. You have the children sucked into a fantasy world to fight a great evil, their various and assorted allies, the whole shebang. ...What's a shebang? 

Right from the beginning, I knew this was going to be a Narnia ripoff. And yes, I can call it a ripoff. It was published decades after the Chronicles of Narnia. What was my point again? Oh, yeah. Narnia ripoff--something I could handle if it was well-done, but I just don't like this. I honestly don't know why. To describe the feeling you'll get from Red Moon, strip the majesty from Lord of the Rings' prose, keeping the stiffness, add that to the basic plot of Narnia, and you have Joy Chant's writing style. That said, however, Chant does have her moments. Sometimes. 

For the most part, though, I feel like Chant is trying too hard to make an epic for an audience I assume is pre-teen. And that shows in places, especially when she tries to be ominous and portentious. In Narnia, the children aren't ever in THAT much danger--Aslan is usually somewhere around the corner if things get too bad. But I haven't encountered an Aslan figure so far. The world of Red Moon is more barbaric and primitive than Narnia, as well, but the kids are somehow, inexplicably safe. 

Honestly, I can't decide if Red Moon is good or bad. I want to like it--sometimes I DO like it--but there's something that makes me hate it, or want to hate it. I'm going to set it aside and come back, leaving it unjudged for now. If anyone's read it, what's your take? 

Krunk's Korner: Krunk am find this book to be strange amalgamation of Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. It am have lots of portents and signs and barbarians in leather and fur. That am fairly realistic. But who am in charge of picking heroes for these worlds? Why not pick big man who am good with sword, like Krunk? Krunk am not work for six months...

Darkness Weaves
Karl Edward Wagner

Darkness Weaves, to me, seems like a throwback to the old days of fantasy pulps. Mercenary hires out to queen/witch, gains her trust, and eventually rebels. Pretty standard stuff. Although the viking/barbarian in a Speedo on the front cover is rather disturbing, as well as impractical from an armor standpoint. I guess it's a dominance display? I'm certainly cowed.

From the main character, who strikes me as a mashup of Conan the Barbarian and Elric of Melnibone (and if you don't know who those guys are, we need to have a talk), to the writing style, everything just screams pulp. 

Darkness Weaves is well-written, though it switches between a pulpy style and a more casual, modern conversational style on occasion. The writing, like a lot of pulps, is deceptively simple, but it grows on you. 

The protagonist is definitely not a nice guy: he's crazy, a murderer, and a general all-around psycho. He's a big guy, like Conan, but he's got more conventional learning than the barbarian, in addition to plenty of treachery, battle-smarts, and animal cunning. 

Something I always like to see is influence from the Cthulhu mythos, and Darkness Weaves has that. There's references to the Cthulhu myths, to our own world, to Cain, to sci-fi (submarines in a fantasy novel? That was a new one...), and more. 

Bottom line? Me likey. There's action, a little intrigue, monsters, hints of the Cthulhu myths, killing, psychopathic battlemages, and more! 

Krunk's Korner: Main character of this am another person Krunk am want to have drink with. Him am have stories that might top Krunk's own! That am rare. That said, this am reaffirm Krunk's belief that trusting sorcerers am very bad idea...

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
Robert E. Howard

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane is a massive collection of every one of Howard's pulp short stories about the Puritan swordsman Solomon Kane. 

While the last book was pseudo-pulp, this is true pulp fantasy/horror. Howard was friends with H.P. Lovecraft, so it's no surprise to occasionally encounter things in Howard's stories that resonate with Lovecraft's work. (Man, that was a lot of possessives and other fancy grammar terms...) 

I find myself, once again, drawing a comparison to The Witcher. Solomon Kane is rather comparable--he travels the world, fighting monsters and righting wrongs. Unlike Geralt of Rivia, however, Kane is more than willing to interfere in the dealings of other humans, if he sees innocents at risk, or "evil" deeds being done. The stories of Solomon Kane are semi-connected. You might see the same characters more than once, and Kane is always a presence. That said, you could read any one of these stories and come away satisfied. 

Howard's writing is what I think of when I call something "pulp." It has a distinctive style, not bad, but unique. There's a tendency to shy away from flowery prose, and more of a fondness for blunt, action-oriented sentences. 

Kane is one tough cookie. He faces vampires, murderous skeletons, the soul of a dead man, pirates, and many other monsters human and inhuman, always without flinching. I like how Howard uses Kane's faith as a plot device. It's never mocked, and that core of belief often aids Kane. 

However, Howard was racist and sexist, and it shows. Non-whites are described as barbaric savages, non-Christians as faithless vipers, and women depicted as either shrinking violets or monstrous witches. So there's that. 

1920s attitudes aside, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane is a good book, and it makes me wish Howard had lived longer. (As with Lovecraft, I believe he would have "outgrown" his racism and sexism. My personal theory is that their depression contributed to their occasional ugliness). The variation in the stories--horror, action, philosophical, or a blend--kept me from getting bored, the writing is good, and Kane is a believable character. 

Krunk's Korner: Solomon Kane am big fool. Why fight for faith? Fight for MONEY! But that am just Krunk's opinion. He am believe that gods help those who help themselves... to the money. Praying am for weaklings and the dying. Also cowards. Like Greg. He am weakling AND coward. Krunk am wish he wasn't associated with that quivering fool.