Red Nails (The Essential Conan #3) ★★★★☆

rednails (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Red Nails
Series: The Essential Conan #3
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 295
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another collection of stories about Conan with the final part of the book being a “history” of the Pre-Cataclysmic world and the post-Cataclysmic world leading up to our own known history.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book the most of all 3 of these Essential Conan books and I think it was a combination of slightly longer stories coupled with not having as many. The final part of the book, the “History” part was boring as all get out but I expected that as History and me are acquaintances by circumstances instead of friends by choice.

The History definitely showed up Howard’s racial bias more than anything in the stories. Purity of blood and the continual references to racial superiority or inferiority really began to grate.

The titular story, Red Nails, was probably the best Conan story of all I’ve read with these. From the killing of a monstrous lizard to an enclosed city with near insane inhabitants to a sorceress who feasts on live sacrifices, it just had it all. You could probably read that story alone and get enough of everything to decide if more Conan was for you or not.

I’m pretty pleased with this Essential omnibus that I read. I felt like I got a real taste of who and what Conan is about, what kind of author Howard was and it was just the right size so I’ve had enough without having too much. There are more Conan stories by Howard, and tons by other authors, but this has sated me so I feel no need to seek out more. I’d highly recommend this if you wanted to try out Conan or even simply wanted a better understanding of Fantasy from the early 1900’s. You are never going to go wrong by reading works that are foundational to the genres we have today.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

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The People of the Black Circle (The Essential Conan #2) ★★★☆½

peopleoftheblackcircle (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The People of the Black Circle
Series: The Essential Conan #2
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 220
Format: Hardcover

 

Synopsis:

4 stories involving Conan. While not exact, they do seem to move backwards in time, so while he’s king of the Hetman in the first story, by the time we get to the final story he’s a Sword for Hire.

Conan fights something, whether wizards, peoples or monsters, rescues nearly naked women and usually makes off with a boatload of treasure.

 

My Thoughts:

I wasn’t sure how this Conan read would go so soon after the first instalment. Thankfully, moving away from a full novel to shorter, more serialized stories worked rather well.

The first thing I noticed is just how well Howard can write. While the Conan stories are not in any way deep character sketches, Howards writes him in such a way that while sparse doesn’t feel flat. Conan was a real barbarian and Howard brings that to light with a deft touch. He also describes things in such a way as to evoke whatever emotion he is going for in the scene. He knows how to describe things precisely so as to guide you yet it never fell into purple prose territory either. It was a delicate tightrope and I thought he did a fantastic job.

However, the short story format fails us the readers. While all varying enough that they aren’t identical, in either scene or foe, the overall plotlines run almost along identical tracks. That wouldn’t be a problem if you read one story every other month or so. But reading 4 in a matter of weeks, well, it becames a little difficult to ignore.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with Conan and how this Essential Series is working out. I’ve got one more to go and then I think I’ll be satisfied with having tried this particular Hero out.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

The Hour of the Dragon (The Essential Conan #1) ★★★☆☆

hourofthedragon (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Hour of the Dragon
Series: The Essential Conan #1
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 296
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

4 Conspirators, using a mystic gem of unimaginable power, resurrect a long dead wizard, Xaltotun. They plan to use his power to further their own aims. What they so carelessly forget is that Xaltotun might have plans of his own, like the resurrection of his whole nation of 1000’s of years ago from the Age of Dark Wizards.

One man stands in their way. Conan, king of Aquilonia. A fierce Cimmerian who took the throne by force, Conan is no innocent when it comes to the ways of wizards. After being overthrown by magic, secretly being taken captive by Xaltotun and then escaping, Conan tries to take back his country. Problem is, Aquilonia is rift with factions and Xaltotun, through his puppet, is playing those factions against each other. And should Conan unite the country, Xaltotun will just use his magic to destroy them all again.

With the help of the priests of a cultic god and a wild witch woman from the hills, Conan learns he must find the Heart of Ahriman and use its powers to overthrow Xaltotun. Only then will sword and spear be enough to route the human element. After several adventures, including pirates, a voluptuous vampire and priests of the dark god Set, Conan recovers the jewel.

Xaltotun is unaware and blithely goes to his doom. Every Aquilonian suddenly turns patriot and Conan takes his country back and paddles the backsides of the other nations that did him wrong.

 

My Thoughts:

This is actually an omnibus edition put out by the Science Fiction Book Club back in the late 90’s or or early ’00’s. It contains 2 other Conan books, which all consist of a series of short stories. This one, Hour of the Dragon, is the only novel in the book. There are forwards and afterwards by some editor who appears to be a big Conan fan and while slightly interesting to a big Conan fan, didn’t mean a thing to me. I don’t care about Howard’s personal life or that he was such a coward that he took his own life at 36. That doesn’t get sympathy from me but makes me despise him as a human. And that is just the type of thing I don’t want when going into a book.

Sword and Sorcery at its height, perhaps? This was Adventure pure and simple and there was nothing complicated about that. This is not about characterization or rich world building. Conan is a force of nature that hews and kills and fights against all odds and prevails.

While I enjoyed this, I also tend to enjoy crunchy Cheetos. I only eat Cheetos in the small snack packs now, as any larger amount makes me sick. This Essential omnibus is probably going to fulfill my Conan quota for quite some time. It is just the type of writing that you can enjoy but if you overdose, you’ll stay away from for the rest of your life. I want to be able to enjoy these stories even while realizing their inherent weaknesses. I mean, really, how many times can you read “mighty thews” and keep your eyes from rolling?

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964 ★★★★★

sfhalloffame (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964
Series: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame #1
Editor: Robert Silverberg
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 576
Format: Trade paperback

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories voted by members of the Science Fiction Authors Guild (or something or other like that) as the best of. A popularity contest of stories from the 30’s to the 60’s. No author had more than one story and the book was presented chronologically, so we as the readers could see how things progressed storywise in 30 years.

 

My Thoughts:

Danielle from Books, Vertigo and Tea reviewed this recently and brought it to my attention. What a fantastic read.

First off, this was originally published back in 1970, I believe. It was released again in 2005 and then just released digitally in 2018. Obviously not a new book. I read this at lunch beginning sometime in March and just finished it this past week. Short stories really lend themselves to no pressure reading and going at a slow pace. Sometimes you need that in a busy, hectic book life like mine.

I had read over ½ of these 26 stories, as growing up in the 80’s and addicted to SF meant I was familiar with almost all of these authors, even if just by name. This was good stuff! If you’ve never read Vintage SF, this is a good place to start. Even if you don’t like every story (and I didn’t like every one either), you’ll get the flavor of what those years produced and if an author strikes your fancy, you can then go on and investigate on your own.

In many ways, I think that Science Fiction shines through the short story medium. Ideas are presented and there is no extraneous fluff or junk to ruin it. And if your imagination isn’t up to snuff to get you excited about ideas, then you probably shouldn’t be reading SF in the first place.

I bought this used in trade paperback through Amazon but I think the stories are good enough that I’m going to have to put the hardcover on my wishlist. In terms of Short Story Collections, this falls squarely between Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 1 and Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 2. I do plan on buying, in used trade paperback again, Volumes 2 & 3, which are the best novella’s of that time period. Hopefully they are as good as these stories.

★★★★★

 

 

bookstooge (Custom)

David Starr, Space Ranger (Lucky Starr #1) ★★★☆½

spaceranger (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: David Starr, Space Ranger
Series: Lucky Starr #1
Author: Isaac Asimov
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 144
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

David Starr, youngest member of the Galactic Science Council, has been sent to Mars to find out why people on Earth are being poisoned with Martian food. Going undercover as a farmboy, Starr meets various characters and comes across the idea that Mars might have native Martians living in caves underground.

Starr investigates, meets the Martians, who have moved beyond the physical and into the purely mental plane of existence and gets a special mask from them that disguises him, gives him a personal force field and allows him to create the personna, The Space Ranger.

Starr solves the mystery and the legend of the Space Ranger is born. The book ends with him picking up a sidekick and waiting for another adventure.

 

My Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. This was so much fun. Short and zippy and chockful of that 1950’s American Attitude. In Space!

These Lucky Starr books were originally written in the 50’s or 60’s and then re-released in the 70’s. Asimov wrote a new intro for the re-release where he apologizes for scientific inaccuracies since a lot more knowledge had been discovered between releases. One, it was funny to read about the advances made in 20 years from almost 50 years later and two, it did credit to Asimov that he was willing to admit his stories weren’t accurate. If more authors would be that humble, that would be good for all of us.

This was a mix of science fiction, mystery and western all rolled into one. It reminded me of the radio dramas that I’ve heard before. If this had been written today, I’d say this would fall into caricature or even satirization, but Asimov was fully serious. It works. It is written to entertain and it does that admirably.

I think the rest of the series I’ll be better able to judge if this is decent quality or not. This one has that “new but nostalgia” factor for sure.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)