Saturday, April 28, 2012

32. Ace Conan #2.4 - "Lair of the Iceworm" by Lin Carter and L. Sprague DeCamp

In this story we find Conan once more turning his sights towards the south. Roughly backtracking over the same path he followed heading North, Conan aims to return to the Border Kingdom, and from there to lands he has yet to explore. On the path, Conan comes across a young woman beset by men little better than savages. He rescues her, comes to find that she is in fact a Hyperborean, and then spends the night with her. During their repose, the girl goes missing, Conan sets out to find her, but discovers only her corpse. His mind reels with the implications, which he manner of her death portend. Only one creature, half legendary, in all the northlands kills it's victims in the manner of her demise. The dreaded Remora, a vampiric ice-worm of terrible strength. If one of these creatures is loose, Conan feels it must be dispatched quickly lest it create untold havoc. Without to much difficulty Conan manages to track the tremendous worm to its lair, slaying it, however, is a trickier business. Suffice to say, the doughty Cimmerian manages the task and makes good his escape from the horror's demesne. Once more heading south, Conan puts the grotesque episode behind him. On to warm climes, silks, wine, sultry women and adventure!

This is, much like the earlier "The Thing in the Crypt" is, essentially a much abridged re-write, courtesy of L. Sprague Decamp (Who's hallmarks are all over this story), of one of Lin Carter's unpublished Thongor stories. In this case, "The Demon of the Snows" which is contained in "The Year's best Fantasy stories #6". This series, which Lin Carter edited, contains a number of Thongor Stories which were mined for components to make Conan Pastiches. Personally I found Carter's original story, to easily be the better of the two. Unfortunately for DeCamp, his style of writing, often twee and very tweedy, just doesn't fit the style which REH developed and Lin Carter can sometimes manage to emulate. Combining DeCamp's ludicrously professorial tone, E.G. having Conan discuss evolution and comparative religion or multiplication tables in the midst of an action scene, are extremely jarring when they pop up in one of the DeCamp edited REH stories. But they are extremely detrimental to the health of the stories penned by a weaker writer such as Carter. Over all, not a bad story, but it's just an A-Incident-B story used to bridge a gap, and that pretty much shows.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

I've always thought the Thongor short stories some of Lin Carter's better work, and I agree that the Thongor version of Ice Worm is the superior of the two. Lin could occasionally generate some headlong action, but de camp tended to then bog it down. I like much of either man's work on his own, but the combination never seemed to gel.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Yes I agree with you on that. The Short Stories are quite good. I liked them more than the longer novellas for the most part. I'd really love to see all the Thongor stories put together in one or two volumes, preferably in chronological order, and including the ones from Robert M. Price. Even with all 18 or so stories it wouldn't be more than about 1000 pages... It was one of the things which I had hoped Paizo would eventually get around to doing, but with Planet stories being on hiatus now I'm not thinking it's likely to happen.