Sunday, July 15, 2012

34. Tor Conan #27, Conan the Savage by Leonard Carpenter

Conan is now in Brythunia, He's busy gambling in a local dive when he calls out the wrong man for cheating. Soon finding himself in a work camp as slave labor, he formulates an escape. He escapes the work camp through an underground river.. it deposits him somewhere in the wilderness he knows not where.. and now he is Conan the Savage.. having to rely on all of his prowess and instincts to survive in an alien land with no weapons or tools. Conan spends a great deal of time trying to forage and make what he needs, before eventually heading back to civilization. Truthfully to much time was spent on this. Conan eventually finds himself living in a village of happy go lucky hunter-gatherers, who have a vaguely Native American or South East Islander theme to them. This is not a problem except they are located along a river some where in Brythunia, it is never exactly stated where. Conan lives out his days frolicking with his "Wife" and hunting in the forest.

Meanwhile, and obviously having begun much earlier.. before Conan first took his first steps on his adventure, a Brythunian girl named Tamsin's fate is changed forever after her family is murdered before her eyes. She, along with her doll, begin manifesting strange powers which eventually lead her to directly challange the major cult of Brythunia, and set her self up in opposition to it. The problem is, where as they are charlatans aiming only to bilk money, Tamsin and her doll have real, and disturbing powers. This storyline continues apace until Tamsin is queen of Brythunia (?!) and her doll Ninga is high Priestess (?!?!)

Finally with scant pages to spare, Conan and Tamsin's story lines converge with a wet thud ( you didn't seriously think it would be anything interesting did you?) with Conan heading to the capital looking for vengeance against the Brythunians who wronged him.. He achieves this and then continues on his way, south at last.

The annoyingly bifurcated storyline continued for the bulk of the novel, all but about the last 50 pages, and it was generally a relief when Conan wasn't on the page. In spite of the strangeness of the Tamsin storyline it's by far the most interesting of the two. To watch the creation of a new cult, which appears to have legitimate magical powers, and it's eventual takeover of the nation of Brythunia is entertaining if nothing else. Compared to the dull, and exceptionally glacial pace of the Conan chapters once he has escaped the mines, the Tamsin chapters are a more typical fantasy romp, especially if you can separate them from the over all backdrop of the Hyborian Age. Basically, this book was just plain dull.

The only specific chronological note is that Conan has spent time raiding with the Vanir sometime before this novel.. There isn't really anything to demand it's placement where it is, but I can't think of any reason (barring some wonky geography, nothing unheard of in the TOR pastiches) to say it can't go where it is right now. It's one saving grace is that it's a quick read. 

Up next, Conan the Defender by Robert Jordan.


Tex said...

This sounds like Carpenter had the idea for the Tamsin story and (with a deadline looming for a Clonan book) grafted it into the Hyborian Age.

(I mean, Conan just lounging around with a "wife" and hunting? Really?)

Lagomorph Rex said...

That's exactly what it feels like. It feels like he had the Tamsin idea, and wrapped it in a very very story light Conan.. which started and ended well but just had nothing really happening in the middle.

The other thing is, since we first meet Tamsin as a very small child, all the way to her early adulthood.. her storyline starts long before Conan ever even left Cimmeria in the first place. She was about 19 or 20 at the culmination of the story, and he's only a few years older than her at this point. The only other interesting thing is, it, along with Conan the Defender.. really shows just how precarious the empires and Kingdoms of the Hyborean age are.. It's the only truly consistent aspect and when taken as a part of a larger whole, you can start to see it all really building up to Conan seizing the crown of Aquilonia. Basically he picked the period around the decline of a lot of empires to start adventuring in them.. Turan seems to be the only one which is really stable.. and oddly most of that stability seems to be because of Conan thwarting the machinations of evil doers.. which we know is being done in places like Brythunia, Nemedia and Aquilonia since it was hinted at by REH in The God in the Bowl..