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much abridged re-write, courtesy of L. Sprague Decamp (Who's hallmarks are all over this story), of one of Lin Carter's unpublished Thongor stories.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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

31. Ace Conan #2.3 - "The Frost Giant's Daughter" - Robert E. Howard

After a long long hiatus, I'm going to try and get back to work on this project. What better way to start than with the story which, arguably, some say is the very first Conan story chronologically, but for my tastes, fits best here.

I feel that for the purposes of this Chronology which we are following, Conan is still, despite all of his adventures, a fairly young man. He is also a very frustrated man. For a brief re-cap of the last few volumes, Having allowed his appetites, fists and mouth to get him into trouble in Turan, and cost him his captaincy in the Turanian Army, Conan headed west and north for many days, eventually traveling back into his native Cimmeria. Finding the welcome not quite what he expected, and finding that the looming troubles of the south had even managed to follow him there, Conan has set off north once more, Intent on visiting the Aesir whom he had adventured with so much earlier in the series. "The Frost Giant's Daughter" - By Robert E. Howard, picks up some time after this revelrie. The Aesir + Conan have gone out to raid their perpetual enemies, the Vanir. In the process, Conan is tempted by the daughter of the frost giants, and allows his lust and anger at her to nearly lead him to his death at the hands of her brothers.

The story is something of an oddity in itself. It was rejected by Weird Tales on first publication, so Howard re-wrote the story to feature a character named Amra of Akbitana and re-submitted it under the name of 'Gods of the north'. Needless to say, this story is probably one of the most anthologized Conan stories now, even though, in my opinion, it doesn't really do a whole lot for his image, and actually goes some way towards the common (commonly wrong!) assumption that Conan is just a rampaging death machine like some sort of prehistoric Hulk. This is perhaps why I prefer this later placement, it allows for his shift in attitude to be explained by the hardships and frustrations which he has faced during his trip back north.

I'm not going to go into any more detail about the story itself, if you are a Conan fan and you haven't read this story yet, then clearly you need to rectify this oversight. It's been adapted by Marvel (Multiple times), Dark Horse, and is contained in its original form in the following: 

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword and Sorcery Hero of All Time! by Robert E. Howard

 So instead of boring you with a review of something about 90% of my readers have read already, lets just listen to some music instead.