My son, Josh, is coming up today so I won't be around the net much. And tomorrow I start back to school so I'm going to be less regular (in blogging that is) than I've been over the Christmas break. In the meantime, I leave you with a review.
With his John Carter of Mars series, Edgar Rice Burroughs ignited a publishing juggernaut that lasted well into the 1980s and drew in writers such as Robert E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, Gardner F. Fox, Lin Carter, Alan Burt Akers (Ken Bulmer), and many others. The John Carter stories formed the prototype of a genre that came to be called Sword and Planet fiction. By the late 1980s, however, the genre had declined to the point that it was no longer being published by the major presses and only the small presses kept it alive. Now, Jeff Doten has created one of the first new pure Sword and Planet anthologies to appear in many years, and he himself did the lavish interior illustrations for the work. Here are my thoughts and notes on the collection.
Strange Worlds, “Collected and Illustrated by Jeff Doten.”
Space Puppet Press, 2011
Soft cover, fully illustrated, 189 pages.
Contains an introduction, eight illustrated stories, and a full color comic book, as well as an expansive list of suggested reading in the genre of Sword & Planet fiction. Each story is introduced with a full color cover set up to look like the fantastic paperback covers of the 1970s and 80s.
Cover: by Jeff Doten. A John Carter type character is caught in a contemplative mood.
Introduction, by Jeff Doten. A very short commentary on the nature of Sword & Planet fiction.
1st story: “God’s Dream,” by Charles A. Gramlich. As a boy, Zarn’s father is murdered by desert nomads and Zarn himself is taken captive. He grows to adulthood and earns the right to wear the title nomad for himself, but he can never be fully a nomad, and the mystery of his father’s death draws him into the badlands and toward a destiny he has never suspected.
2nd story: “When the World Changed,” by Ken St. Andre. Is it death that awaits anyone who opens the Pits of Vrando’harr? Or something much worse?
3rd story: “Metal Rat & the Brand New Jungle,” by Jennifer Rahn. Ivor and Tyla fight the Zernesq, and no matter how strange the world around them becomes they find a way to fight on. This one definitely had one of the strangest and most unpredictable endings I’ve seen in fantasy.
4th story: “Pearls of Uraton,” by Paul R. McNamee. Drak of Dithor knows how to get things done on Uraton. That’s why two Terrans come to him with a dangerous and illegal request. Great hook at the beginning and action all through this one.
5th story: “The Final Gift,” by Liz Coley. It is time for Tarn to seek his spirit guide, and kill it with the last new blade of his people. But what if the beast he meets is more than a beast?
6th story: “The Beasts of the Abyss,” by Lisa V. Tomecek. “Miranda Station. Edge of the empire. No man’s land. A place of little opportunity and even less mercy. For Caliban, it was perfect.” Lisa Tomecek was channeling her inner Leigh Brackett when she wrote this one. The atmosphere and action are very good.
7th story: “The Specimen,” by Adrian Kleinbergen. You open a small doorway into a parallel universe and you get a small sample of the weirdness to be found there. What happens when you open a “big” doorway?
8th story: “Slavers of Trakor,” by Charles R. Rutledge. Connor Blake had what John Carter had, what Dray Prescot had, but then his princess was killed, her flyer shot down by the insect-like Chithlain’s. And now Connor has only emptiness. Until a young man tries to waylay him and instead ends up offering Connor redemption.
Comic book: “Martian Abductations,” by Jeff Doten. A grocery run on old Mars is not for the faint of heart.
Suggested Reading: A pretty comprehensive list of the best known Sword and Planet fiction available. Authors and titles listed.
Now for the giveaway. I have a copy of this book that I'm going to give away to one of the commenters on this blog. I'm going to leave this post up for a few days so if you want to be entered in the drawing for the book just leave a comment. After I have the drawing, I'll post the winner here and indicate how to get in touch with me to claim your prize.
If you can't wait and simply must have your copy shipped now, you can order these: HERE.