Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Complete Chronicles of Conan - Robert E. Howard

A really nice book that just gives you the lot from Robert E. Howard as far as Conan goes.

There is nice map of the world Conan wandered around in at the front, and an afterword by Stephen Jones.

This includes

The Hyborian Age

This is not a story as such, but an account of the fictional history of Howard's world through the ages, to the time of Kull and Atlantis down to the entitled time when Conan ran amok. Quite nicely done.

4 out of 5

Cimmeria (poem)

The Phoenix on the Sword

King Conan is bored. Politics and statecraft and maps, and all that stuff.

In a dream, a man magically enhances his sword, and that certainly comes in handy later when the odd traitor and demon relieves the tedium of the ruling class.

3.5 out of 5

The Scarlet Citadel

King Conan's army of Aquilonians has been smashed by a far superior force, led by a wizard. Conan refuses to sign over his kingdom, and the wizard throws him in a dungeon.

He escapes an assassin and a monster, and rescues a wizardly rival that Tsotha had imprisoned. This wizard, please, summons a flying steed to bear Conan back to his kingdom, to take revenge.

4.5 out of 5

The Tower of the Elephant

Conan is in thieving mode here. In a tavern, he is asking the assembled crowd of nogoodniks why no-one has stolen a famous jewel from this tower.

They tell him because it is guarded by some very nasty things.

He, of course, investigates, and meets a master thief attempting the same thing.

Humans, animals, a giant spider and a wizard are to be encountered, not to mention an alien.

3.5 out of 5

Black Colossus

Princess Yasmeela is visited by the sorceror Natokh, in an unearthly appartion. Terrified, she consults the oracle of Mitra, who tells her to make the first man she sees head of her armies.

It is her good fortune that this man is Conan. Her understands her political and military problems, and leads her army in war against the forces of Natokh, who has a resurrected monster up his sleeve.

Carnage ensues.

4 out of 5

The Slithering Shadow

Conan and the woman with him find a strange city in the desert, after attacks and problems, they finally come across two weird inhabitants, a man and a woman :

"..I am Thalis the Stygian," she replied. "Are you mad, to come here?"

"I've been thinking I must be," he growled. "By Crom, if I am sane, I'm out of place here, because these people are all maniacs."

The strange, deadly black shadows don't care who they take, though, and Conan and Natala must face those, and weird dream warriors, before the end.

4 out of 5

The Pool of the Black One

Conan has escaped an island where he was in trouble, and swum out to a nearby ship, boosting himself over the side and inviting himself onto the crew.

He plots to take over leadership, but when he follows the pirate leader ashore later, he gets more than he bargained for with a lot of black followers and something nasty in the Pool.

He rallies and rescues what is left of the pirate crew, and has himself a ship, and a woman.

4 out of 5

Rogues In the House

Conan is yet again in trouble because of drinking and wenching. A crime has gone wrong, and a woman he was with has betrayed him to the authorities.

He is offered a way out, if he will kill a man. This man is Nabonidus, The Red Priest.

The only problems involve breaking in, a huge hulking ape-man servant, and then The Red Priest himself and his powers.

3.5 out of 5

Shadows in the Moonlight

Conan comes across an Hyrkanian battle leader who has slaughtered the mercenaries he was with. He slays him and allows a girl the dead man had captured to come with him.

Attempting escape they come across pirates, a man ape, and spooky statues at night.

4 out of 5

Queen of the Black Coast

Download Queen of the Black Coast

One of the classic Conan stories. The barbarian goes a-reavin', and finds another of the rare women that can match him. Belit has fire, and presence, and command, but again, it does not end well. Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5

The Devil in Iron

Conan, working as a hetman of the Free Peoples is on the trail of a girl he had met in camp. He comes across an odd, dreamlike area, but soon encounters yet another giant defender, but this one even he cannot kill.

The same cannot be said of his rival in the opposition forces, and he takes the girl with him afterwards.

4 out of 5

The People of the Black Circle

Conan is again in a leadership position, and seven of his lieutenants have been captured and are under sentence of death. He goes to see what he can do about it. In a flash, he makes off with their leader, the Devi. She is not all he has to worry about, as spies, plots and the wizardry of the Black Seers will all hinder him, not to mention the odd small army, along with the Devi herself.

4.5 out of 5

A Witch Shall Be Born

A bad problem to have - how do you tell which of two women is the very evil twin. Luckily, our favorite barbarian is a very pragmatic man. Excellent and evocative, this story.

4.5 out of 5

Jewels of Gwahlur

To quote Mr. Howard - "Conan was basically a direct-actionist. Such subtlety as he possessed
had been acquired through contact with the more devious races."

and when a woman tries some subterfuge, about being a goddess :

"Why, you sacrilegious little hussy!" rumbled Conan. "Do you not fear
the gods? Crom! Is there no honesty anywhere?"

For military reasons, Conan has to get the Teeth of Gwahlur from their hiding place in a mystic castle before his political and military opposition.

He decides he can get the girl Muriela to run the same scam she tried on him, on some others. The only problem is that the real goddess Yelaya shows up! Then it is time to scarper, sharpish.

4.5 out of 5

Beyond the Black River

Conan is working around a fort on the border of Aquilonia, when many tribes of Picts, united by the wizard Zogar Sag, combine to attack.

Conan takes out a scouting party to see what goes on, but they are ambushed, and most captured and killed, except one man, that he rescues. The wizard summons beasts by virtue of the powers of an old god, whom Conan is familiar with. With the help of an old dog, Slasher, Conan and his companion try and get the settlers to safety, while the fort is overrun.

Zogar Sag makes a mistake when he sends a fleshly avatar to try and destroy Conan. The barbarian kills the avatar, which destroys the wizard, and the Pictish invasion is over.

4.5 out of 5

Shadows in Zamboula

Conan is in Zamboula, and amazingly enough, comes across a girl, and she needs, and is also not what she seems. Royalty, serpent priests, and huge god-servants need some Cimmerian whup-arse, here.

3.5 out of 5

Red Nails

Download Conan - Red Nails

Conan is travelling, finds a dead woman, and then encounters Valeria of the Red Brotherhood. After trading some insults, they have the misfortune to stumble across a dragon.

Then they have fun in an abandoned city full of crazed warriors, two evil leering royals, and a third undeed type one. Capture, bondage, slayage, all the great stuff in this tale of a fantastic partnership.

5 out of 5

The Hour of the Dragon (poem)

The Hour of the Dragon

The novel length Conan work. An aging Conan is now in a position of responsibility, being King of Aquilonia.

His reign is threatened by a very powerful sorcerer, whom Conan is unable to stop by mundane means, and must take himself off hunting for a mystic artifact.

Having done this, there is some wizard smiting to be done.

Top notch work.

5 out of 5

The God in the Bowl

Conan is indulging in a bit of thievery and is busted by the local constabulary, right near a dead body. Conan proclaims his innocence, which they find hard to believe, but are not going to fight him over it.

Some digging reveals a local wastrel nobel is involved, up to ears in debt, but he ends up with a few problems with the God In the Bowl, of the mortal kind. When he orders Conan restrained, the constabulary lose a few body parts, and others more than that.

3 out of 5

The Black Stranger

A tale of three brigands, that starts slow, and then rip-roars along. With multiple pirates, you know there has to be a treasure map. This time, to the Treasure of Tranicos.

Add in a mystical demon warrior, a bunch of raiding Picts, a couple of sieges, three pirates that can't trust each other, a beautiful woman, and Conan, and all hell will break loose.

4 out of 5

The Frost-Giant's Daughter

Conan meets a very pale woman after fighting a battle in the frozen north. She is haughty, and arrogant, and summons a couple of her brothers to fight Conan. Giant men they might be, but the Cimmerian grabs them, and then grabs the girl.

She calls to her father Ymir, and disappears. Conan wakes up - was it all a dream?

4 out of 5

Drums of Tombalku (draft)

A story that was completed by de Camp.

Conan has been captured after the destruction of a mercenary band he was fighting in, but a friend escapes. The friend rescues a girl, and takes her back to her home city, but leaves when the horror in the Red Tower awakes, and he has to combat it.

Riding into the desert he meets Conan, who has apparently impressed his captors enough, the riders of Tombalku, that he now rides with them.

They all go to Tombalku, and Conan and Amalric briefly instruct the military there, before they fall foul of racism and a wizard, and decide to leave, post haste.

3 out of 5

The Vale of Lost Women

Conan is war chief of the Bamulas, and the story is told from the point of view of an Ophirean woman that is a captive of the group he is leading.

She talks him into letting her go by offering herself to him, for variety. He doesn't hold her to it, however, knowing that would be wrong, and lets her go.

She manages to get herself into trouble in the vale, where the women she finds definitely are not human. The Cimmerian, luckily for her, had been following her trail, and arrives just in time, another day at the office for him :

"A devil from the Outer Dark," he grunted. "Oh, they're nothing uncommon."

3.5 out of 5

Wolves Beyond the Border (draft)

This is pretty much a Conanless Conan story. Conan is away fighting in Aquilonian and we follow a man in the Westmerck near the Picts as he encounters shapeshifting and beast magic.

2.5 out of 5

The Snout in the Dark (draft)

A short draft. A popular military officer is imprisoned by a dangerous queen type. When she returns from hunting, the population is beginning to turn ugly, and tries to tear her from her horse.

A large, scarred Cimmerian is nearby, and manages to rescue her, not without injury to either.

She promptly orders her Captain of the Guard slain, and gives Conan the job. He is not displeased to be the captain for a good looking naked and bleeding ruler, at least for now.

3 out of 5

The Hall of the Dead (synposis)

De Camp completed this from an outline of Howard's that was found. Conan has left Shadrizar to look for the treasure of Larsha, and a squad of soldiers, out to arrest him for other larceny are on his trail.

He deals with most of them, but the leader, Nestor is not dead and follows him into the city, meeting him in the treasure room after he deals with a giant slug.

They leave, quickly, when mummified warriors come to life and the building starts collapsing. Their loot is not too stable, and not enjoyed for long.

3 out of 5

The Hand of Nergal (fragment)

Another story fleshed out from an outline.

Conan is fighting as Turanian irregular cavalry when large mystical bat creatures attack the force he is fighting with. Their morale breaks, leaving them easy prey, all except the Cimmerian who happens to have found The Heart of Tammuz amulet.

A local scholar sends his girl slave to find Conan and hire him to help him get rid of the evil sorceror using The Hand of Nergal to summon the bat creatures, and worse.

Conan is not able to do much, and is a lot of trouble until the girl arrives, and is able to employ the amulet. As a reward, he takes her with him, out of servitude.

3.5 out of 5

Notes on Various Peoples of the Hyborian Age

All in all, a great way to put this together, and just have the one book. Obvious, but it has finally been done, thankfully.

5 out of 5

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