Monday, July 14, 2008

The Eric John Stark Saga - Leigh Brackett

I'd say this might be the commercial ebook deal of the millenium. Eight books comprising all the Eric John Stark stories (if you don't count the precursor stories Black Amazon of Mars and Queen of the Martian Catacombs that you find in Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stars.

There are the three Skaith books, The Secret Of Sinharat, and The People of the Talisman, as well as Stark and the Star Kings - which includes Enchantress Of Venus and the Stark crossover with Hamilton's Star Kings series. There are a couple of other Brackett stories in there for good measure.

Just to be completists, Baen gives us the two Star Kings novels, as well, a nice extra indeed.

$20 for all that is very good, especially given the weakness of the monopoly money recently. A whole $2.50 a book. Bargain cubed. No DRM crap, multiple formats, works nicely as per usual.

Five star stuff, no questions asked.

Even better, there is another one.

Fabulous work all around, here.

Eric John Stark Saga : The Ginger Star: Volume I of The Book of Skaith - Leigh Brackett
Eric John Stark Saga : The Hounds of Skaith: Volume II of The Book of Skaith - Leigh Brackett
Eric John Stark Saga : The Reavers of Skaith: Volume III of The Book of Skaith - Leigh Brackett
Eric John Stark Saga : The Secret of Sinharat - Leigh Brackett
Eric John Stark Saga : People of the Talisman - Leigh Brackett
Eric John Stark Saga : Stark and the Star Kings - Leigh Brackett
Eric John Stark Saga : The Star Kings - Edmond Hamilton
Eric John Stark Saga : Return to the Stars - Edmond Hamilton

Eric John Stark Saga : The Ginger Star: Volume I of The Book of Skaith - Leigh Brackett

The Dark Mark cometh.

As part of a most excellent Brackett 'Space Opera Noir from the master' ebook bundle, from Baen.

The title refers to the color of the sun of the planet Skaith, where this series is based.

Stark ventures there looking for an old friend and mentor, someone who was pivotal in his survival and upbringing.

Then it gets stranger. Skaith is a backwater, and speakof the Dark Man and other such Robert E. Howard appellations - that is what a prophesy suggests Stark might be - a pivotal figure in the planet's conflict.

Once he arrives, he could be in a Burroughs or Howard story, Witchfire story, backstabbing madwomen, tough guy enemies - ok, apart from the telepathic hounds, perhaps.

Certainly monster fighting and sword swinging to be done, however.

The book, is introduced by Algis Budrys, and he sets the scene for those not around for the 1974 publication, and a glossary of people and places is given at the end, for this a little out of the ordinary planetary romance on a dying world setting.

Not a brilliant book by any stretch, as you would probably guess, but it is very compelling, as he who was N'Chaka the wild man, the Wolfshead (has anyone been called by the titles of two Howard stories in one book before?), searches for his friend among many deadly enemies on a planet full of people disinclined to believe in the existence of the outsided Galactic Union.

I think you can get them from Paizo and Planet Stories, too, as another option.

I don't think anyone who likes the whole family of space hero/planetary romance supermen type of story will regret reading these books for a second, as Brackett certainly has more talent than most of the writers of the same.

A 3.5 if you like.

Eric John Stark Saga : The Hounds of Skaith: Volume II of The Book of Skaith - Leigh Brackett

Fire and Sword.

Stark already has released the Hounds, and he puts them to very good use in this battle of progressive and conservative forces across the planet.

Under siege, the forces of his allies need help, and he can find them some. With his friend Simon's political influence, getting some technological assistance from a ship in the area could make raising a siege like bullseyeing womp-rats in the T-16 back home.

A somewhat more powerful set of events than in the first novel, I think.

4.5 out of 5

Eric John Stark Saga : The Reavers of Skaith: Volume III of The Book of Skaith - Leigh Brackett

Last stand for a dying order.

Stark and his allies (even those who would be more than happy to stick a sword in his neck), have to try and do what they can to save as many people as possible.

Cities start to crumble on the dying world of Skaith and only mass evacuation can save the half of the population that will die.

The old powers would rather stay and see that happen, and our hero has to try and change it, avoid crazed madwoman, and stay alive in the process.

4 out of 5

Eric John Stark Saga : The Secret of Sinharat - Leigh Brackett

Barbarian hordes and witch women.

Stark's old mentor tracks him down, and hence he gets involved in trying to stop a barbarian insurrection on Mars.

All is not as it seems with the charismatic leader of the horder, or with the odd Venusian mercenary.

With some capable female assistance, Stark sword swings into action.

4 out of 5

Eric John Stark Saga : People of the Talisman - Leigh Brackett

Unmasked warlords and almost dead cities.

A Baen ebook reprint in their very cool recent Brackett/Hamilton megapack.

With a lot of sword, spear and axe work in between, the book gets more interesting after Stark unmasks a war leader of his opposition after a good belt to the helmet is delivered. Both he and her followers are rather suprised to discover she is not a man.

More fighting of course ensues, but the aforementioned pair are forced to work together against strange aliens in an unfortunately not deserted city, to ensure things do not go badly wrong.

3.5 out of 5

Eric John Stark Saga : Stark and the Star Kings - Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett

A highly entertaining bunch of space adventure in this book, the title story being a crossover between the spousal duo's characters, Eric John Stark and the Star Kings.

It is all really rather cool from crazy space adventure like Child Of the Sun, to the planetary romance of the Enchantress of Venus, to the more serious Lake Of the Gone Forever. Definitely worth a read.

No average stories at all, and a 3.58 score overall.

Stark and the Star Kings : STARK AND THE STAR KINGS - Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton
Stark and the Star Kings : ENCHANTRESS OF VENUS - Leigh Brackett
Stark and the Star Kings : THE LAKE OF THE GONE FOREVER - Leigh Brackett
Stark and the Star Kings : CHILD OF THE SUN - Leigh Brackett
Stark and the Star Kings : RETREAT TO THE STARS - Leigh Brackett
Stark and the Star Kings : THE JEWEL OF BAS - Leigh Brackett

When very bad things are detected, Stark is sent into the future to enlist the aid of the Star Kings to stop a sun destroying menace.

3.5 out of 5

Stark goes looking to find a lost friend he thinks is in trouble, and ends up fomenting a slave rebellion, among other things.

4 out of 5

Transuranic memories.

3.5 out of 5

Pick on people your own size, starthing boy.

3.5 out of 5

Shoot the state spy, we've got a spaceship to fly.

3.5 out of 5

Cimerians, Hyperborean forests, slave gangs, androids, monsters, immortals, priests of Dagon, energy weapons, stone of destiny, telepaths, and harpiing.

3.5 out of 5

4.5 out of 5

Eric John Stark Saga : The Star Kings - Edmond Hamilton

Space prince swap.

John Gordon is rather surprised to be mentally contacted by a man claiming to be from a long, long way in the future, who claims he can swap minds in an experiment with a man from the past such as himself.

When he agrees there are beautiful women to try and fool, Galactic Empires to save, battle fleets to be fought, and atom-pistols to be wielded. Oh, and a super Disruptor weapon to protect from falling into the wrong hands.

Not what your average 20th bloke has to go through, that is for sure, but he gives it his best.

3 out of 5

Eric John Stark Saga : Return to the Stars - Edmond Hamilton

The second in the Star Kings sequence turns into a somewhat charming cheesy space opera.

According to pulpgen, the novel is made up of these four stories, but whether they are changed, added to, or what, to make this 'fixup' I am not sure.

Kingdoms of the Stars Amazing Stories, September, 1964
The Shores of Infinity Amazing Stories, April, 1965 -chap 8
The Broken Stars Fantastic, December, 1968 - chap 13
Horror from the Magellanic Amazing Stories, May, 1969 - chapter 19

However, if I had guess, I'd put the second at around chapter 8, the third at chapter 13 and the last at chapter 19, perhaps, for an approximate look.

Others will of course know a lot more.

John Gordon is actually in analysis, worried that his previous experiences were just a fantasy, until he miraculously wakes up, and there he is with Lianna in his actual body, not inhabiting Zarth Arn's.

Their problem now is to stop an extra-galactic invasion of evil aliens.

To do so, this book transforms into sort of a 'reverse-buddy' story, as previous antagonist Shorr Kan and Gordon go on the run together, to try and do something about the problem. This becomes rather amusing at times, and if this sort of thing makes you chuckle, then it is pretty much doing its job.

Just before they get away, in the presence of Kan's new master:
"Look at him, Hull," said Gordon mockingly. "Isn't he the one to put a brave face on? Lord of the Cloud, master of the Dark Worlds, almost the conqueror of the Empire itself . . . and now that he's reduced to skulking in the Marches and mixing up in filthy plots with ragtag one-world counts, he still stays cheerful."

When trying to save the Galaxy, in a ship:
"It does," said Gordon, "sound exactly like the kind of clever double cross you've always been good at." "Doesn't it, though," said Shorr Kan, and smiled. "And I'll have to admit that I considered doing it just that way."

"Then let's find something else to pitch it on," said Shorr Kan brightly. "Friendship, for example. I've always rather liked you, Gordon. I've said so in the past. Doesn't that count for anything?"

"Oh, my God," said Hull Burrel softly. "Here's the biggest scoundrel in the galaxy, and he asks you to believe in him because he likes you. Let me kill him, John Gordon."


"Look at me," said Shorr Kan. "I'm in as much danger as you. More, because if we get out of this mess there's more trouble waiting for me. I'm flying for my life . . . the second time . . . me that was lord of the Dark Worlds. But do I get upset? Not a bit. If Shorr Kan has to go, he'll go with his head high."

Much later, Lianna comes up with this, which seems to describe the villain in question quite well:

"At last I see what it is in that devil that attracts you," she said. "One hardly ever meets a man who is perfect at anything . . . but Shorr Kan is the perfect rogue."

So, straight man space hero, charismatic nogoodnik, and your smart, brave, space princess vs the diabolical H'Harn invasion.

Oh yeah, and Gordon is the only one that can use the Disruptor super weapon that can save them all.

I liked this book quite a bit more than I thought I would.

Return To the Stars : 1 Kingdoms of the Stars - Edmond Hamilton
Return To the Stars : 2 The Shores of Infinity - Edmond Hamilton
Return To the Stars : 3 The Broken Stars - Edmond Hamilton
Return To the Stars : 4 Horror from the Magellanic - Edmond Hamilton

Yes, this space hero business is real.

3 out of 5

Got to get out of here, princess.

3 out of 5

This busted up space travel makes a man want a drink.

3.5 out of 5

Disrupting the evil alien takeover.

3.5 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

5 out of 5

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