Showing posts with label DAW. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DAW. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Zanthodon #03 - Hurok of the Stone Age

Lin Carter's third installment of the Zanthodon series, also referred to as the Eric of Carstairs series, is Hurok of the Stone Age. It was published by DAW Books (423) in 1981, and features illustrations by Josh Kirby (Krull, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). If you aren't familiar with the series, I encourage you to read my reviews of the first two installments before reading this review. 

The prior novel, Zanthodon, ended in a cliffhanger as Darya was captured by Barbary Coast Pirates. In this novel's beginning, both Eric and Professor Potter (both men from our present-day USA) have been snatched by what the folks of Zanthodon refer to as Dragonmen. They earned this title because they wear magic armbands that allow them to telepathically control dinosaurs! So, these Dragonmen capture Eric and Professor Potter and take them across miles of Zanthodon's baked Earth to the Scarlet City of Zar. There, the two meet the Sacred Empress of Zar, a woman named Zarys (who is like the twin-sister of Darya).

Meanwhile, Hurok and Jorn the Hunter embark on a rescue mission to retrieve their friends from the Dragonmen. This side-story adventure has the two facing near-death experiences as they cross a treacherous mountain pass called the Wall of Zar and an inland sea known as the Lugar-Jad. Additionally, there are other side-stories that involve a guy named Garth searching for his daughter Yualla, and Tharn searching for Darya. 

Make no bones about it, Hurok of the Stone Age is a convoluted novel packed with alternating side-stories within chapters that make up “parts” of the book. Often, I lost track of who the characters were, which tribe or type of people they represented. When you have characters that are Zarian, Drugar, Sagoth, Cro-Magnon, Thanadar, Gorpaks, etc., I nearly needed an organization chart to just figure it all out. At one point, I decided to just enjoy the adventure and let it all just sort of flop over my head on the who's who battle for clarity. In doing so, I found I really enjoyed the book, particularly Professor Potter's participation in the narrative and his quest to bring gunfire to this bizarre world. 

If you enjoy Lin Carter's absorbing, self-indulgent storytelling – high on character count, exotic locales, plot holes a mile wide – then this is a really fun read. Punt the logistics, suspend disbelief, and look over the convoluted meshing. In doing so, you'll not only love this novel, but appreciate the entire series. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, April 24, 2023

Zanthodon #02 - Zanthodon

The Zanthodon series was created by science-fiction and fantasy author Lin Carter. Inspired by “hollow Earth” concepts by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne, the series explores the adventures of action-man Eric Carstairs and his zany employer Professor Potter as they navigate an immense underground world. The series ran five total installments, all published by DAW and now available through Wildside Press. Considering how much I enjoyed the debut, Journey to the Underground World (1979), I was excited to read the next novel, simply called Zanthodon (1980).

For new readers that are picking up the series at this juncture, Zanthodon begins by summarizing the events from the first book. In this novel, main characters like Eric, Potter, Darya, Jorn, and Hurok are misplaced in Zanthodon, each forced to fight to survive in the cruel, harsh landscape. There are dinosaurs, giant spiders, Neanderthals, Cro-Mags, pirates, and cave dwellers that all play a hand in the characters becoming alienated from each other. 

Through the narrative, these characters eventually reunite under unpleasant circumstances. While either stumbling blindly or captured, the characters find themselves trapped in a giant cave system that is occupied by slaves mastered by the evil Gorpaks. Rape, torture, and sacrifices to enormous bloodsucking leeches are all commonplace in the Hellish tunnels. Needless to say, Eric comes up with a prison break plan that occupies most of the narrative's second-half. 

Zanthodon is much better than the series debut and offers up wild adventure in so many different ways. Whether it is pirates, monsters, evil villains, deadly soldiers, prison breaks, and sword fights, the book is saturated with nonstop action. Lin Carter's prose is rather goofy at times, especially considering he was using the concept that all of this is a real manuscript simply published for the public's sake using an alias of “Lin Carter”. It reminds me of all the MAMs back in the day that were “told by the real participants to the unknown writer”. It's really silly, and I wish the whole thing was presented in third-person to avoid the confusion of “this was relayed to me”. But, aside from that, there is nothing to dislike about the story. 

If you are familiar with Lin Carter, you'll recognize the formula of one event leading to another crazy event, like one long chain-reaction that the characters are experiencing. It's a lot of fun and makes for a breezy, easy to read action-adventure worth its salt. Highly recommended. Bring on Hurok

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Elric Saga #01 - Elric of Melnibone

Like a lot of the critically praised books we review here at Paperback Warrior, Elric of Melnibone can lead anyone down their own rabbit hole researching the novel, series, and grand mythos associated with the character. Elric first appeared in Michael Moorcock's novella “The Dreaming City”, published in Science Fantasy in June, 1961. More Elric stories and novellas were published through the early to mid-1960s in Science Fantasy

Moorcock's desired reading order for fans to fully grasp the Elric Saga begins with the first full-length novel to feature the character, Elric Of Melnibone. It was published in the UK in 1972 by Hutchinson. It was published by Lancer the same year under the title The Dreaming City. The most collectible, and arguably desirable, publications of the novel is DAW's 1976 paperback version, Elric of Melnibone, with incredible cover art by Michael Whelan. This review is based on the version that is included in Gallery/Saga Press's The Elric Saga Vol. 1, a 2022 hardcover omnibus that collects the series first three full-length paperbacks and a foreword by Neil Gaiman. This omnibus is also presented as an audio book narrated by the incredible voice of Samuel Roukin. 

At 180ish pages, Elric of Melnibone sets the table for new readers as an origin novel that kicks off the fantasy series properly. Elric is the emperor of the island kingdom of Melnibone, also called Dragon Isle. Elric is the 428th emperor to sit on the ruby throne, but he's a plagued leader. Described as a thin sickly albino, Elric must rely on special potions and magic to stay alive. In essence, he is sort of like a vampire relying on blood to exist. His rival to the throne is his cousin Yyrkoon, a mastermind that is consistently plotting methods to ascend to power. Complicating this familial power struggle is Cymoril, Elric's love interest and sister of Yyrkoon (which means Elric is really in love with his cousin?). 

Melnibone was once the world's dominating superpower, but centuries have eroded the kingdom's prosperity and left them merely a shell of their former glory. However, Melnibone still maintains a flourishing trading business that is sought after by rival kingdoms. In the book's opening chapters, Elric and Yyrkoon are on a war barge fighting one of these rivals when Yyrkoon capitalizes on Elric's weakened state and throws him into the deep sea. 

I won't ruin the whole surprise, but Elric doesn't die. Instead, he lives to avenge this murder attempt by exiling Yyrkoon from Melnibone. But, Yyrkoon captures Cymoril and escapes into the Young Kingdoms far away. As Elric desperately tries to locate Cymoril, he must fight Yyrkoon. It is this search for Elric's love that makes up the bulk of the book's narrative. Elric is forced to find a magical sword called Stormbringer that “possesses” it's wielder. The sword craves killing and feeds its wielder in the same ways as Elric's magic potions. To kill Yyrkoon, Elric needs Stormbringer, but must also face the fact that the sword will be his new master. 

Michael Moorcock is absolutely brilliant with this heroic tale featuring the beloved Elric. In the big picture, Elric is an incarnation of the Eternal Champion, a warrior that is created by the gods and reborn repeatedly. Moorcock's other series titles like Hawkmoon, Erekos, and Corum feature incarnations of the Eternal Champion, just in different universes that make up Moorcock's robust multiverse. However, readers don't need to read these other titles to appreciate this novel. This is an origin tale that gets the reader acquainted with Elric and his mission ahead. It has jealousy, action, nautical adventure, sword-and-sorcery, fantasy, and world building sprinkled into a rather simple plot. It is good versus evil, but tells a broader story of the responsibilities of power. There are numerous underlying themes that reflect political strife and upheaval, a common theme for Moorcock.

Elric of Melnibone is a mandatory read if you have even the smallest desire to read a fantasy novel. It is an easy book to dive into and its characters and frenzied pace are captivating. Highest possible recommendation. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Zanthodon #01 Journey to the Underground World

As a longtime fan of science-fiction, fantasy, and the works of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter (1930-1988) authored a number of novels and series titles using unfinished manuscripts from his literary idols or by utilizing a pastiche to contribute future installments of established, classic titles. Using the Pellucidar series, written by Burroughs between 1914-1963, Carter created his own “hollow Earth” concept with the Zanthodon series. The five-book run, also inspired by Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle, was published by DAW Books between 1979 and 1982. It has been reprinted by Wildside Press as one of their digital Megapacks featuring all five books for an affordable price. I'm starting with the series debut, Journey to the Underground World

The book's star is Eric Carstairs, the stereotypical 1970s action-hero that can pilot, captain, shoot, salvage, and deal with the best of them. He's in North Africa looking for work when he saves a professor named Potter from muggers. At the bar, where Carstairs stores his steep tab, he discusses Professor Potter's interesting proposition. Potter explains that he needs Carstairs to pilot a helicopter into an inactive volcano in an effort to locate the middle of the Earth, a place called Zanthodon. He provides evidence that many ancient cultures knew about Zanthodon and wrote about its whereabouts. The origin stems from a giant meteor that crashed to Earth, plunging through the volcano and making an impact on our planet's central core. The “Big Bang Theory” would have created a miniature Earth inside Earth. Make sense? Potter wants to locate it.

Carter doesn't waste the reader's time, and by page 40 both Carstairs and Potter have crashed the helicopter miles below the volcano. They crawl out of the aircraft and discover that Zanthodon is an evolutionary paradox. Dinosaurs roam free, along with two different types of humans – Neanderthal, which are the most basic of prehistoric humans and the slightly more advanced, evolved humans known as Cro-Magnon. As we know it, roughly a 350,000 year difference between the two on the evolutionary scale. But, in Zanthodon they are both alive and active, although warring with each other.

Aside from being a fighting man, Carstairs has a key advantage by carrying a .45 handgun to shoo away the pests. But, the duo is soon captured by the Neanderthals and taken on a long trek through the wilderness. It's here that Carstairs meets Darya, the captive daughter of the Cro-Magnon's tribal king, as well as Jorn, a fierce warrior-hunter. The narrative builds around Carstairs' attempts to become free while working together with an unlikely ally in Hurok. The book introduces future plots while familiarizing readers with the series vibrant and dangerous landscape.

As pure popcorn fiction, there's nothing to dislike about Journey to the Underground World. It obviously pays homage, and takes some liberties, from prior works like The Lost World and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Carter spends ample time with each character detailing the separate perils they are facing. The plot is spacious, allowing multiple events to occur in different areas – different enemies and challenges that rotate for the characters. I really liked that aspect of the storytelling. 

As a fast-paced, descriptive adventure novel, Carter delivers the goods. Journey to the Underground World is a journey worth taking. Recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE. Get the eBook omnibus HERE

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Cap Kennedy #01 - Galaxy of the Lost

E.C. Tubb (Edwin Charles Tubb, 1919-2010) was a British author that specialized in westerns, science-fiction and fantasy. With more than 140 novels to his credit, most of Tubb's literature has been written under pseudonyms such as Carl Maddox, Eric Storm, George Holt and Alan Guthrie. During five decades, Tubb, used a total of 58 pen names. Not surprisingly, he used the name Gregory Kern for his 1970's space opera series, Cap Kennedy. The series consisted of 16 installments in the United States from 1973-1975. These were published by the popular science-fiction brand DAW. As well, a volume in German was written in 1976 and published in 1983. While the series was titled Cap Kennedy in America, the first six volumes of the series were released in the U.K. under the title F.A.T.E. 

In the series debut, Galaxy of the Lost, the author explains that Earth has entered an Interstella era. Due to the colonization and exploration of many planets in the galaxy, many alien races, ambitious outcasts, and dissident human sects now exist. To protect the Earth, a system of mobile aid laboratories and construction authorities (M.A.L.A.C.A.) patrol the peripheral galaxies, in search of anything that could disrupt the utopia. To help this organization is Free Acting Terran Envoys (F.A.T.E.) that investigates the issues and limits any potential threats. Captain Kennedy is considered among the best F.A.T.E. agents. Here's the team:

Captain Kennedy - He is a brave, fearless fighter who uses his vast interstellar knowledge to investigate problems. He's a playboy, slightly arrogant and resembles the stereotypical 1960s fictional secret-agent. 

Penza Saratov - He is a male alien with superhuman strength and works with Kennedy's team as an engineer. He was raised on a planet with three times the gravity of Earth and is described as a physical giant. 

Vim Chemile - The team's navigator. He's tall and thin and supposedly from a former alien race. He has feline and lizard features and can disguise himself like a chameleon.

Professor Jarl - Neatly dressed human that works as the brains behind the team's missions. 

In the opening chapter, Kennedy is summoned to a meeting with a senior trade officer. It is explained that a ship named Wankle has sent out a distress call while traveling on a popular trading route in a faraway galaxy. After probing for more information, Kennedy learns that it is the fourth vessel to apparently disappear after sending an alarm. The premise is that those vessels just disappear out of space. There is no visible damage, no material left behind and no signs of any surviving crew members. It compares to some kind of Bermuda triangle phenomenon.

To investigate these strange events, Kennedy and Saratov agreed to join the next freighter, Hedlanda, headed to this particular location. Journeying just a few hours behind will be the Mordain, Kennedy's ship piloted by Jarl and Chemile. On board the Hedlanda, Kennedy and Chemile conduct typical crew, ship and supply investigations to determine what makes these vessels viable targets for some kind of foreign entities. Before they find the answers, the entire ship enters some sort of space vacuum and is deposited in a frosty dark salvage the planet governed by steel anonymous robots. Which galaxy where they relocated to?

Before buying a second-hand copy of Galaxy of the Lost, I had read lukewarm reviews for this series. Some complained that it was mostly juvenile and a mediocre version of the massively popular Perry Rhodan series. Even though I haven't read Rhodan, I can say surprisingly, that Cap Kennedy is great. 

At 125 pages, it is a very short book, yet full of action. The bulk of the narrative features Kennedy, Saratov and a few surviving crew members scrambling along this unknown planet's icy, black surface trying to survive. There is a sense of claustrophobia, a looming threat, and a sense of real isolation and fear. I imagined these tentacled robots as being rather nightmarish in appearance. The author does a great job with the cat-and-mouse chase of man versus machine through abandoned ships and salvage in this monstrous junk yard. I didn't find this to be juvenile in the least. There's some profanity, early sexual innuendo and a great deal of violence throughout. In other words, I'm searching for the second series installment as I write this. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE