Archive for Conan

CONAN THE VALIANT By Roland Green – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Conan is once again sent on a mission, by the master spy of Aghrapur, with a sorceress and her comely swordmistress, to find a powerful jewel and destroy its wielder, a mad and evil sorcerer.

The plot of all the Conan novels is pretty much the same, it’s the style and enthusiasm that really make the difference, and the familiarity and inventiveness used to tell the story.

Which is why this novel falls somewhere in the middle, entertaining enough, but giving us nothing to remember. Green’s narrative style is somewhat lacking, seemingly missing out words or passages that make certain paragraphs difficult to understand exactly what he’s getting at. But even that can’t ruin a Conan book.

Sword and sorcery at its best, Conan is the epic hero, a man of grim determination and a way with woman that all men aspire to. Conan is the ultimate man, a pre-history James Bond, a hero in the truest sense.

Whilst this novel doesn’t give us the best that Conan has to offer, John Maddox Roberts may be the only one at novel length to do this (so far on my journey through the entire TOR collection), only Howard manages to make the stories actually seem like real magic.

DOCTOR NO By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

It’s difficult to read a James Bond book and think about it critically. Bond is a character I grew up with, and still want to emulate! I couldn’t help but watch the true James Bond (Roger Moore, come on people!) seducing women, killing baddies and quipping while they die, an eyebrow raised mischievously. Having grown up with the films, in the same way I grew up with the Conan novels, I can’t help but cherish them and know that no matter how life changes, they will always have a place in my heart.

I’ve probably seen the Doctor No film, or at least bits of it, dozens of times. Some of the scenes are so familiar they are instantly recognisable, although I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually watched Ursula Andreas walk up the beach in her bikini.

But the books are slightly different, as you would expect. Moonraker bares little if any resemblance to the original novel.

I can’t remember the film enough to do a critique of the development of novel into film and I’d prefer not to. People with too much time on their hands can do that while I simply offer my opinion on a book that cleverly encompasses the extremes and thrills of the pulp era, whilst nodding towards the realism and action of the modern thriller. That’s what sets the Bond novels apart from many of their contemporaries, such as Chandler. There’s still a healthy dose of nostalgia for earlier times, a retro pulp action-thriller feel to the novels.

When two secret agents go missing in Jamaica, Bond is sent in to investigate, with the help of Quarrel Bond finds himself on an isolated island owned by the mysterious Doctor No, who protects his privacy by murdering all trespassers. Bond meets up with a young innocent girl, Honeychile, who turns up naked on the beach searching for shells in the area. Unfortunately Doctor No’s troops are alerted to their presence and set out to find them, and the poor girl is dragged into a cat and mouse chase across the island, until they are eventually caught by a dragon!

The pulp tradition is strong in this novel, our hero is tortured by the mad genius, and must go through a series of hideously painful challenges, which even include fighting a giant squid. But where Bond moves the genre forward is the level of detail and the general realism that Fleming uses to describe his hero and the situations he faces, and his weapons.

Bond is the essence of the modern pulp hero, he’s courageous, he’s strong and intelligent, and despite the backing of the British Secret Service, he’s on his own fighting all manner of super villains. In the same way that Batman or The Spider fight crime, with his hands, his ingenuity and his weapons, Bond is also a superhero in the same league, having no special powers (apart from his own God-given abilities) and fighting crime simply because it’s wrong and must be stopped.

Fleming’s original books have dated, just as the original Batman comics and the adventures of The Spider, Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan have also dated, but they were a product of their time, and that’s what still makes them so powerful. Because back then there was hope that one man could make a difference, and that’s why I find these pulp characters so appealing. There’s no modern cynicism to get in the way of the innocent enjoyment of the books and comics and films.

Bond lives forever, unstoppable, in the hearts of his fans, and that’s why he continues to live on through his many different incarnations, but the original books will also live on forever.

Stephen Fry…. Genius? Bastard?

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I’ve just finished reading Fry’s The Hippopotamus. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be reviewing a booking that was first published fifteen years ago, and don’t worry, I’m not going to. It’s a little difficult to think of Stephen Fry, and much of his work, in a critical light.

I was never a fan of Fry and Laurie, or Jeeves and Wooster. Neither particularly floated my boat.

My fascination, my love, of Stephen Fry and his work started when I read his first novel, The Liar. A deeply personal and semi-autobiographical coming of age novel. A kind of English, middle-class Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a comparison I’m sure he’d hate. But it’s a personal equivalent, both of them touched me and helped me to identify who I am in a way I still find difficult to put into words. Without experiencing either The Liar or Ferris Bueller I would be a very different person, in the same way that if I had never read that first Conan novel when I was fourteen, I wouldn’t have discovered fantasy, horror and science fiction and very probably wouldn’t even be writing this now.

Stephen Fry is one of those people with an incredible memory, with such written skill and humour that it makes you hate his talent. He’s one of those people you would love to meet and have a conversation with, but when faced with him, you probably wouldn’t be able to mutter a single word.

I know Stephen Fry only from his work – including his Blackadder appearances – I’ve never met the man, so I can say all this in complete ignorance. I set my Virgin + box to diligently record QI, Stephen’s current dispensary of knowledge, a quiz show for those less intelligent than the great man. Which is all of us.

Fry’s novels make me weep, not only because he draws you into the lives of his characters in a way few people can, not even because his books are sometimes so funny that tears drip from the corners of your eyes, but because it sickens me that I don’t have half the talent he does. That’s why I have to hate him, envy.

If you’ve never read a Stephen Fry book then you’ve deprived yourself, and you should remedy this immediately.

The Hippopotamus is a funny, irreverent, and highly enjoyable read.  To review it would be to do it a disservice.  Fry’s poet and critic Edward Wallace is my hero, as is his creator.  Enough said.