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Book Review

Sagas of Conan: Three Conan Novels in One Volume
L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, Bjorn Nyberg
Tor / $18.95 / 450p
ISBN: 0765310546

Forget Ahhnold.

"Know...that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and in the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars -- Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet." (From Robert E. Howard's "The Nemedian Chronicles") From 1932 to his death (by suicide) in 1936, Howard wrote (for pulp magazine Weird Tales) only 16 Conan stories and one short novel Arkham House issued them in a limited edition hardcover book in 1946. Gnome Press put the Conan stories into book form starting in 1950, Ace into paperback starting in 1953. Although these were a huge influence on writers, the Cimmerian really didn't begin to pervade our culture until the 70s due to the comics series and pastiches like these. L. Sprague de Camp may be disdained for his "editing" -- most feel "butchery" is the better term -- of original Howard material for Gnome, but works like these are enjoyable and acceptable to most sword and sorcery fans and it's nice to have them back in print. We're not sure why this is subtitled as three novels. This omnibus consists of two novels, Conan the Liberator and Conan and the Spider God, both by de Camp and Carter, and Conan the Swordsman, a collection of short stories that also includes work by Bjorn Nyberg.

--review originally appeared in Cinemafantastique April/May 2004

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.