Monday, January 16, 2012

The Mask of the Sorcerer - Review of Darrell Schweitzer's Novel



The Mask of the SorcererThe Mask of the Sorcerer by Darrell Schweitzer


S.E. Lindberg rated it: 4 of 5 stars

This will appeal to weird fiction readers who are looking for Lovecraftian atmosphere in an adventure novel form. This is not Sword & Sorcery, but will appeal to that same crowd (it is very dark…all sorcery).

This will NOT appeal to readers looking for soap-opera fantasy, young-adult fantasy, or a light read.

The first three Chapters were amongst the most bizarre, inspiring fantasy bits I have ever read. The pace slows after, but by then I was emotional connected to Sekenre’s character. Note, it is difficult to string together a series of weird stories into a novel, since the pulp- style of writing is known to be highly dense with description. The genre works well with short stories. H.P. Lovecraft tried with a lengthy novella with “The Dream-Quest to Unknown Kadath,” which I have yet to complete after three valiant tries (despite my urge to see how the reappearance of the artist Robert Pickman fares). Schweitzer does better here, taking the readers to the ambiguous lands of dreams and death, making us feel as disoriented as his cursed protagonist; at the moment we are about to become totally lost in trippy language, he brings us back to firm footing.

The battle scenes are intermittent but very vivid; given the lack of traditional weaponry, readers will be surprised by the brutality.

From the book’s description I thought I would be immersed in traditional Egyptian mythology; not so. Egyptian setting/lore is clearly an inspiration for this, but as Christianity (the Crusades) served as a foundation for Schweitzer’s “We Are All Legends”, the author rapidly takes the reader beyond these influences. His work is anything but traditional or derivative.

The book is ~380pages; I would have given this 5 stars if it could have somehow been reduced to ~300.

Sequel: There is a standalone sequel called SEKENRE The Book of the Sorcerer, which I look forward to reading.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

We Are All Legends - Review of Darrell Schweitzer's Sword & Sorcery Novel

We are all legends (Starblaze editions)We are all legends by Darrell Schweitzer
S.E.Lindberg rated it: 5 of 5 stars

We Are All Legends is a must-read for fans of doomed protagonists (Karl Wagner’s Kane, Michael Moorcock’s Elric, David Gemmell’s Druss, etc.). It is Sword and Sorcery for the adult crowd. Darrell Schweitzer tapped into his extensive weird fiction expertise to craft this great string of tales. It is gritty, poetic, and intellectually rewarding. We Are All Legends mixes the horrific atmosphere of H.P. Lovecraft, with the story telling action of R. E. Howard, with the emotive style of C.A. Smith.

A quote best communicates the motivations of Julian, a warrior jaded by the crusades who is cursed by evil forces. An apostate, shunning the god who shunned him.  Julian is a selfish man, as the character reveals in the story Divers Hands : “I had many times longed for death. But then the familiar terror came… After death—damnation, the eternal torments I could escape only for a brief time while I lived. Like all men, I am ultimately selfish. I would sacrifice the whole world to escape Hell even for a short while. I could kill myself only on a sudden, saving impulse swifter than thought. If I reasoned what was right, just, and the moral thing to do, I would forget all about rightness, justice, and morality, and be paralyzed.”

What kind of atmosphere will readers experience? Haunting, yet beautiful.  Just read this dose from The Riddle of the Horn: “The trees of earth, those which were solid and not phantasms of the snow, thinned out as I left the forest and moved into open country once again. It was foolish for me to do so, but as soon as they were out of sight—and they were almost at once—all directions looked the same and the only real thing was the agony of cold and of further motion. The wind stung my face with renewed fury, sweeping long and far over rolling hills and fields, no longer broken or held back by ancient trunks. I was without destination, like a corpse bobbing on an endless sea.”

And what horrors will the reader face? Not your typical demons, but indescribable evil.  From the story The Unknown God Cried Out: “When the man came within the circle of the firelight, I could see that he had no face, and thus no mouth, and that was why he did not speak. In the place of a face there was a black oval, not a mask, not a burnt sore, but an absolute, limitless void sinking into his head in all defiance of perspective and dimensions. I feared if I looked at it too long I would be drawn into it, out of the universe altogether…”

In summary, We Are All Legends is a gateway to Hell and beyond. As I read it I felt that rewarding anxiety of "really" experiencing the unknown, running through meticulously constructed dioramas that only a sorcerer like Schweitzer could conjure. Great fun.


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