Monday, April 1, 2013

Far Away & Never by Ramsey Campbell - Book Review

Far Away & NeverFar Away & Never by Ramsey Campbell
S.E.Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

Far Away & Never: Pulp Fantasy for the Horror Fan. This is Dark heroic fantasy--stuff that Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft, Howard Phillips fans will devour.

Almost a “Tond Cycle” Anthology: Far Away & Never only has 7 tales (not 8 like the backcover claims). The first 4 all star the warrior Ryre, which were all published first in Andrew Offutt's Sword Against Darkness series. Numbers 5-6 are also in Ryre's world Tond (without him) and were weird and dark, akin to Clark Ashton Smith’s style. Number-7 is similar in tone and style, but is not part of Tond. The introduction by Campbell mentions another Tond tale called "A Madness From the Vaults" which debuted the "Tond" world...but this reference is not in this collection.

Table of Contents (and first-published list): Here are the tales from Far Away & Never (copied from the inside cover credits):
1- The Sustenance of Hoak: first published 1977 in Swords Against Darkness
2- The Changer of Names: first published in 1977 Swords Against Darkness II
3- The Pit of Wings: first published in 1978 Swords Against Darkness III
4- The Mouths of Light: first published in 1979 Swords Against Darkness V
5- The Stages of the God: 1974, Vol 2 No 1 of Whispers
6- The Song at the Hub of the Garden: 1975 Savage Heroes
7- The Ways of Chaos: 1996 the only original tale for this series at the time of printing, but is a non-Ryre tale that ended up in another Necropress collection called Ghor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric's Fifth Born Son.

Identity Crisis/Theft: "The Sustenance of Hoak" and "Changer of Names" both underscored the notion of losing one's identity (either through enslavement or the stealing of a name). For short stories, this theme is very impactful. It makes us inherently wonder: Who is Ryre? It seems Ryre was poised to evolve in to a continuing character. I was left hungry for more, but only 4 exist. At least two more occur in the land of Tond (sans Ryre): #5- The Stages of the God and #6- The Song at the Hub of the Garden are more weird than action packed; the latter really developed Campbell’s bizarre sense of magic/identity with the use of language/words. He essentially poses that one can steal another’s identity/history merely by declaration. I wish there were more tales to flesh that out, but it is clear that language and identity are magically linked in Tond.

#7 features the famous Hounds of Tindalos, the creatures having been introduced to the world in Frank Belknap Long’s famous weird work (Hounds of Tindalos). Campbell ties them to Conan creator, RE Howard’s warrior Ghor. This is fitting since Ghor was raised by canines (wolves) and Frank Belknap Long wrote in a preceding section of the collection from which this tale was taken. The publisher of Far Away and Never (Necropress) also published the collection Ghor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric's Fifth Born Son, a round-robin sequence posthumously finishing REHoward’s Ghor story. Far Away & Never has Campbell’s contribution which stands alone well enough (if only it were in Tond, then it would be even more fitting!)

Groupread Motivation: Our 2013 Mar-April groupread for the Sword and Sorcery group on was on Campbell's Ryre character. This led many of us on a book hunt. The Ryre tales are found in Far Away & Never, but also in four of the Swords Against Darkness anthologies.

Availability: This book is only being sold “new” from the publisher (as of 2013). Listings on Amazon are used books. Necropress has the best deal on its own collection on its website (<$10), but the response has been slow (for today’s instant gratification consumer anyway…expect a few week turnaround. Necropress is undergoing some transition but is still functioning and has managed to get books to Canada and the UK upon request).

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