Showing posts with label Tour Guide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tour Guide. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Tour Guide - Imaro Series by Saunders

This was posted originally on Black Gate


Masthead 2020 Nov Dec Saunders Soul B

“Who am I? Who is my father? Where is my mother? Why do death and demons follow me wherever I go?” – Imaro in The Quest for Cush
Charles R. Saunders, the originator of Sword & Soul, passed away May this year (2020, Greg Mele covered a tribute for Black Gate). Saunders is most known for his Imaro tales chronicling an African-inspired “Conan the Barbarian” on the fictional continent of Nyumbani. Saunders also wrote of a heroine named Dossouye (separate series), amongst other characters. Over the years, Black Gate has reviewed the entire Imaro series and the book of associated stories called Nyumabi Tales (see list). The Goodreads Sword and Sorcery group honored his memory with a groupread, catalyzing this post. If you are looking for some buddies to share experiences while you read, then please join in (formally the Saunders group read goes through Dec., but discussions will continue beyond). This post serves as a tour guide for the series, clarifying transition from Book#1 to #2 per edition, provides Saunder's own voice (excerpts) to capture the essence of Imaro's Nyumbani, and reviews book availability.

Imaro Series Publication History:

The publication history also follows Imaro's chronology as well. Links to Black Gate reviews included.
  1. Imaro: DAW 1981, Nightshade reprinted 2006 with story changes; Lulu 2014; 2008 Review by Howard Andrew Jones
  2. Imaro II: The Quest for Cush:  DAW 1984, Nightshade reprinted 2006 with story changes; 2008 Review by Ryan Harvey
  3. The Trail of Bohu:  DAW 1985 & Lulu 2009; 2009 Review by Bill Ward
  4. Naama War: Lulu 20102010 Review by Ryan Harvey War  and 2009 coverage Howard Andrew Jones & John O'Neill
  5. Nyumbani Tales: Mvmedia, LLC  2018;  2017 by Fletcher Vredenburgh
  • The Warrior’s Way: unpublished collection mentioned in the 2017 introduction to Nyumbani Tales penned by Saunders (more on this below).

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Shattered Seas Review AND Deep Madness Tour Guide - Review by S.E.

This post was simulcast on Black Gate.com on Nov-28-2020

BG_SS_cover
Cover art by Christopher Shy / Cover design by Byron Leavitt.

Shattered Seas is a toxic dose of Lovecraftian mythos, psychedelic team-exploration (reminiscent of Stark Trek voyages), and survival-horror melee (mutant creatures replacing zombies). It’s a maelstrom of fun if you enjoy horror adventure, losing your mind, and drowning.

Ever want to crack open the gateway into an Otherworld with a few friends? Perhaps you are ambitious and naively want to gain dominion of cosmic powers. Will you be comfortable with mutating forces transforming you into a tentacled mass? Start the madness by searching for the mystical Sphere buried in the ocean near the submerged Kadath Mining facility. Lucas Kane, a marine biologist, is one of your tour guides. Here he observes Kadath, a mining facility with organic qualities (excerpt):

Kadath lit up below them drew his attention and caught his breath. The facility sprawled across the seabed like a sunken metropolis from another world, its illuminated structures pushing defiantly upward into the inky abyss. The station’s domes and towers seemed like the last bastions of light and reason still standing in an endless Stygian wasteland. It was hypnotic, dreamlike, and yet somehow inexplicably solid. Lucas could make out the shuttle tubes running between the three main domes, as well as to the smaller, squarer outposts and middle structures. He could even see the primary enclosed drilling site not far off from the main facility, connected to Dome Three by long, spacious tubes.

This novel was inspired by Diemension Games' Deep Madness, a cooperative sci-fi/horror board game. The novel serves as a stand-alone book as much as it does a gateway into the game narrative. Non-gamers will enjoy it all the same since the key protagonists (Lucas Kane and Connor Durham) are freshly introduced, plus the story is a prequel to the story presented in the game. At the end of this article, there is an embedded movie overviewing the board game. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Tales of Attluma - Review by SE and Oron Guide



Tales of Attluma by David C. Smith
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

David C. Smith crafts his own flavor of adventure-horror with his Tales of Attluma, heavily influenced by Robert E. Howard (REH, Conan creator) and his contemporary Pulp Fiction writer Clark Ashton Smith (CAS). Attluma is an island continent akin to the mysterious Atlantis, and these 16 tales cover its dark history and doomed end. These stories are fantastically dark and exciting, a true blend of REH’s action and CAS’s dreaded atmosphere. On Attluma, ancient gods live in mountain temples and underground; humans struggle to survive, and seem to be intruding on land made for, and by, demons.
“These tales and a dozen more by fantasy and adventure author David C. Smith appear in this unique collection. Out of print for more than 40 years, these stories were first published in the days of limited-circulation fanzines—the only avenue for new work created by the generation of writers who grew up in the shadow of the pulp magazines. The paperback reprints of those pulp stories in the late 1960s and early 1970s encouraged an entire generation of young writers to enlarge on that tradition of popular American storytelling. Now they are in print once more for a new generation of fantasy fiction enthusiasts.” -- Official book blurb

Interestingly, there are no Oron tales, Oron being the warrior protagonist that the original Zebra series was named after. Yet he is not needed here. Attluma is saturated with lore and conflict, armies of ghosts, lost loves seeking retribution, and hungry demons just looking for some attention. The last several stories ramp up the demonic uprising (or retaking) of the island/continent. “The End of Days” finale is epic in scope, a sprawling battle with loads of mayhem and militant sorcery. The collection fits the Sword & Sorcery label, with an emphasis on Sorcery (specifically necromancy and demon summoning). Excerpts are the best way to share the poetic, dark conflict readers should expect:

EXCERPTS:
“Dressed in scarlet wounds and running with blood, here was my mother, her face beseeching mercy, gashes across her face and body. There came my father, hobbling on a split foot and one arm gone, strings of meat and tendon trembling from the open shoulder. Here was my brother, once a strong and handsome man, now in death a broken thing with no legs, pulling himself forward with his arms, his wife beside him, on her belly and kicking her feet as her head rolled beside her.”—from “The Last Words of Imatus Istum”

And there was Yadis, The All Mother, the hag with one eye and triple teats whose spittle had made the stars and whose defecation made the earth. Her mad singing had awakened humans to life; we crawled from the muck and ever since wondered about the dark heart of life.” —from "Dark Goddess”

“Silene observed the sorcerers as they met and fought in the field. She saw the air turn colors between these people and watched as they moved their arms in gesticulations, or with daggers drew designs in the air. One or the other of these mysterious people would die, pulled into the sky to be torn invisibly into pieces, raining blood, or drawn into the earth to suffocate, or simply fall, breathless and unmoving, wrapped beneath sheets of glowing color.” —from ”The End of Days”

Several of the attacking sorcerers made signs toward Edric’s fighters and dropped them. These men and women fell onto their backs and caught fire from their chests. They screamed as they died, but the unnatural fire consumed them swiftly, turning the men and women as black as charred wood. From the burnt corpses rose pieces of them, bits of black, which moved high into the air and, at the command of the attacking sorcerers, dropped like hurled missiles into the lines of Edric’s men, the bits of black pushing through faces and armor. …“Souls,” Hame told her. “They remove the charred souls from the burned bodies to use as weapons.” —from ”The End of Days”

GUIDE: Tales of Attluma is splendid by itself, but it serves as a foundation for the other works in the same world. Read this and you’ll want to jump into the novels and other short stories. A guide is needed since the publication history is complicated by title changes and, like most fantasy, publication order does not match the chronological order of the fictional world. Thanks to a group-read in the Goodreads Sword & Sorcery group we were able to communicate with the author and clarify the chronological & publication history of the Attluma Cycle (coined that with the tacit approval of the author). As of 2020, there are 25 stories and novelettes; 3 Oron novels; 1 Akram novel.

For newcomers, I recommend starting with Tales of Attluma since it fleshes out the world and prepares readers to jump into various arcs, such as the primary barbarian Oron set (many start with the 1978 book that introduced the character to the world named simply Oron), or the cursed sorcerer Akram novel The Sorcerer's Shadow). To learn more about David C. Smith, check out recent interviews by DMR and BlackGate.


ATTLUMA CYCLE

Chronological Story-Order / Key Characters / Publication date

Tales of Attluma by David C. Smith Azieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics Extreme Sorcery by Christopher Heath Warlords, Warlocks & Witches by D.M. Ritzlin Oron Mosutha's Magic by David C. Smith Oron No. 4 The Valley of Ogrum by David C. Smith Oron 5 The Ghost Army by David C. Smith Oron by David C. Smith The Mighty Warriors by Robert M. Price The Sorcerer's Shadow by David C. Smith Engor's Sword Arm by David C. Smith

0) Tales of Attluma: Collection (2 Akram tales, 1 Dathien, no Oron); 16 Short stories, 2020 by Pulp Hero Press: Listed mostly in chronological order, mostly pre-Oron, with the last several being the “End” of Attluma (see below)

1) “Shadow-born Shadow-taken” in Azieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery Pre-Oron novelette (featuring Dathien from Tales of Attluma’s “Dark of Heart”), 2013

2) “Twin Scars” in Warlords, Warlocks & Witches Pre-Oron, “(standalone Kellen tale), 2019

3) Oron: Mosutha's Magic Oron Novel 1/3: Zebra #3 1982 (original title: Reign, Sorcery!)

4) Oron No. 4: The Valley of Ogrum Oron Novel 2/3: - Zebra’s #4 1982 (original title: Deathwolf)

5) Oron 5: The Ghost Army 5 short stories with Oron: - Zebra #5, 1983 (original title: Death in Asakad and Other Tales)

6) “The Shadow of Dia-Sust” Oron short story appears in The Mighty Warriors, 2018, … also available online at Blackgate.com

7) Oron, the original Oron Novel 3/3: Zebra #1, 1978

8) Sometime Lofty Towers, Pulp Hero Press, 2021

9) The Sorcerer's Shadow an Akram Novel: Zebra #2, 1982 (original title: The Shadow of Sorcery)

10) Engor's Sword Arm novella, Forgotten Ages ~1991

11) Several stories from Tales of Attluma including two Akram tales (“Come Death” and “The Return to Hell”) and the grand finale “The End of Days”


CONTENTS of TALES of ATTLUMA (summary notes with spoilers)

1. “Descales’ Skull”: Three men collect as many parts of Descales’ skull and resurrect his soul….he grants them each a wish (Clamus:Gold, Sumi Dan power over slavery; Bordogas: partnering with a woman). All get their wish… with nasty, ironic deaths.

2. “The Generosity of the Gods”: Obroc of Kurstikan and his buddy Cedes are fishermen who decide to test the power of the two gods [they should remain nameless!]. The pair blaspheme to determine if the gods are real. The consequences of so terrifying, really really terrible, but at least the friends survive in some way, together. This is so dark, it is funny.

3. “Feasting Shadows”: Pel and Jenta are a young couple seeking ancient temples in the caves, and come across more than ruined ritual spaces. They experience the Song, Dance, and Culmination of the Feast.

4. “Dark of Heart”: Captain Dathien gets a second chance of freedom. Princess Amyra is missing in Midriga (his place of origin) and Prince Eam seeks to save her. What ensues is a mad mission into the mountainous region of Midriga, involving body horror, bleak fates for all.

5. “The Last Words of Imatus Istum”: The depressing story of Imatus Kad Istum, of the civilized city Mograd which was overrun by the barbaric Kunashtu. Loss of knowledge, slavery, eating of former citizens, raising the dead on a mass scale.

6. “Aliastra the Sorceress”: Count Holos, a homeless roaming royal who deals with failing his father; he had been taught that 'he owned his own future through the choices/actions he made'. This is mostly a story of the love between the sorceress Aliastra and her long-dead lover Ormenidu….which Holos gets embroiled in.

7. “Ithtidzik”: The titular student was arrogant enough to seek power from around his wise mentor; he seeks out an ancient tome from a demon and gains more insight than his single head can hold! Sharing knowledge with enthralled, sustained corpses helps for a time… doesn’t end well for the protagonist, of course.

8. “Rhasjud’s Destiny”: A mercenary warlord of the title returns to the site of where he murdered his brother, who haunts him; wolves and ghosts roam everywhere.

9. “Blood Ransom”: Androm the pretty boy, gets tied up with Tsathsimus and Ishrid in a plot to kidnap the princess Asri; beware bloody red gems that are actually alive. Asri and Lady Liprosa let Androm go since he redeems himself.

10. “Dark Goddess”: Jutom and the Nthgali warriors ransack the city of Coroth which includes the raping of a priestess of Yasid. The product of rape and torture will haunt Jutom.

11. “Come, Death”: Akram is introduced as a cursed immortal sorcerer strolling through plagued ruins. He pities a child amongst a plague and saves it.

12. “The Return to Hell” Akram appears again in a very trippy story. Akram amasses mercenaries to sacrifice them to the Witch/Sorcerer pair (Nidyis, Narathkor) that made him immortal. He wishes to die, but he has a young female fan Tharis who wants to be like him. He tries to spare her even as he leads hundreds to slaughter….

13. “The Passing of the Sorcerer”: A love story of the sorcerer Camses with royal princess Porissa of Karhum, with hints of reincarnation and celestial life. A demonic scourge plagues the town, and the King. Apparently, humans took too much from the demons without sacrifice or honor, or belief…

14. “Patience Serves”: A dose of vengeance for a “wronged love” between Lady Tristania and Lord Mors.

15. “The Sounding of the Gong”: Another bizarre love story. Seft and Oma (sorcerer aged, and younger sorceress) are the last few humans worth stealing from. A trap is set for these thieves to sacrifice. This continues the theme of weird-love and eternal life between pairs of sorcerers.

16. “The End of Days”: Meet the poet Nour, his pregnant wife Silene, and her brother Edric, as they race toward the Surkad Capital city. It is the last stand for humans on Attluma. The demon Serenthal seeks to reclaim all the territory and eliminate everything. It is over the top epic and dark…a great end to the book.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish is a must read

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)
Update ~2020, this review had been posted on Amazon and has garnered ~490 helpful votes since Netflix released the Witcher TV series in 2019, sending new readers toward the books.






The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish is a must read for sword-and-sorcery aficionados.
• The Last Wish and most of the series were published in the 1990’s
• They spawned from Poland, not the United States of United Kingdom
• Inspired the Witcher game series a decade later (2007-ongoing)
• More to come, the author and series continue

Andrzej Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia is a “Witcher,” a superhuman trained to defeat monsters. After hundreds of years killing creatures, there are fewer threats and witchers. Actually there is less hunting monsters than Geralt sleuthing mysterious altercations. Sapkowski’s stories have conflicts that are not lone-Witcher-in-the-wild vs. monster conflict; they are more humans/vs strange forces in which Geralt referees (and usually kills). His investigative methods are a bit rougher than Sherlock Holmes. Each story was as if Conan was dumped into the Grimm's Fairy tales. But all is not grim. Lots of humor present is reminiscent of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series. Humans tend to persecute or shun the weird witchers; sustaining future witchers is addressed as the seeds of an apprenticeship are sown.

Geralt has dialogue with antagonists often. Lengthy interrogation stand offs are common. This approach allows for funny banter, philosophizing, and entertaining information-dumps. This makes for a fast, entertaining read. Sapkowski stands out as a leading non-English writer. No map, table of contents (TOC), or glossary were featured in the paperback translation. I provide the TOC below. The structure reveals the over-arching narrative of “the Voice of Reason” which attempts to connect all the others. This works pretty well, but is not always smooth. This was designed as an introduction to the series. I was impressed enough to order the Sword of Destiny when I was only half way through. It is not until the third book does a dedicated novel emerge. The series and the games continue to this day with books 7 and 8 awaiting English translation (as of 2016).

The Last Wish Table of Contents
1- Voice of Reason #1
2- The Witcher
3 - Voice of Reason #2
4- A Grain of Truth
5- Voice of Reason #3
6-The Lesser Evil
7-Voice of Reason #4
8-A Question of Price
9-Voice of Reason #5
10-The Edge of The World
11- Voice of Reason #6
12- The Last Wish
11- Voice of Reason #7

Andrzej Sapkowski Blood of Elves saga:
1. The Last Wish; Short Stories 1992 , translated from Polish to English 2007 when the first Witcher Video Game was released
2. Sword of Destiny Short Stories 1992 translated 2015
3. Blood of Elves 1994 Novel translated 2014
4. The Time of Contempt 1995 Novel translated 2015
5. Baptism of Fire 1996 Novel translated 2016
6. The Tower of Swallows 1997  Novel translated 2016
7. Lady of the Lake (1999…Novel being translated for a 2017 release in US)
8. Season of Storms (Sezon burz) Novel written 2013, set between the short stories in the first book in the series, The Last Wish. English edition TBD

Games
2007 Witcher PC
2011 Witcher 2 (Assassins of Kings) PC, Xbox, Mac OS
2015 Witcher 3 (Wild Hunt), PC, PS4, Xbox


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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gonji: The Soul Within the Steel (Deathwind 2)

Gonji: The Soul Within the SteelGonji: The Soul Within the Steel by T.C. Rypel
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gonji: The Soul Within the Steel, Book 2: The Deathwind trilogy was really one book cut into three parts: so the story arc is spread out accordingly. I enjoyed Part-1 (Red Blade From the East) but was left wondering about character motivations; also my mind struggled to contain a geographic scope that seemed to only grow. The second installment pleasantly explored all the characters and mysteries posited in the first; geographically, it focused on one location essentially (Vedun city and the adjacent Castle Lenska). It delivered on every aspect I hoped, and the conflict/story leapt forward every chapter; it unveiled truths behind several key secrets & motivations behind the characters, and ramped up the adventure (which was at a high level anyway). Great adventure fantasy that is more dark & pulpy than it is historical. I like the content in Book-1 more now, and I can’t see how any reader could not stop at the end of Book-2. Take home message: if you decide to follow Gonji, just plan on reading the whole trilogy. I’m on to Book-3 to learn more about the mysterious Deathwind….

I copy/paste my review of the first book for completeness below; after I read the third portion, I’ll work to consolidate all into one review.

Gonji’s Deathwind (Book 1)– The Godzilla of Sword & Sorcery?
Some splendid reviews already exist for Gonji: Red Blade from the East, in particular Fletcher Vredenburgh’s January 21st 2014 Post on Blackgate is extremely thorough. This provides another summary, and some more complementary information.

Gongi Is A Unique, Entertaining Mashup: Gongi is a wandering, displaced warrior--a Ronin (master-less samurai) roaming 16th century Europe. This is not historical fiction, however. This is Sword & Sorcery in vein of R.E. Howard’s Conan…but it is a solidly unique take on the genre. Firstly, Gonji is a cross-breed of a Japanese warlord and Viking sword-maiden; rather than the Hyperborean continent of REH, Gonji explores a realistic version of Europe’s geography (Ottoman–Habsburg times). Plenty of creatures and magic infuse compelling fight scenes. I half expected Godzilla to emerge on multiple occasions!

Gonji is a mysterious, intelligent character. Stretching plausibility, he knows many languages (Japanese, Spanish, Italian, German, English, more?) sufficiently to converse with everyone. He is a bit moody too, which is ostensibly related to his mixed heritage (disciplined father, wild mother). His allegiances are difficult to predict, sometimes joining mercenary bands, sometimes rescuing weak townspeople. Generally, the blend of cultures and Gonji’s mysterious motivations are engaging.

By the end of this first installment, we know only that he is seeking the “Deathwind,” and we know he gets closer to this goal when he reached the city of Vedun, but otherwise the core of his quest is unclear. There is parallel conflict with some apparently evil occupiers of Vedun; but their motives are not clear by the end either, at times brutally dominating folk and at times letting them live in peace. I would have enjoyed a bit more clarification; the demarcation between the first and second book may just be due to the publication history.

Series: The initial Zebra books of the 1980’s essential split one long novel into a trilogy (I suspect the split was arbitrary). T.C. Rypel’s 1980 series has been released in a more complete forms (more books, eBooks, audiobooks). The newer releases from Borgo Press seem to have maintained this split. I’ll need to read the second and third books to confirm that, and I plan to do that. Actually, Rypel has a lot more Gonji in mind, and has books 4 and 5 available now. Books 1-3 are the original trilogy:
1) Gonji: Red Blade from the East: The Deathwind Trilogy, Book One
2) Gonji: The Soul Within the Steel
3) Gonji: Deathwind of Vedun: The Deathwind Triology, Book Three
4) Gonji: Fortress of Lost Worlds
5) Gonji: A Hungering of Wolves
Gonji  Red Blade from the East  The Deathwind Trilogy, Book One by T.C. Rypel Gonji  The Soul Within the Steel by T.C. Rypel Gonji  Deathwind of Vedun  The Deathwind Triology, Book Three by T.C. Rypel Gonji  Fortress of Lost Worlds by T.C. Rypel Gonji  A Hungering of Wolves by T.C. Rypel

Social Media, Cover Art, and Maps: T.C. Rypel is very accessible via Facebook(Gonji Page) and the Goodreads Sword and Sorcery Group. If you check those websites you can (a) communicate with him and (b) just read/learn fascinating tidbits. For instance, from these I learned the artwork of Serbian illustrator Dusan Kostic graces most of the new releases, which seem more appropriate than the 1980’s covers that seem to mirror the James Clavell books (contemporary for 1980’s works, but of different genre). Also, The Kindle editions of the Deathwind Trilogy books do not include artist Joseph Rutt's 1982 Maps that appear in the front of the print editions. Note that Joe Rutt also drew covers for Ted Rypels 1970's Outer Limits books.



Ohio Rocks: Incidentally, T.C. Rypel has Ohio roots, as do many Sword and Sorcery authors; in fact, 20% of the original Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA, 1960-80s) came from my home state OH. The unassuming state of OH has ties to many relevant authors including including: David C. Smith, Andre Norton, Stephen Donaldson, John Jakes, Richard Lee Byers, Roger Zelazny, Dennis L. McKiernan, Steve Goble, and more.


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