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The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Good news for REH fans

What's so exciting about a new Conan book? This is the pure stuff. Previous editions of Howard's Conan stories have been edited, posthumously completed, and presented in tandem with imitations. So this is exciting publishing! Considering Conan's decades old publis...
What's so exciting about a new Conan book? This is the pure stuff. Previous editions of Howard's Conan stories have been edited, posthumously completed, and presented in tandem with imitations. So this is exciting publishing! Considering Conan's decades old publishing history a little bit more historical information probably should have been included in the introduction and endnotes in this edition. It is great that this edition is concentrating on the newness and uniqueness of presenting unedited Howard, but a nod toward the men who first recognized the need to reprint the adventures of the Cimmerian is in order. Giving thanks to John D. Clark, Martin Greenburg, and especially L. Sprague de Camp (the editor of the immensely popular Lancer Books paperback series) would have been the proper thing to do. For first time readers of Robert E. Howard this book should mostly be a pleasure. Several stories here are classics deserving a far wider audience. As with all writers not every story is a diamond, but even Howard's rhinestones should please the reader a bit. Howard, at his best, was a gritty hard-boiled and cynical writer who berated the right targets: mistreatment of the different (in Tower of the Elephant) police brutality and forced confessions (in The God in the Bowl), the hubris of gods (in the Frost Giant's Daughter) imperialism and colonization (in Beyond the Black River, a story appearing in the next volume.) Sadly some of his tales have a glaring flaw. As the editor phrases it, 'violent ethnocentricism.' Hopefully, the reader can reflect on the social environment at the time these tales were written and forgive Howard for this woefully misplaced antagonism.

posted by Anonymous on December 7, 2003

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

The first 13 of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories h

The first 13 of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories have been re-published in this trade paperback.

Don't judge these by the standards of the Schwarzenegger films. (I happen to like those films, but for other reasons.) Written in the 1930s, these are literal...
The first 13 of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories have been re-published in this trade paperback.

Don't judge these by the standards of the Schwarzenegger films. (I happen to like those films, but for other reasons.) Written in the 1930s, these are literally the original sword and sorcery stories, with the brutal Conan constantly encountering monsters, enslaved princesses and evil sorcerers. Anyone who likes fantasy should read at least a couple, even if only to see how the genre began. My personal favorite is "The Tower of the Elephant."

Now for the caveats.

These stories were aimed at a largely male pulp magazine audience. This was the 1930s equivalent of today's action film. Therefore, the testosterone quotient is pretty high. Women are usually depicted as weeping damsels in distress, which won't please some female readers.

The plots shamelessly cater to adolescent male fantasies and insecurities. Conan, the man of action, is always able to master whatever unexpected situation he's thrown into, usually by kicking butt all over Cimmeria, or Aquilonia, or whatever mythical country he finds himself in. Beautiful women melt at the mere sight of him. The plots are contrived so that these women are forced by circumstances to share his company. By the time the story's over, they refuse to leave him.

When you get right down to it, the sullen, inarticulate Conan is essentially a rather one-dimensional character. But I didn't care about that when I read these stories as a teenager.

After Howard committed suicide, other authors somehow took over the franchise and kept writing new Conan stories. Avoid these inferior works. I think they are now out of print, but they turn up regularly in used bookstores.

posted by Arthur_Coombe on November 15, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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