The Ship of Ishtarby A. MERRITT
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A classic of fantasy that transports the reader across worlds to mystery and romance beyond compare. John Kenton receives a ship, carved from a weird gem, unearthed in the ruins of ancient Babylon. Soon the ship has transported him to a mystic realm created by the Gods for a special vengeance. For the ship is the battleground for an age old conflict between Ishtar, Goddess of Life and Love, and Nergal, Dark God of Death. Those on board the ship have sailed the uncounted centuries since Babylon. Unless John Kenton is that hope, sent by Nabu, God of Justice to resolve the conflict once and for all. But John Kenton knows he is only a man, and wants to escape the ship--until he makes friends with Gigi, the ships frog-like, good-hearted drummer, Sigurd the Viking, and other members of the crew, dredged up through time, and sees Sharane, handmaiden and priestess of Ishtar, as courageous and beautiful as the goddess herself. Then Kenton is swears to battle the God of Death, if that's what it takes to win Sharane. It's a promise he will have to keep, and his only hope is for the birds--the doves of Ishtar! The New York Times hailed The Ship of Ishtar as, "A glimmering, glittering web of imagination." The Saturday Review of Literature says Merritt's work is "genius, unique, eerie and compelling..." The Science Fiction Encyclopedia writes that Merritt's stories possess "genuine imaginative power in the creation of alternate worlds and realities," and that The Ship of Ishtar's "highly colored descriptive passages have a strong effect reader."
- Renaissance E Books
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I really enjoyed this book, and loved the myriad details that obviously spawned now classical elements of the fantasy genre. It took about a third of the book before I couldn't put it down, the shifting of the protagonist from the real world to that of the ship far too frequent for the adventure to grip me. But when it did, I was hooked, and finished the book in a single sitting from that point on. My only real criticism of The Ship of Ishtar is that it is built around an antiquated misogyny that was unrelentingly distracting from what would otherwise be an exciting adventure. I recognize that the book was written over eighty years ago, but I was nevertheless pulled repeatedly out of the story by the overwhelming portrayal of the few female characters as vengeful-but ultimately submissive-objects to be possessed by the male characters. Merritt may have been a master at weaving descriptive prose and an intricate setting of eclectic real-world myths and his own imaginings, but he was far from enlightened when it comes to gender. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the Virgil Finaly illustrations this edition includes, bare breasts and all, so take the above for what it is. In all, I recommend The Ship of Ishtar and had a great time reading it, despite the problematic elements it contains, which are less the fault of Merritt than they are the time in which he wrote.
A. Merritt, a major influence in the history of Fantasy & Science Fiction writing, has been all but forgotten today. Upon reading this book, you will wonder why.His deep development of character and his unmatched power to create alternate realities is well evidenced in this tale of power and freedom spanning two dimensions. It is a narrative of one man's leap across millenia- from the era of Merritt's writting (1920's-30's)to a time and place not unlike the ancient realms of Egypt or Babylonia. Merritt's highly colorful language and prose style, slightly reminiscent of Haggard or Borroughs, heighten the sense of authenticity - that we are being presented a 'factual' account of fantastic adventures.