Twelve thousand years ago the great lost city of Opar was in its prime, with its Atlantean tradition, its fabled jewels, its living goddess and Hadon, son of ancient Opar, whose claim to a throne launches him upon an enthralling and dangerous venture.
A brand-new edition of the classic novel.
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Philip José Farmer in his new book, “Hadon of Ancient Opar” a new book in Wold Newton series published by Titan Books introduces us to Hadon. From the back cover: Enter the lost city of Opar Opar, the lost colony of Atlantis, is hidden deep in the heart of Africa, awash with incredible riches. From this ancient city comes Hadon, an impoverished but ambitious young man who sets out to win the Great Games of Klakor, and thus become king of the Khokarsan Empire. As his quest for the throne leads him into the wild lands beyond the empire’s edge, Hadon finds himself embroiled in a bloody civil war. Edgar Rice Burroughs created Opar and let Tarzan visit it now Mr. Farmer brings us to Opar long before Tarzan’s visit. No doubt about it this is a story in the swords and sorcery genre. Mr. Farmer grew up on Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard and Robert Howard and Hadon is born out of all of them. I think Hadon is a close copy of Robert Howard’s Kull character. Mr. Farmer moves the story along at a pretty good clip with lots of action and asides to other authors. “Hadon of Ancient Opar” is a good adventure yarn that certainly shows quite a bit of imagination. There are moments when it slows down and moments of utter weirdness but , other than that, a pretty good story. I am looking forward to more stories in this series. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Titan Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I first (and last) read Hadon of Ancient Opar in middle school. Obsessed with anything connected with Tarzan or John Carter of Mars, I picked the book up simply because it referenced Opar in the title. I hadn't read Farmer's Time's Last Gift, so I had no idea who the man/god Sahhindar referenced throughout the book was supposed to be. I remember enjoying Hadon well enough, but I never read the sequel (Flight to Opar) and in fact forgot about / lost track of the series for several decades. A few years back, I became reacquainted with Farmer's Wold Newton works (rereading Tarzan Alive, and moving on from there), and so I was excited when I heard Titan Books was reissuing several of them, including Hadon. Perhaps it's just that I'm not the same twelve-year-old who read the book the first time ... but I've moved from "liked it well enough" to "love it." In Hadon, Farmer did everything I love about George RR Martin's first Game of Thrones book, and I find myself understanding where my love of those aspects first came from. In Hadon we have an ancient setting (more bronze age than medieval), an adventure-fantasy without the more fantastical features (yes, there's an Oracle, and some talk of gods walking among men, but otherwise the mystical aspect is so low as to be non-existant) and a veritable mountain of political intrigue and world-exploration. And Farmer does it with an economy of language that most modern fantasy writers can't be bothered with (unless we're talking about urban fantasy). That's not a surprise with Farmer coming very much from the Burroughs-Doyle-etal school of pulp adventure writing: move the story along, make things happen. I enjoyed the fast pace of the book, even if there are occasional phrases so purple my eyes ache. I'll allow Farmer a few hyperbolic sentences here and there, because they don't slow the narrative down. We follow Hadon and his fellow contestants from Opar (which we see very little of, despite the back cover copy) to the capital city of Khokarsa; we endure the Great Games with him, and then his journey out to follow an Oracle's command to rescue three outsiders who had been under the protection of Sahhindar but lost along the way, and his journey back. Farmer shows us Hadon's growth from a youth obsessed with winning the Games and becoming King (but still worried over the prospect of having to face and kill his friends) to a hero more concerned with the safety of others than himself. Hadon is surrounded by a cast of colorful characters: his cousin, the giant exile Kwasin, particularly stands out, but so do the female leads Awineth and Lalila, the dwarf Paga, the scribe Hinokly, the soldier Tadoku, and the bard Kebiwabes. The two female leads could perhaps be a bit more fully developed (characterizationally, I mean ... it's clear that they are both absolutely beautiful physically) in comparison to the male characters, but they're still more well-rounded than a lot of the other fantasy and adventure fiction I read back in that period (and certainly more well-developed that most of the females in Burroughs' own work). There are a ton of hidden connections in the book: to Tarzan, naturally, and to H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quartermain, but also to other works by Farmer and Burroughs and others. This is one of the things Farmer excelled at: building those connections into stories and novels for people to find, but not beating the reader over the head with them. I enjoyed Hadon well enough in 1978 without catching most of those references, and I enjoyed it again in 2013 both without and because of them. Despite what some folks will tell you, it is entirely possible to enjoy Farmer's Wold-Newton works as stories in and of themselves, without constantly searching for the winks, nods and hidden references -- but finding them sure does add a fun layer to the experience. If you enjoy pulp and adventure and/or light fantasy, you'll enjoy Hadon of Ancient Opar. I have to mention the new foreword and afterword provided by my friend Christopher Paul Carey. Chris is THE expert on Farmer's Khokarsa works, even co-authoring the final book in the trilogy, The Song of Kwasin, with Farmer and writing other Khokarsa stories with Farmer's blessing. The foreword traces the "literary archaeology" of Hadon, providing the necessary context for how Farmer's work grows from and connects back to the work of Burroughs and Haggard. The afterword is a glossary of names and places and some events pertinent not just to Hadon but to the trilogy as a whole. Both enhance enjoyment of the book, whether you read them before the main text or after. They may this edition work purchasing even if you have an old dog-eared copy of Hadon sitting around waiting to be reread. The second book in the series, Flight To Opar, is not currently slated for re-issue by Titan in their current slate of Farmer books, but one can hope that sales are good enough to justify a second round of re-issues and that Flight (and perhaps Song of Kwasin) will be included. In the meantime, I did find an old copy of Flight (and Hadon) in a used book store not long ago.