on 24 July 2010
This volume contains all of the Solomon Kane stories Howard finished in his lifetime. Although there are longer volumes that include fragments, or other authors' versions of Howard's unfinished works, this book is a "Complete Solomon Kane". The stories combine elements of horror and suspense with a slightly detached, amused tone to very pleasing effect. The stories are thrilling without being at all disturbing, and despite their often gruesome subject matter, offer much more in the way of speculative wonder than speculative dread. In many ways they are an optimistic and humanistic counterpart to Lovecraft's cosmic horrors. Kane might live in a world of ancient mystery and supernatural evil, but his will and cunning always allow him to triumph over his foes.
Howard's prose will not be for everyone. It is usually functional rather than beautiful, and sometimes even breaks down into clumsiness. Like Lovecraft, Howard has a tendency to over-rely on certain archaic or unusual words when creating atmosphere. However, these disturbances are invariably minor, and have little or no effect on enjoyment. Being reminded of the story-teller in this way is not really a problem in this type of writing. Overpoweringly, Howard's prose imbues his stories with a particular flavour which lingers on in much fantasy writing to this day. Although hard to label, it is that quality which allows us to use this kind of story as a springboard for our own imaginations. Because of this quality, I find the Solomon Kane stories excellent bedtime reading, a sort of appetiser for exciting and pleasant dreams ahead.
This is one of the most enjoyable books I've had the pleasure to read in a long time, its very much a page turner and the pace is break neck with the action following quickly upon the beginning of each of the stories.
While each story is in very many ways simple, proceeding very quickly through action packed escapades, daring do and ferocious battle (the fights, particularly sword fighting are probably the best that I've read) to a thrilling conclusion, there is some characterisation too. For instance while Soloman Kane is characterised pretty simply as a compulsive opponent of injustice, oppression and champion of the weak Howard also provides brief asides about how Kane doesnt acknowledge but is motivated by the thrill of risk taking, facing dangerous and testing his courage too. I didnt make the immediate connection between Howard the author of Soloman Kane and Howard the author of Conan, there is enough of a difference between the characters, their setting and adventures, or so I felt. The world that Kane inhabits is much more like that Tim Powers has written about in The Anubis Gates (Fantasy Masterworks) and The Drawing Of The Dark (Fantasy Masterworks) than Conan.
Like other books in the range, such as Dennis Wheatley's books are a product of its time but I really dont believe they are particularly racist really. Its all part of the narrative and no one ever complained that Tolkein's hobbits were discriminatory portrayals of people who are short. This is really pacey adventure reading and I recommend it to anyone who just wants a good entertaining courageous, good vs. evil read or fans of the books I mentioned.
A slim, but entirely worthy volume of the collected tales of Solomon Kane, that other most memorable creation of the great Robert E. Howard.
There are ten full tales here, together with three poems by way of an appendix; M. J. Elliott provides a useful introduction to the collection.
The stories are characteristically Gothic pulp in nature, featuring supernatural and horror elements; though Kane is a sixteenth century Puritan, he doesn't spend much time stomping around his native England; the sequencing of the stories – although each is a separate tale in it's own right – can almost be read as an odyssey, as Kane chases an adversary from the first tale overseas and therefore begins a journey which takes him through the dark continent of an imagined fantasy of Africa before returning eventually to his home county of Devon.
Whether this is intended as a chronological sequencing of the original stories or an editorial decision for this volume, I know not, but it works for me.
A very handy collection of the Kane tales in one volume, entertaining and evocative fantasy and excellent examples of Howard`s writing talent; highly recommended.
Robert E Howard is best remembered for his creation Conan, the sword-swinging barbarian who spawned a small industry of books, comics, games and films, but he wrote many other characters including the adventures of the lesser-known sixteeth/seventeenth century puritan Solomon Kane.
Kane shares many characteristics with Conan - mighty thews, a cold demeanor riven by mighty passions, unfailing bravery and an unerring sense of right and wrong and these stories might be seen as Howard taking the opportunity to write his stories in a world with pistols and cannon rather than sword and shield.
Certainly there's a wide variety of subject matter - Kane battles everything from bandits and slavers to ghosts, vampires and Cthonian horrors in his travels and some of the stories are excellent: 'The Footsteps Within' ranks as a wierd tale to match anything ever penned by Lovecraft.
However, there's a problem with these stories and I'm not going to skip over it - Solomon Kane was written at a time when as far as much of the west was concerned Africa was jungle from cape to Cairo populated by either blood-drinking cannibals or good-hearted by ignorant savages, and Kane spends a lot of his time slaughtering the first and patronising the second. From a modern perspective, some of these stories can be seen as quite spectacularly racist.
If you approach Solomon Kane in the way you would Conan - pulp fiction set in a fantasy world which bears no resemblance to ours - there's some highly enjoyable reading in here. However, readers should be aware that to modern eyes they may well have difficulty doing so.
Good old pulp-fiction from the creator Conan. Solomon Kane appears to be a kind of 16/17th century adapation of Howard's most famous creation only he is bent on righting wrongs rather than plundering palaces.
As usual the writng is sometimes a little formulaic with Kane always being described in exactly the same way and some the opponents being one dimensional, but then their main role is as sword-fodder for our hero. Lush jungles and sinister tribesmen abound and there is an interesting but(sadly)unexplored link between a voodoo practitioner and Kane. Despite the fact that Kane is ostensibly a Christian he does not seem to have any problems accepting occult help in the form of a "magic" staff. One wonders whether this might have been explored in later stories had Howard not died when he did.
The book closes with three poems about Kane's exploits and opens with an interesting introduction givign a little more background to the stories and teh character for thiose who are not yet familiar with him.
If you like the original Conan books or stories of pirates I don't think you'll be disappointed with this offering.
on 15 August 2010
A stern Puritain, chasing evildoers from England down into the deepest jungles.
A mix between seventeenth century and the sword and sorcery universe, with Atlantis relics in deep Africa, roaming vampires, canibals, man-eating harpies and bloodthirsty pirates.
A nice and archaic English.
Howard even quotes Isaiah and Chesterton - but of course, mixes many other cultural and religious references.
Why did this author shoot himself at the age of 30 ?
I cannot imagine the wonderfull stories he would have written, had he be able to get over his mother's death !
This book is a must - and its preface presenting Solomon Kane is quite interesting.
on 22 March 2014
Everything that makes Batman a great character...
Everything that makes us love HP Lovecraft's cosmic horrors...
Everything about Indiana Jones that is loved and admired by thousands...
Eerie as Dr Who...
Magic as Tolkien...
Basically, everything that is best in life...
All in this. BUY IT! Or, if it still doesn't appeal, have your head examined...
on 19 April 2016
Howard's Kane stories are effortless to read and highly enjoyable. Perfectly paced short stories that if you like a bit boys own adventure is worth a punt.
on 18 March 2011
Much has already been well said by previous reviewers, so I'll try to keep this brief.
Solomon Kane was a puritan, more than capable of violence, but wishing always for a peaceful, 'Christian' solution. That self-hatred and inner turmoil is what makes this character so interesting, and it's why Robert E. Howard enjoyed writing Solomon Kane almost as much as he loved typing out Conan the Barbarian.
Not enough is known about Howard. He was widely considered the greatest pulp writer in the world. Tolkien was a fan, and loved the depth of research behind Conan. H.P. Lovecraft was also a fan, and he and Robert E. Howard corresponded frequently in the final years of Howard's life.
Solomon Kane was also deeply researched. (Howard loved history almost as much as he loved literature.) Those elements of Africa another reviewer felt could appear racist actually spring from African mythology, rather than European imperial ignorance. For instance, many African tribes invented their own stories about cannibalism out of fear of the mighty Zulu. And in fact, while real cannibalism was uncommon, it was not unknown. Some tribes, and I'm not naming anyone here, believed, for instance, that by eating the heart of an enemy you could absorb his strength. This happened in ancient Europe aswell. More importantly, Solomon Kane stumbles upon such barbarism to further the aformentioned inner turmoil from which these stories, as well as Conrad's Heart of Darkness, find their strength of theme and their narrative power.
To anyone who loves fiction, who wants to see some of the best written, most intelligent and finely crafted work to come of the early years of pulp fiction, or if you just want to be gripped and shaken and never let go by a story that simply rocks, you can't afford to miss Solomon Kane!
on 11 June 2015
Super swift postage - a great item at a great price - a thoroughly recommended Amazon seller.
I most certainly will use again.