Robert E Howard wrote a lot of things besides Conan. There were other fantastic heroes such as Kull and Bran Mak Morn, and "historical" stories of Soloman Kane, puritan killer. He also wrote modern horror, such as the short story Pigeons from Hell, westerns, sea tales...whatever took his fancy, and would pay the bills. Most of this writing was short stories, but then there was the odd novel, such as Almuric.
Almuric is a sword and planet tale, in the tradition of Burrough's Mars. Esau Cairn is an impressive physical specimen - the most perfect man on earth, perhaps - when he kills a corrupt politician and escapes to the lost planet Almuric with the help of a random scientist. That's pretty much page 1 of the book, so I am not spoiling anything there. After that, Cairn has a pile of adventures, matching strength and wits with the locals - ape-like men and beautiful-like women (they have bred themselves that way. Really).
Cairn must find a home, and a mate, and fight off other barbarian clans and the dreaded winged men of the south, and their even more dreaded winged queen.
The novel starts out running, and never slows down or lets up. There are few moments of quiet contemplation, but the non-stop action always has a point to it and advances the plot. This is not Howard's finest work, but it is a good romp.
This Paizo version has an introduction by Joe R Lansdale pointing out a few things that you as the reader can think about or not, as it pleases you.
on 23 November 2010
After finding a first-edition copy of Almuric for next to nothing in a second-hand bookshop, I decided to give it a read--having read all of Howard's original Conan the Cimmerian short stories.
I enjoyed it from start to end, and as a stand-alone tale it deserves to join ranks with the Conan shorts. Almuric is, I found, a better read--and more skilfully crafted narrative--than Howard's single Conan novel, The Hour Of The Dragon--sometimes printed as Conan the Conqueror.
Almuric's good points, then. Action, as always, was unbelievably delivered. I consider Howard's depictions of battles and other combat scenes to be unequalled even today--their perspective taking (in the case of the more epic scenarios) a withdrawn view, and presenting the reader with a `feel' of the struggle, as opposed to a step-by-step breakdown of the fight (as I have seen some authors do) which often becomes wearisome fairly quick.
So the action and pacing is excellent. Don't expect any particularly cleaver revelations or layered twists or other such plot devices. The story is simple, and all the more beautiful for it. The intensity doesn't dull for a moment throughout.
The presentation of the planet Almuric--with all its varied beasts and races--is vividly colourful and, despite the initially dodgy premise, is actually very believable.
Almuric does, as with much of Howard's writing, fall a little short in terms of character development and characterisation, but not to the extent that it detracts from the enjoyment of the read--but then, personal preference will denote this more than anything. The protagonist, Esau Cairn, is well fleshed-out at least, and the novel's depiction of women isn't as questionable as it is in the Conan tales.
(Please note that I only refer to the Conan stories because, being Howard's best known series, I'm assuming that most people seeking to read Almuric will be fans of Conan wanting to branch off).
So overall, I found Almuric to be highly enjoyable, and I'd recommend it not just for fans of Robert. E. Howard, but for anyone who enjoys science fiction of the pulp era, and isn't completely turned-off by plot-driven stories.
on 5 January 2013
I have been reading Robert E Howard for over 50 years. It's still the best of its genre, in my opinion, and has inspired many imitators, but few of these can match the pithy, compact, and compelling descriptions of the master! Having said that, I find Almuric enjoyable, but for me, not quite in the same class as the seminal Conan, or Kull, Bran Mak Morn, or Solomon Kane. But don't be put off - it's still a good read!