Black Gods And Scarlet Dreams (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 11 Jul 2002
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The best and most memorable work of one of the most important pioneers of fantasy
About the Author
C.L. Moore (1911-1987) was born in Indianapolis and became a leading author of science fantasies for WEIRD TALES in the 1930s. After her marriage to fellow SF writer Henry Kuttner in 1940 she concentrated on writing science fiction, usually in collaboration with her husband. She turned to screenwriting after his untimely death; her TV series included MAVERICK and 77 SUNSET STRIP.
Top customer reviews
On to part 2 and the adventures of Northwest Smith, laser gunslinger of the spaceways. Anyone concerned that the book is about to degenerate into cheap Western plots rehashed with a space setting will be pleased to learn that the first story contains a weird vampire-gorgon creature that must have provided the inspiration for using Caravaggio's Medusa as the book's cover art. Moore's prose style, particularly her descriptions of the various lurid landscapes in which Smith tends to find himself, is eminently readable. Unfortunately, plot wise these stories are often very similar, with our hero being threatened by a voluptuous lady alien who requires an essential part of him for some nefarious scheme. He usually escapes through the power of his will, sometimes helped along with a few bursts from his laser/ray/blaster gun (it changes from story to story). A book to be read more as a period piece, as well as a shining example of how a woman managed to succeed in the male-dominated arena of thirties pulp SF. Nevertheless, if you've been enjoying the books by Robert E Howard and Clark Ashton Smith in this series, then you could do worse than to while away a few pleasant hours with this volume as well.
But it's not like that at all. The Jirel of Joiry stories (which make up the first half of the book) are more thoughtful and disturbing than Conan. Jirel is the Castellan of a fortress in a French seeming country and not a barbarian at all, though she has a temper. And the stories contain far more elements of Horror, almost Lovecraftian Horror (though better written) than Howard's Conan. I was impressed, and I hadn't expected to be.
The Northwest Smith stories, which make up the second part, are varied in quality, "Shambleau", the first one, being the best IMHO. They can drag on a bit at times but overall are also a good read. They, too, are mainly concerned with Horror, Lovecraftian style at times and this is interesting given the SF background (didn't I mention they're set in the future after Man's colonisation of the Solar System? Well they are.) SF and Horror rarely mix and it is to Moore's credit that she pulls this off pretty well.
In summary, a very good book. Read it.
Jirel of Joiry is a female warrior in Medieval France. However this is just a stepping point for her adventures in other worlds and dimensions touching on our own. Often credited with being the inspiration behind Robert E Howard's Red Sonya character, these stories are mainly about the darkness that is separated from our own world by a thin membrane. Most of these stories involve her being seduced by some otherworldly creature or god, but she recovers enough of herself to fight back and escape in time. My favourite of the Jirel stories was 'Hellgarde', which broke this mold and featured an intriguing band of a lord an his retinue held up in an abandoned, haunted castle, and the real reason why they were there.
The Northwest Smith books are similar to Leigh Brackett's 'Mars' stories, and roughly fall into the Sword and Planet category. Also set on Mars, they delve into weird fiction, however they are more Clark Ashton Smith than HP Lovecraft. Again, they do tend to be formulaic, in that Northwest Smith comes across a seductive woman, who is not all she seems, and who leads him into some perilous confrontation. Rather than being high on action, the Northwest Smith stories are more about invoking the feeling of weirdness or dread, and the interior struggle Northwest Smith undergoes to live another day.
Individually I think these stories in this collection are great, and they do highlight the career of one of the early pioneers of SF and Fantasy who is all but forgotten now. However tthey do get samey samey, particularly if you read one right after the other.
I would recommend you read a story, put it down, and then come back to the book a day or so later and you will appreciate them more.
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