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on 20 April 2017
Read the first book: Jirel of Joiry. Enjoyable, and only about as dated as the original Conan tales. Best dipped into, I think, as -like Conan- things can get a bit repetative. Obvious Jack Vance influence, especially with his Lyonesse sequence. Will update as I progress with the others in this omnibus.
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This is an omnibus collection of 3 of the 4 best short collections of CL Moore. It contains all of the Jirel of Joiry stories, all of the Northwest Smith, the novel Judgment Night, and 4 other short works. All that's missing is "The Best of CL Moore", with some stories such as No Woman Born and Vintage Season (both of which may have been co-written with Henry Kuttner).

C.L. Moore was perhaps the first female writer of "sword and sorcery", with her 1930's tales of heroine Jirel of Joiry. They are better classifed as "weird tales" - the name of the magazine in which they were published - full of evocative description rather than brutal action. There are only 6 stories in total.

Jirel is a warrior woman, a redhead striking rather than beautiful, capable with a sword and strong willed. To an extent however, the adventures happen around Jirel rather than to her: Moore's lush prose swirls around the reader and drags one in, and it is the descriptions and locations rather than the characters that truly drive the story.

Northwest of Earth is science fiction by way of H. P. Lovecraft, where ancient evils meet ray guns and iron will. Northwest Smith is a smuggler and outlaw adventuring through the solar system - Mars, Venus and the moons of Jupiter. He has a Venusian sidekick, Yarol, and it is never clear whether Yarol is near or part human, or something else. That doesn't really matter though, and nor does the fact we see all of one spaceship, and that while heat-guns exist, they are rarely used.

These are tales of femme fatales, forgotten gods and lost civilisations. The imagery is superb - the fall of gardens of the moon in the light of the Earth is vivid in my mind's eye. The action is there, but the real struggle is in the character's head in almost every case.

It's the sensual, decedent prose used to tell the story that makes us read on. Its better to read only one tale at a time, putting the book aside from time to time, as this is similar to how the stories were originally read (and written) : as monthly (or so) instalments in the pulp magazines of the 1930's.

Finally, we have a sci-fi version of Jirel pretty clearly showing through the lines of Princess Juille in Judgment Night - both are warrior-women with a hidden feminine side, fierce in defence of their realm, even to the extent of plotting murder of an emissary under a flag of truce! Juille is fighting a final, losing war against barbarians - in between skipping off to a pleasure moon for a few days to explore her feminine side. There is romance, battle, betrayal and abduction, all on spectacularly drawn worlds. This is full of action, with a surprising and satisfying twist at the end that changes all that you have read.

The other stories are all shorter, and show Moore's range. "Paradise Street" is a sci-fi western, which reads like Moore was channeling Leigh Brackett, at least until you realise she is in fact giving us an older and more hardbitten version of her own Northwest Smith. Jaime Morgan is a man on the edges of civilisation, on a planet that is now becoming civilised, perhaps the last of his type. Themes of freedom, civilisation and corruption all shine brightly, and if you liked Firefly and Serenity, you'll enjoy reading this. "Promised Land" is a story about humanity, alienation, and what makes us human in times of genetic engineering. "The Code" is a little think piece about the dangers of science, and "Heir Apparent" is longish adventure tale with a AI slant.

All of the stories are different, and all cover different types of "science fiction". There is something here for everyone, with the added interest for the distaff that C.L. Moore was one of the earliest female grand masters of sci-fi. If you are prepared to pay a pretty steep cover price, you'll find a work of art, on a number of a levels.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 June 2014
'Weird Tales' was one of the most celebrated Pulp magazines of the 1930s. It published Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard's 'Conan' stories. But while lumpen Goths fawn over Gollancz' faux-leather 'Necronomicon' and elf-trilogy nerds puzzle over the fact that the Conan collection in the same binding is comprised of (horror of horrors) short stories, poems and only one novel (this was before, Tolkien, kidz), they remain ignorant of the third major figure to emerge from 'Weird Tales'.

Catherine Moore worked as a typist in a bank. In 1933, her story "Shambleau", a feverish,sensual tale of medusa-like vampirism on a planetary-romance Mars catapulted her to genre stardom. It has since appeared in dozens of anthologies and remains a favourite among true fanatics of SF, Fantasy and Horror. "Shambleau" introduced the sublime Northwest Smith, the greatest space adventurer of the Golden Age of SF, a badass leatherclad outlaw romantic, wanted on Earth, always confronted by the same dilemma: another girl, another planet.

'Northwest of Earth' compiles the adventures of the antihero I've always felt was the model for Han Solo of 'Star Wars' fame, except that Smith is meaner, harder, sexier and cooler. His overcooked adventures all feature him getting into scrapes with irresistible yet weird alien women (it's a tough life as an outlaw spacer), delivered in florid, multicolour-spattered prose from Moore, who makes Lovecraft seem tame in her dripping linguistic prowess. This is the pure stuff of pulp SF in that it's actually like what people assume science fiction is like when they haven't actually read any, not realising that this mode of telling disappeared from print a long, long, time ago....and what's more, Moore made this low form of hackwork feel like art. She was a genius of excess. Smith's adventures may follow a formula, but each one is like eating a different flavour of exotic ice cream...then best of all is the last one, the sublime, moody origin story "Song in a Minor Key" that does more in three pages than Tolkien manages in three volumes. Now that's popular writing at its finest.

'Jirel of Joiry' was the first female sword and sorecery heroine - and one of the earliest sword and sorcery characters full stop, preceding those of Leiber, Moorcock and Vance. Fiesty and quasi-historic, Jirel is often at the mercy of the sensual and the monstrous. The titles of the stories should explain : 'Black God's Kiss' is just one.

Another reviewer here has written well about 'Judgement Night', the full-length novel included with these two collections of tales about Smith and Jirel, so I'll not comment on the book other than to agree.

For an introduction to the REAL meat of true pulp SF, a revelatory view of a woman's sensuality and viewpoint in genre SF long before the likes of leGuin and Russ and for a helping of gorgeous weird writing to match Howard and Lovecraft nd Clark Ashton Smith, you can't go wrong here. Female readers in particular should be reading Moore, who beat the boys at their own game long before the even the parents of the current lady authors of YA teen dystopias got it on. Arguments about institutional sexism in SF begin here, with the revelation that Moore got in early and set the scene on fire with sensuality.

This is raw, primal writing from one of the most important figures in the history of popular writing, whose legacy and significance is unfairly obscured by the passage of time.
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on 18 February 2014
What a treat to find all of Moore's crucial work in one volume, including her masterpiece — heretofore out of print — Judgment Night. This is Moore's ultimate space opera, one of the most entertaining and apocalpytic works in the entire genre.

It begins:

'The hundred emperors of Ericon looked down gravely out of their hundred pasts upon Juille, striding with a ring of spurs through the colored twilight of their sanctum.'

Juille is cousin to Jirel of Joiry, Moore's far-better-known heroine, who also wore spurs. And Juille's apocalyptic bent is perfectly suited for an empire at the end of its days.

"It was a fool's work to let [the H'vani] live." Juille gave [her father] a bright, violet glare. "I'd have wiped them out [...] if it meant the end of the empire. I'd have killed every creature wth a drop of H'vani blood. I'd have razed every building on every world they had, and sown the rocks with radium! I'd have left their whole dead system hanging in the sky as a warning for all time to come. I'll do it yet -- by the Hundred Emperors, I will!"

And Juille tries her best.

Her tale refuses to move in the direction she wishes, of course. There's little dithering, little talk. The pace is quick, the page-count low. Through a series of memorable set pieces, including a tour-de-force destruction of an orbiting pleasure palace, Juille brings about the fall of mankind, and the rise of something else
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