January 28th, 2009

there!, Hello

For hours the hard-pressed beast had fled across the Martian desert with its dark rider.

5) Secret of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett (2007, Paizo Books, 240 pages)
A reprint of two short, pulp sf novels from the 1960s, starring Eric John Stark, mercenary, wild man, and all around rogue. Both set on a science fantasy Mars, the novels concern marching armies and ancient cities, strong women and tough men, and a well written sense of wonder.

The Secret of Siharat deals with a barbarian horde amassing to sweep across Mars, and Stark's efforts to prevent their savage efforts. With the promise of ancient, mind/body swapping technology (leftover from a race of extinct mentalists), several strong characters (many of them female), clever dialogue, landscapes that clearly spring from South Western US, and crisp writing, The Secret of Sinharat is quite an adventure.

Stark's adventures continue in People of the Talisman, which can either be viewed as a bookend piece of the first short novel or something of a derivative of that work (depending on the reader's state of mind). Once again, we find an invading horde of barbarians (this time intent on taking the city of Kushat, guardian to a Mountain pass called The Gates of Death), with only Stark standing in their way. This time around, the city in question is protected by an ancient prophecy and a science-magic object, the alien Talisman. Unfortunately, this item was stolen some years before (a theft covered over by the city's terrified nobility). This thief later suffers the curse of conscience and vows to return the artifact, only to be mortally wounded en route. A deathbed promise sees Stark venturing to Kushat to fulfill his thief-friend's last request, and there he gets caught up in plenty of problems (including the aforementioned army). The story is certainly readable, though I found taking it immediately after Sinharat to be rather tedious, alas.

Apparently, My patience for pulp sf is thinner than it used to be.

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Hmmm. Compare this book's first line with that of Stephen King's gunslinger series...

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

Nice echo, eh?