Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Thongor of Lemuria - Lin Carter

Not wanting to miss out on the fun we're having in the post-Confessor crap-bashing-fest, I finally got round to trawling my local second-hand bookshop for something worthy of a lengthy critique. The title of this one was a good sign, as was the cover, featuring a half-naked barbarian hacking at a dinosaur with a big sword. I'm not sure if it'll reach the heights of the Yeard or the Duke, but we'll see how it goes... if any of you can find a copy then feel free to join in, but as it originally came out in 1966 you may be out of luck.

So, the premise seems to be a prehistoric swords'n'sorcery epic set on the continent of Lemuria, long since sunk beneath the waves, much like Atlantis. Looks like we're set for some barbarians and some monsters. The first paragraph confirms this, with an excerpt from the "Lemurian Chronicles" telling us of Thongor, a "wandering adventurer from the savage wilderness of the Northlands", who is "armed with the iron thews of the warrior". Phew!

But what's this? Just a few lines down the page, amid a colourful description of a thunderstorm, we find out that Thongor is in a... helicopter? OK, it's some kind of magic helicopter, held up by the "complete weightlessness of its urlium armour". That's OK then. And now we meet the other passengers.

Carter likes his adjectives, and he likes to use them in pairs. Passenger #1 is exiled noble Karm Karvus, a "lean, handsome" young man with "smooth dark" hair and "keen, intelligent" eyes. #2 is the princess, and we get even more of her - her face is a "pale creamy oval", her eyes are enormous and dark, and resemble "wet black jewels"; her figure is "proud and rounded" and her clothes are, naturally, scanty. #3 is Thongor himself, and I'll give you his description in full.

He was a great bronzed lion of a man, thewed like a savage god, naked save for the leather clout and bare trappings of a wandering mercenary swordsman. His tanned, expressionless face was majestic and stern beneath the rude mane of thick black hair that poured over his broad shoulders, held back from his brow by a leather band. At his side the steel length of a great Valkarthan longsword hung in its black leather scabbard, and a vast scarlet cloak swung from his shoulders, secured by a narrow gold chain about his throat. His lips were tight set but his strange golden eyes showed no trace of fear."

I'm always puzzled by these barbarian conventions of dress. Despite being in a profession that involves close proximity to big sharp objects, Thongor is only wearing some kind of leather loincloth... OK, maybe he's really poor and can't afford any more clothes... but then he's also draped himself in a fancy red velvet cloak with a gold chain, which is neither warm nor practical for swordfighting. Maybe we'll get an explanation of this later on, but I rather doubt it.

More later.


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