Friday, June 3, 2016

Swordsman of Lost Terra by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson wrote so many fantastic science fiction novels that it’s nearly impossible to pick just one as a favorite. So when I saw that Armchair Fiction had Swordsman of Lost Terra in their catalogue as a double novel paired with Planet of Ghosts by David V. Reed I logged onto Amazon and ordered it. I had read Swordsman of Lost Terra years ago, and Anderson certainly wrote better novels, but Swordsman of Lost Terra is special. It falls into that science fiction morphed genre called “Sword and Planet” fiction which is geek-speak for “That’s really cool, dude!” In other words, we get some Flash Gordon heroics tainted with some Conan the barbarian action, and maybe even a dash of fantasy. Swordsman of Lost Terra is really a great example of a for hire pulp fiction story that was obviously cranked out quickly, and somehow it worked. The opening line is a great hook: “Now it must be told of those who fared forth south under Bram the Red.” It didn’t have to make sense, and it sounded great. The story tells how Kery, son of Rhiach would come to play the pipe of the gods as Bram the Red and the men of Killorn fought the hordes of the Genasthi who had invaded the lands of perpetual darkness. There is no lack of imagination here, and Swordsman of Lost Terra is a sparkling tale, albeit rather short. The companion novel, Planet of Ghosts by David V. Reed, is another winner. On the planet Amanas are the remains of a lost civilization where once lived the Llanu, great winged creatures with ties to ancient earth. Dr. Kimball Crane learns of a menace from deep space and wants to warn his fellow earthmen, but his warnings fall on deaf ears. The Llanu want to exploit the ability of another alien race, the Raie, to conquer earth. Crane and others lead an expedition that has tragic results for the crew as they attempt to save earth. Pure Space Opera all the way and very well written. David V. Reed is best known for his work on the Batman comic books, and I feel that his science fiction stories and other pulp tales are too often ignored. He wrote a solid, entertaining story and his imagination was the equal of anyone writing for the pulps.

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