Category: Novels

Deepest, Darkest Eden

TL/DR: It’s really good!

I, Filbanto, shall type with my left hand…

I love the Hyperborean cycle tales. Set in the dim reaches of the past, in a land that faces destruction by an advancing sheet of glacial ice – I guess it ticks all the boxes of what interested me in college (I dual majored in Archaelogy and Geology).

Deepest Darkest Eden is a collection of short stories and poems set in the proto-continent envisioned by Clark Ashton Smith. As with most anthologies there are some tales that really struck a chord with me and others that (pardon the pun) left me cold.

My favorite tale was “Daughter of the Elk Goddess” by John R. Fultz. This was a great adventure that really channelled the ‘sword and sorcery’ tales of the old pulps. Atanequ could certainly hold his own against Kull or Elak if push came to shove. I shan’t spoil the ending of the tale, but anyone who appreciates Smith’s work will certainly chuckle at it.

“To Walk Night…Alone…” by Joseph S. Pulver Jr. was, quite frankly, a slog to get through. Being the second story in the anthology, I started to despair that I’d bought a real stinker. I think I know what the author was trying to accomplish with this style of writing, but it just didn’t work for me.

Overall, I’d recommend the anthology for lovers of Smith’s works. Deepest Darkest Eden is available at Amazon.com.

Zothique via Ran Cartwright

TL/DR: They’re ok.

Every now and again I think about how cool it’d be to run a game set in Zothique. I’ll dig out my Clark Ashton Smith books and read through the stories looking for inspiration. When the bug hit me this time, I figured “surely somebody has written up a story since the Toad God took old C.A. Smith to his bosom”. I stumbled across a novel and two collections of short stories written by Ran Cartwright: The DarkeningSorceries Gnydron, and Sorceries Zothique. Technically, the first two, being set in Gnydron, predate Zothique, but what’s 850,000 years when we’re peering a billion years into our future.

I didn’t go into these books with high expectations. Smith had a way with words that few authors can capture. Cartwright has some interesting stories in these collections, but none of them capture the black humor you get in a C.A. Smith story. In fact – and I guess I should insert a spoiler alert here – most of the stories just end in a bloody mess. I almost felt like the author couldn’t figure out a way to end the tale, so he just killed off all his characters to wrap things up.

Out of the three books, I think The Darkening was the best. The collections of short stories can be mined for adventure ideas for games like Barbarians of Lemuria or Conan, but beware of a TPK.

As for gaming in Zothique, G.R. Hager has written up guidelines for D20. I’d likely use Barbarians of Lemuria.

Review: Red Right Hand and Black Goat Blues

TL/DR: Read ’em for some exciting mythos-inspired action.

Red Right Hand and Black Goat Blues are the first two novels in Levi Black’s Mythos War trilogy. I stumbled across them at my local library and thought “It’s been years since you read any Cthulhu stuff, why not give it a go?” Man, I am glad I did. Warning – if you are looking for a traditional mythos novel, these are not the books for you. Black clearly loves the mythos, but he takes everything Lovecraft did and flips it on its head.

First of all, the mythos gods of this universe are nothing like the unknowable, alien beings we all know and love. Nyarlathotep is terrifying, but he is also petty and vindictive. I actually felt sorry for mighty Cthulhu and Shub-Niggurath at points in the novels. These beings are knowable, we understand their designs. Sure, they’re intent upon screwing up the world, but we can grasp why they want to do it. They feel more like the gods of ancient Greece than the eldritch beings Lovecraft described.

Second, humans are important. Our myths and legends play an important role in this universe. Nyarlathotep wears the skin of a flayed archangel and uses the knife with which Abraham planned to sacrifice his son. Powerful sorcerers have captured elder gods and use them for nefarious purposes and even the Crawling Chaos needs help to overcome such foes. Finally, the lead character, Charlie, grows during the course of the story and is able to go toe to toe with the “big bads” at the end of the first book.

Finally, these stories are fast-paced and action-packed. Events happen at a frenetic pace. The fight scenes are great and the gore is, well, pretty gory. The chapters are short and I found myself reading “just one more” way too many times. Heck, I finished Black Goat Blues in two nights!

I highly recommend these books and cannot wait for the next one.

Review: Hunter’s Song

TL/DR: Give it a read.

Hunter’s Song is the debut novel from William Rutter. I recall when it was announced on Daniel James Hanley’s excellent The Engine of Oracles blog last fall. I dropped it on my Amazon wishlist and promptly forgot about it… I sure wish I’d ordered sooner!

The novel centers around a young English gentlewoman named Lila Davenport. The sole child of a wealthy banker, Lila’s only ambition is to marry the man she loves – her childhood sweetheart Richard Fairfax. Unfortunately, Fairfax has been ensnared by dark powers. His actions drag Lila into hidden terror. Disowned by her friends and family, she must fend for herself in a world where monsters are very real. Rather than give in, Lila takes up arms to fight against the creatures who stalk the night. She finds a mentor who teaches her to become the hunter instead of the hunted.

I really enjoyed this book and I am all the more impressed that it is the author’s first novel. Lila is engaging. From the first chapter, you can see the iron in her character. Here is a woman who “had it all”. Not only did her world fall apart when she was disowned by her family, but it was also turned on its head when she realized that what she heretofore took to be superstitious nonsense is actually very real. A lesser woman would have given up, but Lila strikes back, taking revenge for the wrongs she has suffered, only to become the target of revenge herself.

My hope is we will see more novels set in the world of “A Ghastly Affair”. I sure won’t let the next one sit on my wishlist for months!

You can purchase this novel at DriveThru Fiction or Amazon.

Postscript –

Mr. Hanley, my wife loved the cover of the book.