Book Review: A Princess Of Mars

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A little while ago I came up with a list of books that I wanted to read before the time I become ancient (30) first on the list was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a prolific American writer most well know as the creator of Tarzan. A princess of Mars is the first novel to feature his second most well known creation John Carter of Mars.

The novel itself is fairly short and is a prime example of the general pulp science fiction that was popularised in early twentieth century America and without giving away the plot does stick rather closely to the formula for pulp, of man from Earth winds up on alien planet, fights and then joins with the natives, rescues a princess and then saves the day. As an early example of the sort of pulp (originally serialised in 1912) that was floating about the market place in those days you can forgive it for seeming a little done to death over 100 years later, because you realise it was one of the first to do it.

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The writing style feels a little disjointed as it is written in the form of memoir, so Edgar Rice Burroughs has written it in the manner of memoir penned by Captain John Carter, who has a tendency to go off on tangents mid explanation, which does spoil the narrative, however I feel this may have been a conscious choice by Burroughs, as it lends a certain verisimilitude to the work, and it shows that only a really great writer would be able to write from the point of view of an amateur, that is to say terrible, writer.

My only main criticism is that whilst the world of Barsoom is a rich and vibrant world the secondary characters ring a little flat, and whilst the protagonist and his circle are explored the villains of the piece such as Tal Hajus and Sarkoja are lacking in any real depth and seem to be there mainly as plot accelerators more than as real characters.

Overall it was an enjoyable distraction I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 and pick up some the other books that make up the Barsoom series to find out the fates of Deja Thoris and John Carter of Mars.

Look out for more reviews coming soon. 

30 Before Thirty (Comics & Graphic Novels)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the Comics and Graphic Novels that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

Grant Morrison’s 18 Days

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Camelot 3000

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Miracle Man: A Dream Of Flying

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All Star Superman 

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Preacher: Gone To Texas

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The Crow

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Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes

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Alan Moore’s: Saga of The Swamp Thing

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Marvel 1602

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Saga: Volume 1

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 The Order: Die Mensch Machine

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The Complete Scarlet Traces 

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Button Man

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Ronin 

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Superman: Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow 

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The Infinity Gauntlet 

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Amazing Spider-man: Kravens Last Hunt

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Promethea Book 1 

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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus 

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Multiversity 

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Son Of Superman 

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Hellblazer: Original Sins 

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The Authority: Relentless 

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Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction 

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Doctor Who: Emperor Of The Daleks

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Death: The High Cost Of Living  

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JSA The Liberty Files 

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Alice In Sunderland 

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Daredevil Yellow

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The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

30 Before I’m Thirty (Films)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the films that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

How Green Was My Valley 

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Gentleman’s Agreement

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From Here to Eternity

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Gone With The Wind

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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

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West Side Story

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Lawrence of Arabia

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf

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Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

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Funny Girl

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Fiddler On The Roof

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All The Presidents Men

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Milk

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Kramer Vs Kramer

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Terms of Endearment 

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The Cider House Rules

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An Education

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The Wolf Of Wall Street

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Guardians of the Galaxy 2

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Moonrise Kingdom

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Saving Private Ryan

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Going In Style 

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Wall Street

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King Ralph

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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The Monuments Men

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Good Will Hunting

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Good Morning Vietnam 

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This Is Spinal Tap

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

The Formula For Pulp

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I’ve been reading/ watching a lot of pulp sci-fi lately (which isn’t a new thing), but there is one thing that I’m noticing, and that is that the plots for all of the pulp sci-fi classics are all exactly the same.

If I describe the plot to you see if you can guess the film, book, comic or tv show.

  1. A human male is somehow transported to an alien world
  2. said human male will meet a local tribe, and will be captured and or fight, before gaining said tribes trust/respect and then learns that the planet is made up of lots of warring peoples all ruled by one tyrant.
  3. Human male will then meet a princess who is part of the resistance against said tyrant, will fall in love and then join the resistance.
  4. Human male will suffer self doubt before uniting all tribes on the planet against the tyrant.
  5. Final battle
  6. Human Male either marries princess and rules or is sent back to Earth to pine for princess and scheme to get back.

This formula actually applies to pretty much all stalwarts of the genre across all media, It accurately sums up the novel Princess of Mars, which gave us the John Carter film, it sums up Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. It is an accurate summation of the Flash Gordon serials, comics and film and is a true synopsis for DC Comic’s Adam Strange A Man Of Two Worlds.

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So if you ever feel like writing a pulp sci-fi masterpiece, you now know the winning formula, it worked for some pretty big names in cinema.

Doctor Who? The Fifth Doctor

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At the end of the eighteenth series of the show, Tom Baker submitted the role of the Doctor to the young actor Peter Davison. Davison ditched the 4 meter scarf and battered fedora for a traditional English cricket attire, adorned with a stick of celery, yes that’s right, a stick of celery, pinned right there. On his lapel.

The Fifth Doctor

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The Fifth Doctor

This Doctor continued travelling with companions Nyssa and Adric, all while unsuccessfully trying to return Tegan to her proper place and time as an air stewardess bound for Heathrow Airport, travelling together until Adric’s death at the hands of the Cybermen the Doctor and friends might alien invaders and a snake deity, before coming face to face with the Master once more.

Still reeling from Adric’s death, the Doctor once again battles the Legendary Time Lord Omega, the snake god the Mara, before meeting up with the Doctor’s old friend The Brigadier and new companion Vislor Turlough, a young alien stranded on Earth as a political exile, tasked with murdering the Doctor by the villainous Black Guardian.

After the departure of Nyssa and Turlough’s betrayal of the Black Guardian the Tardis crew land in medieval England on the eve of the Magna Carta, where the Master is attempting to manipulate time for his own ends, this time using the Robot Kamelion, a shape changing robot.

The Doctor is then embroiled in a plot which sees his past selves being taken from time, where they must unite to stop Cybermen, Daleks, Yeti’s, The Master and Other Time Lords from stealing the Time Lord’s ultimate weapon, immortality. After once again being dragooned into taking the presidency of the Time Lords, the doctor absconds with his Tardis once more.

After tangling with old foes such as the Silurians, the Sea Devils and the Daleks, Tegan leaves the Tardis returning to earth, whilst the Doctor continues to travel with Turlough, and new companion Peri, Turlough soon returns to his home world, after the trio are betrayed by Kamelion, still controlled by the Master. The Doctor, on the planet Androzani Minor, succumbs to some form of poisoning before traumatically regenerating once more.

Peter Davison stared in 20 serials (69 episodes) from January 1982 until the penultimate serial of the 21st Series in March of 1984, before being replaced by Colin Baker. Davison, was the youngest man to play the Doctor at this point in the shows history, and made the role his own, seeing in the show’s 20th year and battling a whole slew of villains both old and new, whilst his tenure was no shorter than most to this point Davison is one of the classics and to my mind will be remembered most fondly.

Stand Out Serials

  1. The Five Doctors: This single, feature length episode, features all past incarnations of the Doctor, who are taken from time, to join the game of Rassilon, where the winner will find immortality.
  2. The Kings Demons: Set on the eve of the Magna Carta, this introduces the robotic companion Kamelion and sees the return of the Master, this time using an Iron Maiden as a tardis and affecting a questionable french accent.
  3. Earthshock: This episode sees the revival of the cybermen, in a new form (which would last until the series’ revival in 2005) in an effort to destroy the earth the Cybermen actually bring about the death of a companion, the third time in the shows history (both Katarina and Sara Kingdom die in the first Doctor serial the Daleks Masterplan), the credits role silently, and it is something that has a lasting effect across the series, especiall as the companion in question, Adric, was meant to be one of the youngest of the Doctors Travelling Companions.

Dishonourable Mention

  1. Celery: I want to know who thought that it would be a good idea to put the Doctor in cricket whites for everyday wear, and then accessorise it (or should that be garnish?) with a decorative vegetable? I know it was explained away at the end of Davisons run, but we went almost three whole series with no comment about the fact that a grown man is wearing a vegetable pinned to his lapel as if it were the worlds worst boutonniere. I mean seriously who pins a but of salad to the jacket and thinks hey this looks good? I mean its almost as bad as the radish earrings worn by Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter, but at least she is mocked, and rightly so, for it. Now you can see why it gets the dishonourable mention of this particular post. Celery, I mena come on, Celery.

 

 

Join again soon for more on the wonderful worlds of The BBC’s Doctor Who.

This is part of a series of posts relating to the BBC’s longest running show: Doctor Who.

Doctor Who? The Second Doctor

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At the end of the second serial of the Fourth Series William Hartnell bowed out of the titular role submitting the mantle of the Doctor to Patrick Troughton.

The Second Doctor

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The Second Doctor

The second Doctor was a different beast all together, where the First Doctor was quietly confident with a rigid and dignified bearing, the Second Doctor was a flapping, over excited little man who was almost a sort of cosmic hobo in appearance, sporting un-ironed shirts, a tailcoat that was 3 sizes too big, a tie that was always askew, trousers fastened with safety pins and a fur coat that was held together with a piece of string.   And whilst the First Doctor was more at home with the quiet of a good book, the Second would endlessly annoy his companions with unintelligible renditions on his trusty recorder.

After regenerating before the eyes of his companions Ben and Polly (A sailor and secretary from swinging 60’s London) the Doctor and his friends find themselves involved in an adventure pitted against the Daleks while Ben and Polly and sceptical of this new man claiming to be the Doctor. After defeating the Daleks and regaining the trust of Ben and Polly, the trio where travel to Scotland following the Battle of Culloden (1746), where they are Joined in their travels by Jaime McCrimmon an 18th Century clan piper. They go on to Cybermen on the moon, The Macra, The Daleks again and are introduced to the Yeti and The Ice Warriors of Mars, as well as the man who will become the Doctors closest and most long lasting friend Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, the founder of U.N.I.T.

After the departure of Ben and Polly and the introduction of astrophysicist Zoe Heriot in the serial wheel in space the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoe went on to fight the Kroton’s, the Cybermen and Ice Warriors once more and even the Master of The Land of Fiction, The company meet a foe that even the Doctor cannot best, A renegade Time Lord know as the War Chief, who is abducting human armies from various points in time, and making them fight in order to gain the ultimate army to conquer any point in time and space. The Doctor (a fugitive himself) contacts the Time Lords surrendering himself to return the captive humans to their rightful homes.

The Time Lords who are sworn never to interfere in the affairs of other races place the Doctor on trial, he defends himself saying that he has only interfered for good and to save innocents. Agreeing with this the Time Lords see that earth is most vulnerable to attack from outside influences, so as punishment for the Doctor’s crimes he is exiled to earth, with his knowledge of time travel erased from his mind, and a new regeneration forced upon him, the Doctor agrees and his companions are sent back to their rightful places in time and space and the Doctor begins his exile.

Troughton stared in 118 episodes (21 serials) from 1966-1969 with three subsequent appearances during his lifetime, Troughton possibly had the hardest time of any Doctor, how do you replace the original (look at new coke) but Troughton managed to bring his own uniqueness to the role, he didn’t try to simply play a younger version of William Hartnell, but was his own man, and the show was the better for it, this is why it is such a shame that much of the Second Doctor’s run was junked by the BBC and now only exists in dribs and drabs with only 6 out the 21 serials existing intact, and whilst audio recordings and animated reconstructions exist, something is of Troughton’s original performance and chemistry is lost.

Stand Out Serials 

  1. The Enemy Of The World: A sick and twisted dictator who rules the world, but is seen by many as noble saviour, who also happens to look like The Doctor? What could be better, the Doctor and friends work with rebels to take expose the corruption of the evil Salamander, the only bad part of the serial is Troughton’s teensy bit racist mexican accent.
  2. The Web Of Fear: This serial introduces us to the Brigadier, a stalwart of the whole series, it also marks the second appearance of the Great Intelligence and the Yetis, this time in the London underground,.
  3. The War Games: Whilst I feel that this serial could have been shorter (whilst not the longest, a 10 part serial is still a lot to take) it sheds the most light on the Doctor, mentioning for the first time his race and introducing yet another meddlesome Time Lord, in the War Chief, who I feel was a precursor to the more villainous and long lived Master. It also marks Patrick Troughton’s last regular appearance as the Doctor before being replaced by Jon Pertwee

Dishonourable Mention 

  1. The Questionable Relationship Between The Doctor And Jaime: It really is the first time that the Doctor seems to actually love one of his companions, he has definitely cared for companions in the past, even though he did leave his own granddaughter in a nightmarish dystopia with only one shoe, but with Jaime it seemed something more, from eccentric hand holding to tender embraces, the Doctor’s relationship with Jaime may be innocent and it may be my sick mind reading something that isn’t there, but you tell me.

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Join again soon for more on the wonderful worlds of The BBC’s Doctor Who.

This is the Second in a series of posts relating to the BBC’s long running show Doctor Who.

Book Review: Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

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Until about a week ago I had never read any of JK Rowlings  Harry Potter books, I’d seen the films, but I had never bothered with the books. I don’t really know what spurned me on to pick up the entire series but I did, and in less than a week I had managed to read all seven novels which I thoroughly enjoyed, there is such a depth that you don’t get with the films and it really expands the whole mythos of the Boy Who Lived. So after I put down my copy of the Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, I almost immediately picked up my new copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (pausing only to refresh my drink).

Straight up I have to say it isn’t a novel its a script. Many other reviewers (especially on amazon) seem to not understand that its a script for a play not, a novel. Being a script does mean a few things however, firstly, that you lack the depth of a novel, not that the script is lacking in depth of character, but just that you could tell that were it a novel it would be a lot longer, which brings me to the second point, that I managed to get through the thing in about three hours, again this is down to it being a script, not a novel.

So the story starts nineteen years after the battle of Hogwarts and the death of He Who Must Not Be Named, and focuses on the unlikely duo of Harry Potters second son Albus and his best friend, Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. Both kids are misfits who are both haunted by the legacies of their fathers, and both are content to just sit back and coast through school with their heads down. For Albus Hogwarts is not the magical place that feels like home that it was for his father, its a cold and unforgiving environment where his actions will always be judged on his fathers.

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Its really a story about children trying to gain the love of their fathers and that pretty much is what sets this whole story into motion, is that Albus and Scorpius are trying to pay for the sins of their fathers. Its an interesting story about why the past should really be laid to rest, and shows that those that don’t learn from history are doomed to relive it over and over again.

The writing is a little hard to gauge, mainly because its a screenplay, but there are parts where it feels like its bad fan fiction rather than official canon, especially as it seems that everybody in Harry Potter world is married to the person they were dating in high school, (a horrific thought if applied to the real world), but other parts do feel as though J.K Rowling had a hand in them, for instance the main positions of power (Minister of Magic and Hogwarts Head) being filled by female characters.

Whilst it isn’t a patch on the original novels it is an enjoyable enough read and a nice revisitation  to the world of Hogwarts and the Ministry Of Magic, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a film adaptation any time soon, but if you do have a hour of three to kill why not give it ago, if only to see how some of your favourite characters age.

Book Review: Kull- The Shadow Kingdom

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I’ve oft written about my love of fantasy, sci-fi and sword and sorcery as a genre, one of my favourite authors being Robert E Howard who was behind the creation of such lasting characters as Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane. I was aware of, but had never actually read many of his other works, so I decided to dip my toe in and try Kull The Exile of Atlantis. Before his tragic suicide in 1936 Howard wrote 13 Kull storeis (10 of which were published posthumously), and you can start to see that the character was really a sort of drawing board that when fleshed out sort of morphs into Conan. Many reviewers and critics of Howard’s work have all drawn comparisons between the characters , most agreeing that Kull served as a precursor to the more successful Conan.

Moving back to the story at hand, The Shadow Kingdom, serves as an introduction to Kull and his world. We soon discover his origins, his ambitions and his motivations and learn that uneasy is the head that wears the crown. There is a pertinent lesson that could apply to many leaders today, and that’s that it may be easy to get into power, but once you’re there, chances are that you wont have a clue what your doing, and asking would be akin to ripping of your fingernails whilst in a shark tank.

In the story our hero Kull has to form uneasy alliances and navigate the worlds of statecraft and palace intrigue, all while trying to save his own neck, cement his rule over the newly acquired kingdom of Valusia and combat the steep learning curve that comes with crowns. Oh did I also mention snake priests, yes that’s right, half man, half snake, all priest.

It was a good read, and because of its age I was actually able to find it free on wikisource, and its short length made it an excellent choice in bedtime reading. I’m probably going to read the rest of Kull’s adventures over the coming weeks so look out for more reviews coming your way.

My Favourite Fantasy Authors

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Here’s a little look at some of my favourite authors and the worlds which they have created.

J.R.R Tolkien 

What I love most about Tolkien’s Middle Earth is the depth the author gave to his creation, no just in terms of the Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, but in terms of the shear scale of his world. I mean who else could have a 13 book series dedicated just to the history of their fictional world, this is on top of the eight epic length novels that were already published. And whilst the majority of this work was published posthumously, it does go to show the real love for this world that was poured in by its creator.

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Sir Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld took all the best parts of fantasy and science fiction, shook them all up and then dropped them on its head, it has wizards that know that the true course of power is forming a committee and witches that ardently practise not using magic, it points out the absurdity of fairy tales and does it all in an entertaining way. With over 40 novels published, not to mention the mountains of tie in publications its safe to say that it was the books of Sir Terry that actually made me want to read books.

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Stan Nicholls

Stan Nicholls’ Orc’s books did the unthinkable for fantasy, it made Orcs the heroes, this was something that had never been done before, in a world where multiple species live together (but by no means coexist) Stan Nicholls manages to shine a light on the orcs place in the world, whilst battling there own kind, every other fantasy race you can think of, and some puritanical human beings who seem hell bent on scouring the world of Maras Dantia of all races who don’t follow their one god whose symbol is oddly enough an inverted X.

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Robert E Howard 

Robert E Howard’s Conan The Barbarian is the archetype of fantasy stories, there are swords, there’s sourcery , there’s magic, there’s snake men, there’s loin cloths and there’s a little too much muscle going on, whenever I read one of those stories I always think of desert palaces and evil grand viziers who’ve made some questionable deals with elder gods. It may seem like its every cliche in the fantasy book, but this is where they came from, this is the original, this is pulp heroism at its best.

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George R R Martin 

A Song Of Ice And Fire is epic peak of epic fantasy with a wealth of story and a wealth of characters to call upon George R R Martin has created something truly marvellous (also incredibly scary and pretty damn twisted at times)  you start with clear heroes and villains, but over the course of the five books (so far) you find the heroes becoming the villains and the villains becoming the heroes, and I think that, in part at least, by narrating chapters from different points of view you begin to realise that everyone is the hero of their own tale and this is why the twists you wouldn’t see coming, that no other author would be brave enough to try, fit right in in Westeros. And this may make me no friends whatsoever, but I’m willing to wait for the next novel, even though it has been about 6 years, I say unto Mr Martin, take your time, as a fan all I demand of you is your best work, whether that takes 7 years or 17.

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Those are some of my favourites.Who are some of your favourite fantasy authors?