Monday, April 27, 2009

Warrior of Llarn

This weekend I finished Warrior of Llarn by Gardner F. Fox. It's part of the second wave of planetary romance, written in the 60s (1964 is the print date, if I remember correctly) and as such, has a very definite "Barsoom" flavor to it, including being an ancient, reddish desert world. It's also got a bit of Cold War ethos thrown in for fun---Llarn is a world devastated by a past nuclear holocaust, for instance, which led to some weird mutations amongst some of the inhabitants.

My takeaway from Warrior of Llarn is that, as far as this kind of novel goes, it's not that bad. It hits all the right notes, the plot is pretty good, and some of the characters are even engaging, in particular Tuarra, the princess who plays the role of Dejah Thoris for this book. Rather than being a beautiful cypher, as often happens, she's actually kinda charming. The protagonist, Alan Morgan, on the other hand, comes across as a somewhat bone-headed bad stereotype of a jock who happens to be really lucky.

All in all, not as bad as a few I've read (notably the Mike Resnick's Ganymede series and Michael Moorcock's Mars trilogy; those take the cake as the worst I've read so far) and in fact rather on the good side for the genre, at least on par with some of the lesser Burroughs or Lin Carter's Calliso books. Of course, if you've read my reviews much, you'll notice that that isn't exactly glowing praise. You have to accept a certain degree of poor quality if you read derivative science fiction written in the 1960s, I'm afraid, but this particular subgenre seems to be particularly bad in that regard. Science Fiction of the past often relied on the ideas and "sense of wonder" to sell writers who had a poor understanding of the craft I think, but derivative planetary romance didn't even have that, because they were basically retellings of A Princess of Mars over and over again in very slightly different settings, and with princesses that had different color skin than merely red (the princess here has golden colored skin, for instance.) Still; I continue to suffer for the sake of understanding this particular little subgenre from an academic standpoint, so I press on and continue to read them. Warrior of Llarn wasn't even unpleasant, just merely unremarkable.

The cover art, posted here, is actually a Frank Frazetta piece, although it is certainly one of his lesser works (also, Alan Morgan has blond hair. Whoops. Who's that guy? He doesn't look like anyone in the book, although that horned zebra horse thingy is pretty much as described.) There's also an ink line drawing as a fronts-piece by Frazetta that is slightly better.

There's also a follow-up novel, Thief of Llarn, which I also have and was going to read next. I admit, though, I've been distracted and won't get to it for a couple of weeks minimum now. I went to the library to pick up some stuff that was waiting for me, including the middle discs of season 3 of Supernatural and an interlibrary loan book called Dawn of the Dinosaurs about the Triassic. I actually thought that was going to be a small, children's book (I was getting it for the Doug Henderson illustrations) and instead it turns out to be a very meaty book that's arguably not even targetted towards laymen at all. I'll be busy with it for a long time. It looks good. I also browsed the sci-fi section (something I do very infrequently) and my eye caught the tail end of a Wayne Reynolds cover. I grabbed it, realized that it was part 1 of 4 in an Eberron novel series, and lo and behold: all four of them were there. Now, I have all four of them with me. This five book diversion will put off my Thief of Llarn reading for a while. In fact, I was going to wait and review the Llarn books together, but I decided I didn't want to wait that long while my reading of Warrior was still fresh.

I don't have high hopes for these Eberron books; I've rarely read game-trademarked fiction that was very good, for one thing. Also, I think calling them a series is a bit of a stretch; they all four have different authors, different characters, and are only very, very loosely tied together (if at all.) In any case, I obviously don't mind reading the occasional mental junk food (although my tolerance for it has faded somewhat as I've aged) so I'll blast through these (I hope) like a bad Costco cake with shortening frosting, post some reviews, and then get back to my previously scheduled reading plan.

In some ways, I'm looking forward to reading more of the Triassic book than I am the D&D fiction, though. I've already read a few chapters of that this weekend and am finding it really well done. I may need to update my dinosaur ages spreadsheet with more formations as I'm getting info on the Triassic out of this book.


Badelaire said...

Interesting review. I've read the Kothar books and one of the Kyrik novels, and Fox, while not a "great" author, is fine for that "sitting on the back porch drinking a beer and enjoying the summer" kinda vibe.

I might have to track this book down at some point. Have you read any of the other Fox series, and if so, what's your opinion of them?

Joshua said...

I haven't, no. And I agree with your assessment; he's not an unpleasant read at all. In my case, I'm reading it because I've been reading planetary romance specifically; the pulp follow-ups to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels, and then the later "second wave" of them that came out in the 1960s, as novels instead serials that were later converted into novels. I might repost some of my ealier reviews (because they were written a really long time ago now) including some Lin Carter, Mike Resnick, Michael Moorcock, Alan Burt Ackers, and more.