Friday, December 13, 2013

Planet Stories # 29: Sojan the Swordsman/Under the Warrior Star

The 29th book in the Planet Stories series is unique in that it's a so-called "double feature", featuring two "sword and planet" novels by different authors back to back. The elements of the sword and planet genre are aptly summarized in the introduction: an earthman is somehow transported to another planet that contains a mix of futuristic and ancient technology, gets swept up in a war or rebellion, and falls instantly in love with an alien princess. The two novels in this collection fit quite comfortably into this pattern. The first novel, Sojan the Swordsman is actually a collection of short stories written by Michael Moorcock when he was a teenager. Unfortunately, it shows. They are about as flat and one-dimensional as possible, and there is absolutely nothing novel or memorable about Sojan. Sometimes it really is best to let juvenalia stay forgotten! The contrast with the second novel by Joe R. Lansdale, Under the Warrior Star, couldn't be greater. Although Lansdale follows the same formula, he writes with verve and enough originality to keep the pages turning. The alien world he creates, full of trees the size of mountains and a menace that is quite Cthulhuesque, is used as the setting for some quite good action scenes. The characters are still not deep, but they are serviceable. One doesn't see a lot of sword and planet fiction these days; let's hope newcomers weren't turned away by Sojan

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