Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Right Hand of Doom & Other Tales of Solomon Kane

Robert E. Howard
Wordsworth Editions

The sixteenth-century Puritan Solomon Kane has a thirst for justice which surpasses common reason. Sombre of mood, clad in black and grey, he 'never sought to analyse his motives and he never wavered once his mind was made up. Though he always acted on impulse, he firmly believed that all his actions were governed by cold and logical reasonings...A hunger in his soul drove him on and on, an urge to right all wrongs, protect all weaker things, and avenge all crimes against right and justice'.

I've never really had a hankering to read the Conan books.  The films were OK but I'm not much of a fantasy buff so the stories themselves held little appeal. The Solomon Kane stories on the other hand have always been an intriguing prospect.  The sword wielding puritan adventurer was always an enticing image.  The look of him always seemed correct to me for good, gutsy, godly vengeance type sword and sorcery romps.

The 10 stories and 3 (dreadful) poems that make up the book are - I believe - the entirety of the original Kane stories and tell of a man driven by his desire to serve his god by hunting down and dispatching evil wherever he finds it.  From his native Devon he travels several times to Africa battling murderers, rapists, pirates, vampires, flying creatures, slavers and an entire lost civilisation armed only with a sword, a couple of flintlock pistols and a magic staff given him by an African magician.

The stories are all pretty much the same as each time we join Kane at the culmination of a quest where with a last mighty effort of both iron will and iron limbs he reaches his goal and variously stabs, shoots or bludgeons his nemesis to death.  Howard takes great pains to repeatedly describe Kane's physical attributes giving the whole thing an unintentionally homoerotic quality which sits oddly next to some of the racism inherent in Howard's views of Africans although this certainly wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be.  

I was hoping for a big silly sword and sorcery romp filled with daring do and that's what I got.  The fact that it was all that I got was a little odd but here, now and in the particular mood I was in at the time it was enough, just.

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