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Monday, November 19, 2012

Bob's Books - Conan the Raider by Leonard Carpenter


Conan the Raider is the second of the eleven novels that Leonard Carpenter wrote in the fifty-book Tor series. In William Galen Gray’s chronology it is the sixtieth Conan tale, following Robert E. Howard’s The Man-Eaters of Zamboula (aka Shadows in Zamboula) and taking place before L. Sprague de Camp and Bjorn Nyberg’s The Star of Khorala.

This tale opens up with Conan chasing the man who had stolen a gem, the Star of Khorala from him. Our favorite barbar had obtained the Star at the end of Howard’s The Man-Eaters of Zamboula. While it does take place directly after that story, you need not have read it, as the tie-in to the actual plot is minimal.
This book could more accurately be called Conan the Tomb Raider, and I rather liked it. We get an inside look at the building of a massive pyramidal tomb, which, of course, Conan is going to rob. I liked the shadow that Stygia’s culture cast over neighboring Abaddrah in this book. Carpenter digs into the socio-cultural side of things, which I don’t find too often in the Conan pastiches. The Queen was a bit one dimensional, though.

As in Carpenter’s Conan: Scourge of the Bloody Coast, the hero is awfully forgiving of someone who betrays him. I think Carpenter is showing the practical side of Conan, but, in this book, at least, it seems that Conan will let bygones be bygones (even really, really bad things) if he can make a bit of coin in so doing. I think he undervalues the Cimmerian background too much in this one. Honor and revenge get short shrift.
Where there’s a necromancer, there are undead. I like the horror aspect they bring to this story:  there seems to be more substance to it than there was in Conan the Defiant. “Creepy” seems like  fair description.

Sex is implied with the sultry dancer who has the lead female role, and Conan is rewarded with a woman’s favors at the end of the book. But this one is low on the Conan sex scale.

Readers of Howard’s original Star tale might have wondered what happened next to Conan: this story answers that question, though 98% of the book is really a side trek in the Star’s saga. But it works.
The next Tor book published after this one was John Maddox Roberts’ Conan the Champion. With so many average (or worse) books in the Tor line, Raider and Champion were a rather solid back to back duo.  I found Raider, while not a great book, to be one of the more enjoyable Tor pastiches.

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