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Your Least Favorite REH Conan Story


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#1 Moncynnes

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 02:33 AM

Sure, we all love the original Howard Conan, and we all have our favorites, but there's gotta be at least one that you don't enjoy as much. It's the one you never recommend to someone just getting to know Conan. It's the one you skim through or skip entirely when you read through your favorite Howard collection.

Just to lay a ground rule, this is not a discuss of whether the stories in question are bad or not. This is about personal preference, and how can you be wrong about your own opinion? I just ask that we respect each others' opinions, and please try to explain why you don't like some stories more than others.

I'll start. My least favorite REH Conan story is "The God in the Bowl." I commend Howard for trying something different, but as versatile a character as Conan is, he doesn't mesh well with the Agatha Christie-type locked room mystery. This is one story I usually skip whenever I come across it because I find it talky, slow and boring.

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#2 Darkstorm Dale

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 02:55 AM

My least favorite Conan tale is THE DEVIL IN IRON. While it has its moments, I find that the utterly sheer coincidence that the story hangs on tends to annoy the heck out of me. The coincidence, of course, is that Conan is told to look for Octavia on the island of Xapur, while at the same time Octavia flees her enslavement in the city and ends up, entirely by chance, on the same island. Howard has plotted better coincidences... ;)
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#3 Heavy Chevy

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 04:47 AM

Ok Gang,

My least favorite would have to be "The Vale of Lost Women."
Not because it is a bad story but because he wrote so many that were better.

Just my opinion, not trying to start a fight. LOL


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#4 Sermon Bath

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 07:40 AM

I think People of the Black Circle is my least favorite.......it would have been better as an El Borak or kirby O'Donnell tale

even so I enjoyed it A LOT...I like them all

Edited by xssurdinynexes, 05 February 2008 - 07:41 AM.

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#5 PainBrush

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 09:58 AM

I'll start. My least favorite REH Conan story is "The God in the Bowl." I commend Howard for trying something different, but as versatile a character as Conan is, he doesn't mesh well with the Agatha Christie-type locked room mystery. This is one story I usually skip whenever I come across it because I find it talky, slow and boring.

Sure thing , but Agatha Christie , Conan Doyle or Poe never had folks threatening popping out someones eyeballs , kicking their guts broken , or gutting them with a poiniard if they don't shutup ! :lol: My least favorite is still Queen O/T Black Coast ( can you believe it ??!!) - BUT i haven't read vale or black Circle & a couple others in a few years to weigh them against it .

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#6 yimsha

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 06:42 PM

I'll start. My least favorite REH Conan story is "The God in the Bowl." I commend Howard for trying something different, but as versatile a character as Conan is, he doesn't mesh well with the Agatha Christie-type locked room mystery. This is one story I usually skip whenever I come across it because I find it talky, slow and boring.

Sure thing , but Agatha Christie , Conan Doyle or Poe never had folks threatening popping out someones eyeballs , kicking their guts broken , or gutting them with a poiniard if they don't shutup ! :lol: My least favorite is still Queen O/T Black Coast ( can you believe it ??!!) - BUT i haven't read vale or black Circle & a couple others in a few years to weigh them against it .



God in the Bowl is one of my favourites - shows a raw and violently sullen youth from the perspective of other people which is unusual for Howard. My least favourite would be The Vale of Lost women too. Pants.
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#7 Fernando

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 10:21 PM

God in the Bowl is one of my favourites - shows a raw and violently sullen youth from the perspective of other people which is unusual for Howard. My least favourite would be The Vale of Lost women too. Pants.


I agree 100% with you about God in the Bowl and The Vale of the Lost Women, yimsha. But, among my favourites, I include The Black Stranger and The Scarlet Citadel.

#8 Taranaich

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 01:19 PM

Oddly enough, it's kind of difficult to think of a least favourite, since all the stories have something to redeem them. Heck, even Vale had a cool eerie concept in the titular vale, even if the first half's racist/sexist overtones ruins it.

I'm going to court controversy and say my least favourite is, in fact, Rogues in the House. It's well written, it has some great moments, indeed it's probably in the top ten Conan stories anyway, but I rarely go back to read it. I think it's because Conan is such a dastard in it: he kills two people he has no quarrel with (the guard and the girl's boyfriend), but when it came to the only person he had an actual, legitimate grievance with, he just tosses her in sewage! Granted she probably would have eventually died from contracting a Hyborian disease or ten from the muck, but it still kind of bothered me that he killed these people who had no problem with him, and he settles for humiliating the one person who might have had it coming. Usually Conan was relentless when wronged (see Constantius, Shah Amurath etc), but seeing him let the girl off like this when he's been much less forgiving just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

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#9 Ant

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:42 PM

Ok Gang,

My least favorite would have to be "The Vale of Lost Women."
Not because it is a bad story but because he wrote so many that were better.

Just my opinion, not trying to start a fight. LOL


Mike

Agree!


I think People of the Black Circle is my least favorite.......it would have been better as an El Borak or kirby O'Donnell tale

even so I enjoyed it A LOT...I like them all

Strongly disagree - The People of the Black Circle is possibly my favourite!
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#10 VoragoExcarnator

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 05:35 AM

I think "God in the Bowl" is better than "The Devil in Iron", which is in its turn better than "The Vale of Lost Women."

"God in the Bowl" is actually fairly strong, it has some genuinely redeeming elements to it: Conan's threats, the exploration of a young, raw, unsophisticated Conan, and even the exploration of Hyborian justice (travesty that it is). Heck one letter writer in the Dark Horse comic had a great little piece on "God in the Bowl" and how it seemed to be Howard's critique of civilized justice. It was a position I hadn't thought of, so I'll see if I can dig it up. On the negative side the mystery and supernatural portions of this tale fall flat, and there's not enough action in the rest to make the setup worth it. The supernatural idea is very cool: Thoth-Amon sends the spawn of some horrible long-dead snake race to assassinate Kalanthes, a priest of Ibis; but the execution is flawed. There isn't even a fight! Just a single sword-stroke! Another letter to the Dark Horse comic talks about how Howard disliked writing mysteries: his discomfort definitely shows up in this tale, and really relegates this thing to the weak pile.

"Devil in Iron" is just mediocre to weak, not outright objectionable. Octavia is fairly bland and unmemorable, though she does escape from slavery on her own (like the girl in "Iron Shadows in the Moon"), so points for that! On the plus side, Khostral Khel is actually kind of a cool villain: he's a far cry from Howard's giant ape(men), snakes, and wizards. Sort of superficially similar to the statues in "Iron Shadows", but before I started writing this I didn't realize how cool a villain he was. It's not he who weighs the story down. We also see a rare magical Hyborian weapon in the knife used to kill Khostral Khel. The only other magical items I can think of are the girdle in "People of the Black Circle" and the healing droughts in "Xuthal of the Dusk." We also get a long dead civilization returning back to life (remind anyone of "Hour of the Dragon"?). So a lot of good elements. Unfortunately the story as a whole doesn't work. The coincidence is a big issue, and the whole thing seems a little fragmented. Heck even Wikipedia says: "Due to its plot loopholes and borrowed elements from Iron Shadows in the Moon, some Howard scholars claim this story is the weakest of the early Conan tales."

"Vale of Lost Women" is just awful. The supernatural element comes in at the end, is defeated in a perfunctory manner, and isn't at all scary or original. Livia is insipid, Conan is brutish and cruel, and Howard comes off as a racist. The descriptions of the massacre are nice, I guess. I mean it is still Howard, there are some nice turns of phrase in there, but I would never recommend it to anyone, for any reason. ESPECIALLY not someone new to Howard. Ughh. Awful. For my money THE worst Conan story, and I think a lot of people would agree with me (see Patrice Louinet's Hyborian Genesis, I think he tears the story up there.

I love, love, LOVE "People of the Black Circle" so xssurdinynexes you've got some splaining to do. :P Seriously man, I can't see how you could rate this tale lower than any of the 3 I just mentioned. POTBC is probably in my top 5 Conan tales! Elaborate on that answer man! I mean you don't have to defend or justify your opinion, but it's so staggeringly different from my own that I can't help but want to understand your rationale.

I think both "Queen of the Black Coast" and "Rogues in the House" are solid. Taranaich already typed a bit, but Painbrush, you're at the risk of being Ricky Ricardo-ed like xssurdinynexes up there :P I think you mentioned not liking QOTBC in the racism thread, but I don't think you ever elaborated. Gimme something to work with man, cause I think QOTBC is one of the stronger tales.

#11 Ironhand

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 10:18 AM

Oddly enough, it's kind of difficult to think of a least favourite, since all the stories have something to redeem them. Heck, even Vale had a cool eerie concept in the titular vale, even if the first half's racist/sexist overtones ruins it.

I'm going to court controversy and say my least favourite is, in fact, Rogues in the House. It's well written, it has some great moments, indeed it's probably in the top ten Conan stories anyway, but I rarely go back to read it. I think it's because Conan is such a dastard in it: he kills two people he has no quarrel with (the guard and the girl's boyfriend), but when it came to the only person he had an actual, legitimate grievance with, he just tosses her in sewage! Granted she probably would have eventually died from contracting a Hyborian disease or ten from the muck, but it still kind of bothered me that he killed these people who had no problem with him, and he settles for humiliating the one person who might have had it coming. Usually Conan was relentless when wronged (see Constantius, Shah Amurath etc), but seeing him let the girl off like this when he's been much less forgiving just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

I disagree. The guard, if Conan hadn't silenced him, would have called other guards, and they would have interfered, to say the least, with Conan's jailbreak. His lover's new boyfriend had birddogged Conan's girl, displaced him in her affections, and was probably implicated in her betrayal of Conan. As for Conan's punishment of the girl, this is consistent with his general tendancy to not abuse women physically. An example of his "rough chivalry".
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

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#12 PainBrush

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 03:13 PM

I agree with you Ironhand (partially) Conan threatens to take his hand to his wench in Xuthal , he even threatens to 'skin her' if she grabs his sword arm ever again , though I think that was just spouting off in his anger . In Rogues I/T/House , the alternative to Conan throwing his backstabbing ex in the cesspool would be to do her actual harm & that would seem below Conan - if he's so mean & bad that he killed her new bird-dogging co-conspirator beau so easily - it would be uncharacteristically cruel of him to have to do the same to a weak woman , no matter how devious she was . Tossing her in the sh!t seemed the absolute perfect thing for him to do at that moment I.M.Op. - I know I'd be hard pressed to think of something more just !


I think both "Queen of the Black Coast" and "Rogues in the House" are solid. Taranaich already typed a bit, but Painbrush, you're at the risk of being Ricky Ricardo-ed like xssurdinynexes up there :P I think you mentioned not liking QOTBC in the racism thread, but I don't think you ever elaborated. Gimme something to work with man, cause I think QOTBC is one of the stronger tales.

I love the premise of QOTBC , & it starts out as one of the best with Conan running from the law after killing his judge , he basically carjacks( boat-jacks) the merchant sailors , running into the pirates & even the bloody battle & his first ship-mates getting killed off , - still solid up to that point . It's the hokey way Belit throws herself at Conans feet after he kills a good chunk of her crew off that starts the story downhill . I can see he's trying to paint Belit as a bad-ass on par with Conan himself , but the way he portrays her she lacks any of that 'rough-code' that makes Conan who he is . She's infinitely untrustable & that's established almost from the first . The way she later sacrifices more of her faithful crew to a boobytrap , while grabbing Conan & pulling him aside & just watching their fate - it's almost too much to bear that Conan doesn't cuff her upside her head for being so devious !

They would need the crew if for nothing else to carry their loot , not to mention fight , not to mention the supernatural element they had to consider etc. & all of that is what raised the question about the racism - it almost seems like Howard made the black crew disposable for all intents & purposes in this story . Not such a major big-deal & still an arguable point , since he made the merchant-sailors who took to Conan readily so expendable first . I try not to see it that way , but the only other way is if he himself didn't mean to make the crew seem so insignificant/expendable , that Belit was just too much of a devious scumbag , I don't like either way . I can't see Conan keeping her around for any length of time . Maybe that's why she dies (?)

& Whether or not you would think folks in Hyboria were any more racist than folks of the 20th century , - I can't accept that a crew would have worshipped a foreign woman so much , especially if she evidently thought so little of them , way past any expected rough pirate sentiments/or lack thereof . They're fierce , loyal & brave & don't deserve their fate , it goes contrary to ALL else Howard ever described Hyboria as , or Conan . Not just criminals meeting untimely fates either , that could have/should have(?) been left to the foes in the story to do them in , not their leader . & Conan seems to be a 'spectator' in the lousy happenings of this story , rather than a 'participator' in any meaningful way . He starts out as the boss in this story , then he's neutered at the halfway point . & the crew have the requisite traits to be heroes , noble-savages , whatever term of Hyborian endearment you could want , but Howard leaves them as cannon-fodder so to speak & treats them like stuttering red-headed stepchildren . Those are the reasons QOBC sticks in my craw ! Howard on his worst days was a much better storyteller than this & I can't help but always try to analyze what was going through his head when he wrote the 2nd half of this story - to the point of distraction . To the point of not being able to just switch over to glide & go with the story & enjoy it like I can with almost all the rest of his writing , even some of his weaker stuff .

& like the points I started this post with about Conans personality - I think the least Conan would do to Belit would be to drop 'her' into a cesspool ! :P

Edited by PAINBRUSH, 07 February 2008 - 03:20 PM.

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#13 Taranaich

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 07:52 PM

I personally disagree with the whole "Conan isn't violent to women" mantra. It just strikes me as hypocritical and "civilized" for him to treat women differently, no matter how soft or weak they are. Conan kills plenty of soft men, why should soft women be exempt from his ire? We don't see Conan kill any women, true, but that doesn't mean he doesn't kill them. He planned to mercy-kill Natala in Xuthal in the Dusk, he was probably going to rape Atali in Frost-Giant's Daughter (albeit due to mesmerism) and I doubt he had any reservations slaying women or children at Venarium. And if Conan expected Yasmela to suit up for battle in Black Colossus like other Cimmerian women, then surely he'd encounter or at least know of women among the enemy. Otherwise, it's just hypocritical of him to expect women to fight with him, but not against him, otherwise he'd make a very costly mistake in battle.

It would be fair enough if this was later on in the Conan tales when he gets more used to civilization and more accommodating of their mores regarding women, but this is earlier in Conan's life, so I would think he still had some "barbaric" expectations of women. I personally don't think Conan has "rough chivalry", so much as he treats women on more equal terms than most chauvinist Hyborians: hence how he can be a bit of a pig to Muriela and Livia, roguishly cheeky to Valeria and Yasmina, protective to Olivia and Tina, and respectful to Yasmela and Belit.

I should also reiterate that I agree Rogues in the House was a great story, but the topic is "least favourite". I'd still list RitH in the top ten regardless of how I dislike that particular episode of it.

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#14 Desert Kris

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 10:35 AM

Interesting to see "God in the Bowl" mentioned, I found that one tested my interest in the Conan series just a little, until I realized that there was this whole thing going on about the legal/justice system of the city Conan is in. It's a bit talky, yes, but it lead to a very satisfying pay off, when a beauracrat is needlessly spiteful in the way he intends to leave Conan in the hands of an injust justice system. Conan makes the man pay for his discourteous, "civilized" behavor in a way that made me smile.

Significantly less satisfying is the pay off for Conan's ordeal in "A Witch Shall Be Born." His crucifixion is right up there with the chapter from Casino Royale in which James Bond is tortured, as well as some sequence I can't remember too well from Interview With the Vampire. All three are extraordinarily rare moments of prose fiction that have made me feel weak and light headed to the point that I had to stop reading for a few moments. So, then, how fares the follow up to one of (if not the most) agonizing endurance test the Cimmerian has ever lived through? We get an info dump in the form of a letter that summarizes the political situation of a nation, and how Conan is still involved with it after being betrayed. We get only a peripheral view of a potentially interesting battle, which is beneath the dignity that it deserves (after all, Conan took the trouble to concoct a clever trap). This is in the background while we follow different characters, whose plight is engaging, but whose story is resolved in what seemed to me a cursory, by-the-way manner.

What an opportunity to show Conan's continued ordeal, recovering from crucifixion, being pressed into combat too early perhaps, building himself back up, gathering followers, and extracting a fully impacting revenge from Constantius. After all, the reader is with him in his struggle on the cross, why not for the rest of it? The story seems to be a vehicle for experimentation, but not very successfully done. It makes it seem like Howard wasn't really interested. I guess that pretty much sums it up why "A Witch Shall Be Born" is my least favorite Conan story at the moment. I'm glad it was Moon of Skulls I read just before this one; the memory of how much I enjoyed that story is still so strong.

#15 Ironhand

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 08:01 AM

What an opportunity to show Conan's continued ordeal, recovering from crucifixion, being pressed into combat too early perhaps, building himself back up, gathering followers, and extracting a fully impacting revenge from Constantius. After all, the reader is with him in his struggle on the cross, why not for the rest of it? The story seems to be a vehicle for experimentation, but not very successfully done. It makes it seem like Howard wasn't really interested. I guess that pretty much sums it up why "A Witch Shall Be Born" is my least favorite Conan story at the moment. I'm glad it was Moon of Skulls I read just before this one; the memory of how much I enjoyed that story is still so strong.

The expansion that you propose would be a gppd way to adapt the story into a full-length movie.
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

Read my Conan screenplays at The Scrolls of Ironhand (in particular my transcription of THE FROST GIANT'S DAUGHTER in Act II of "The Snow Devil") at
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject

#16 Fernando

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 03:37 PM

The expansion that you propose would be a gppd way to adapt the story into a full-length movie.


Very well said, Ironhand :) ! In my opinion, Hollywood should make several full-lenght movies of Conan, in faithful adaptations of REH's tales, fragments and sinopsys.

#17 yimsha

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 05:39 PM

I think Conan in 'Rogues' is still the raw youthful adolescent Conan in a man's body - badass and raw and had none of the rough edges smoothed off him like in later yarns. Still surly and lacking the sophisitcated language you see in 'The Black Stranger' when taking the p*ss out of the two pirates. His lack of hesitation in murdering two people is another measure of his impetuosity and youth, but the bit where he drops the doxy in the clarts was classic, and well deserved. His honouring of the critter he killed at the end of the story is probably the best bit of Conan dialogue (apart from the ripe melon line) ever.

People of The Black Circle was the very first Conan I read and it blew my mind, hooking me in for life - 'I'll split your head like a ripe melon'; the line about the 'suks' in some Vendhyan city and all the characters very dynamic and larger than life. I love his description of the battle at the end too. Breast to breast, blades whickering etc.

I also love 'A Witch Shall Be born', again because it's one of the first I read, although this time in the SSOC adaptation, which I found again lately. As my appreciation of comics as a medium has matured somewhat since then I can appreciate what a god awful example of the form it is, but still a mint story. I found myself liking Salome much more than the rightful queen too, in my pre adolescent mind ( a bit like the haughty minx Servolan in Blakes' Seven, hubba hubba). I loved the description of how Conan challenges Salome, then chins hundreds of mercs while hung over. dude. I loved the crucifixion scene, and I loved Olgerd Vladislav - would have been a perfect role for Basil (Sherlock Holmes, the Legend Of Robin Hood) Rathbone too. Snapping his wrist with one hand? Genius.

I also loved Drums of Tombalku too in the same volume as POBC. I'm aware that it was edited by LSDC. What's the craic with the original? I always felt like it was two different yarns spliced together. Did Howard write it as one piece? Was in extrapolated from a draft?

I also agree that Howard comes across as hideously racist in the Vale of Lost Women'. Vile descriptions of the blacks.
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#18 Alain Tr?panier

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 04:10 PM

Ok Gang,

My least favorite would have to be "The Vale of Lost Women."
Not because it is a bad story but because he wrote so many that were better.

Just my opinion, not trying to start a fight. LOL


Mike


For me (wondering what to read after conan + it's partiches from John Maddox Robbert, Steeve Perry, Karl Edward Wagner, and of course John C. Hocking but find nothing after many try) "The Vale of Lost Women" is great. Conan is seen in background, the captive women as seen his brother die; she was forced to see him die in a cruel manner. The story open wide (and wild); we can feel her sick distress. I have read it like 10 years ago and I still remember the story. I also like the "lesbian embrasse" when she escape, that, without knowing Conan was with her; managing (in the background) to flee with her,(maybe that became it's primary objective... She saw the collective madness from the tribe, the jungle natural threads and then the surnatural evil women. She ends with Conan (who could deal with all such) which is a good thing to her... With that kind of written, the author(s) let a lot on the reader and that is the [only] way I can enjoy a story.

As for the racism, for me it's not an issue at all. A lot of people are xenophobic in that "age". I don't want the writer to try to be politically correct; I want him/her to embark me on a journey; for that, I do my part (that he left me).

Edited by Alain Tr?panier, 04 March 2008 - 04:24 PM.


#19 Buxom Sorceress

Buxom Sorceress

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 02:18 AM

worst = Vale of Lost Women: tis indeed awful; very poor story.
and
FROST GIANTS DAUGHTER: is too corny-silly for me.
--
I really enjoy most of the other REH Conan tales. :)

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"So I took to a life of adventure and daring
leaving most warriors drooling and staring.
After I danced with my exotic flesh baring
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#20 El Borak's Li'l Brother

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 09:18 PM

My least favorite Robert E. Howard Conan story?

Oh boy. This is a toughie for me. You see, when I'm in the mood to read Conan I pick up a book and read Conan -- and I enjoy!

I have no time to worry about what a, b, or c "scholar" tells me to read into a Howard Conan story, such as The Vale of Lost Women, and take them for what they give me. Sadly, I can say, maybe, one I really enjoy, but there isn't one that disappointed.

I would say the only Conan stories that had any disappointment in them were the "taken from a 'worthless' other Howard story" and transformed into a Conan story. Refer Lancer/Ace 12. Mind you, as a kid the stories, as with Howard's, were enjoyed, but when I read the original stories... Sad.

But that's another topic.

Of Howard's Conan stories I enjoy them all. Sorry.

Oh, and whenever I recommend a Howard's Conan to anyone I give them a book. What better way to introduce Conan to someone than a book of stories...?

Edited by El Borak's Li'l Brother, 08 March 2008 - 09:21 PM.

Crom!