Jump to content


Photo

The Curse Of The Monolith [Review] (Spoiler-Free)


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 amiableakuma

amiableakuma

    Spear Carrier

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 19 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Florida

Posted 02 March 2012 - 03:15 AM

Posted Image
[Note this is a 18pg. short story written only by De Camp and Carter, most notably published in the 1969 paperback “Conan of Cimmeria” (pictured above) but maybe in a scant few other places as well]

So I’m not a Howard purist and someone who usually tries to put the best spin on the words of Non-Howard authors but still this one didn’t do much to blow my skirt up…

Spoiler-free review (synopsis follows):

Even though this is a short piece, so little actually happens in it that it’s also kind of a non-story too. There's an intro/set-up, a little build-up, then the main "action"/danger comes and goes into an abrupt ending before you know it.

Like others might note, Conan doesn’t particularly feel like Conan. In the dialogue scenes, he seems a bit more like a dumb brute than he should. Apart from this and the fact this his strength comes into play a little, you could replace him with any character from Indiana Jones to the Prince of Persia – and the story would feel basically the same, have the same effect.

And though I appreciate that there are some pretty brief but more-or-less still genuine moments of suspense/excitement as Conan is facing the main threat of the story – overall, the enemies and circumstances of the piece do not seem up to a level of adventure that we would expect for him. Again, partly that’s because it ends so soon – perhaps if the story continued further with a second climax or something, it might feel at least a little more “worthy”.

In the end, the whole thing is just kind of “there”. Not really deserving of a recommendation or the opposite. Maybe read it just once to say you have, but if you never do you’re basically not missing anything at all.

---
Brief, vague synopsis (MINOR SPOILERS):

Conan, as a mercenary soldier, is leading men through a mountainous area that is also near hilly plains. They are camped out among the rocks, when a Jafar-like foreign emissary he is traveling with approaches him. Appealing to the barbarian’s greed, the dignitary talks Conan into sneaking away from the group to procure a hidden treasure that only he is aware of.

They stalk through the night, finally reaching a monolith/flat-rectangle of stone sticking up from a grassy mound. As they approach, something happens that leaves Conan trapped. He struggles against what has ensnared him to no avail as suddenly something else starts happening that is even more of a threat/terror. After many tense moments, Conan prevails over the situation. Before he returns to his men, he makes sure the villain of the piece get his and that he retains the object of his original mission for the King. As he orders his men to flee the camp – the story ends.

Edited by amiableakuma, 02 March 2012 - 03:22 AM.


#2 Guest_TheMIrrorThief_*

Guest_TheMIrrorThief_*
  • Guests

Posted 02 March 2012 - 06:18 AM

I thought the story was sorta ok but overall pretty weak even by DeCamp and co standards
My fav De Camp and Carter is Black Tears...I truly though that one was near Howard standards but thats just my opinion

#3 johnnypt

johnnypt

    WarLord

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,711 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:05 PM

It's less a story than an incident. The best thing about the story is someone thought it was a good idea to change the title from "Conan and the Cenotaph". I concur.

FWIW, I agree about Black Tears being the best of the DeCamp-Carter stories.

#4 Boot

Boot

    Mauler of Shadizar

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 922 posts

Posted 02 March 2012 - 06:10 PM

I liked the story, but I also like de Camp and Carter's writing. I tend to like Carter alone better than de Camp alone.

One comment I'd make: I don't think the story was meant to be read alone, like Howard's stories. The story has more weight if you read it in the collection, going from one story to another, climbing the chronology of Conan's life laid out in the old Bantam books. As a one-off, it's a so-so-so-what story. As part of the anthology whole, it's a short moment in Conan's life that is recollected.

And, I'll leave you with a few pics from Savage Sword!

Posted Image



Posted Image

#5 wulfhere

wulfhere

    Adventurer

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 425 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 02 March 2012 - 08:02 PM

There is a passage in this story where he mentions that Conan secretly envied the style and sophistication of the effete Khitan emissary. This proves to me beyond any shadow of a doubt that deCamp really just didn't "get" what Conan was all about. His sympathies lay with the civilized, not the barbarians.

Edited by wulfhere, 02 March 2012 - 08:04 PM.


#6 amiableakuma

amiableakuma

    Spear Carrier

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 19 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Florida

Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:08 PM


It's less a story than an incident.

Heh, "incident", yeah that's a good way to put it. But I can see Boot's point about it having more impact when in anthology format too. By the way, looking at the comic's art/style - its funny, how viewing it in tandem with the original story kind of elevates both.

Again, I will admit that I did in fact, really like/feel the tension in the passages leading up to the "crisis point" for Conan in the story. Best, most valuable part of the piece, IMO.

But, did anyone also feel that this seemed more of a science fiction work than a real Conan-esque swords and sorcery? That struck me while I read it. Perhaps another thing that contributed to it feeling more "off"/below-expectations. Maybe because of the way they describe the monolith's initial power as not coming from magic, etc...

Edited by amiableakuma, 20 June 2014 - 01:25 PM.


#7 Boot

Boot

    Mauler of Shadizar

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 922 posts

Posted 03 March 2012 - 04:47 PM

But, did anyone also feel that this seemed more of a science fiction work than a real Conan-esque swords and sorcery?


The first time I read The Tower of the Elephant, I felt the same way: Elephant-headed aliens from a distant planet landing on earth in the deep, dark past. I felt it detracted from the story. I kept thinking to myself as I read, "Does this barbarian really know what a planet and a star really is?" Yet, the prose speaks of planets.

It was a little too science-fiction-y for me.

Today, I feel that's a trade-marked aspect of some of the Conan stories, and I embrace it.

I think de Camp and Carter were going with the TotE vibe when they wrote Mononlith.

#8 Guest_TheMIrrorThief_*

Guest_TheMIrrorThief_*
  • Guests

Posted 03 March 2012 - 10:41 PM

I am reading a novella right now called Moon of Blood by De Camp and Carter...its actually quite interesting
Conan battles picts and serpents

#9 amiableakuma

amiableakuma

    Spear Carrier

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 19 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Florida

Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:43 PM

...was a little too science-fiction-y for me.

Today, I feel that's a trade-marked aspect of some of the Conan stories, and I embrace i

Good point, I guess just by happenstance that its been a long time since I've read some of the Conans with that aspect to them. Of course, when the story/writing itself is really good or stands out, you tend to have less of an aversion to a bit of a style change or something introduced that is a little different. The brevity and overall lack of impact that "Monolith" has made it more noticeable maybe...

#10 Guest_boye_*

Guest_boye_*
  • Guests

Posted 25 April 2013 - 03:24 PM

I thought this story was lame.  DeCamp and Carter have some better ones for real.