Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: Lost Worlds

Book Review: 'Lost Worlds' by Lin Carter

2 / 5 Stars

‘Lost Worlds’ (176 pp) was issued by DAW Books (as No. 398) in August 1980. The cover artwork is by Enrich.

All but one of the eight stories presented in this volume were previously published, in the interval from 1967 – 1976. All are pastiches of one pulp author or another.

The stories in ‘Lost Worlds’ are organized by the mythical continents in which they were set; these include Hyperborea, Mu, Atlantis, Lemuria, Valusia, and Antillia.

The two ‘Hyperborea’ stories are pastiches of Clark Ashton Smith tales; these include ‘The Scroll of Morloc’ and ‘The Stairs in the Crypt’. They are more horror stories than fantasy, and both are written faithfully to Smith’s prose style: overloaded with purple prose, and utilizing some of the most obscure words in the English language.

‘The Thing in the Pit’ is a Lovecraft pastiche; a foolhardy wizard calls forth an Abomination which threatens the very existence of Mu.

Lemuria is the home to two of Carter’s ‘Thongor’ stories. ‘Thieves of Zangabal’ sees our hero making a dangerous foray into the lair of an evil wizard, while ‘Keeper of the Emerald Flame’ has Thongor investigating a lost temple within which eldritch mysteries lurk to harm the unwary. Both of these stories are the better ones in the anthology; they are Conan clones, but reasonably well-written in a pulp style.

‘Riders Beyond the Sunrise’ is a King Kull story, set in Valusia; as with the Thongor stories, it’s a competent pastiche of Howard’s original fiction. This tale sees King Kull pursuing a rival into a forbidden territory, where Kull discovers, to his misfortune, that magic has provided his quarry with unforeseen powers.

In his Introduction to ‘The Twelve Wizards of Ong’, set in Antillia, Carter states that with this story, he was attempting to evoke the literary stylings of James Branch Cabell, Clark Ashton Smith, and Jack Vance. Whether or not you think this is wise (and I certainly don’t), the story is nearly unreadable due to its clotted prose.

The final entry, ‘The Seal of Zaon Sathla’, is set in Atlantis and deals with a self-confident wizard who desires the fabled Seal; alas, he lacks the means to pay for it…….

Summing up ‘Lost Worlds’, well……at the time it was written, fantasy was still an emerging genre, and Carter one of its foremost practitioners. There wasn’t a great deal of material being published, and thus, Carter’s sheer output of fiction– however mediocre much of it was – meant that he was showcased by default when it came to publishers like DAW Books.

I doubt there is much here that would interest contemporary fantasy fiction fans, but DAW Book completists may want to get their copy.

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