Best Fantasy Books Subgenre Reading Challenge discussion

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Sword and Sorcery Fantasy > The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Conan the Cimmerian #1)

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message 1: by Christie (new)

Christie Stratos (christiestratos) | 94 comments Mod
Thank you to our group member David, who let me know which edition/version is the closest to Howard's original Conan series! I didn't realize there were so many with various authors "filling in the gaps", editing, and changing things, plus other authors taking a stab at writing Conan stories. It's quite a lot to try to distinguish between! Anyway, now we have the right book.

I got this one on Kindle and it surprised me that Conan starts with a poem! It's a poem describing the land of Cimmeria, and I think it sets the stage very well, with darkness and carefully chosen words. Lines like this really draw me in: "The clouds that piled forever on the hills, the dimness of the everlasting woods." Every word in the poem works towards the atmosphere. Kind of a clever way to start the reader out with the right expectations.

I've read that Howard started the sword and sorcery genre with the Conan series, so this is the perfect read to define this subgenre. As far as I know, the Conan series first began publication in 1932 (correct me if I'm wrong) in a magazine, although the first poem about Cimmeria was written earlier than that. I have to say, the writing style doesn't seem like it's from that era. It seems way ahead of its time. I'm going to start reading so I can see how Conan fits Best Fantasy Books' modern definition of sword and sorcery, one of the most popular fantasy subgenres.

*This thread is dedicated to all The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian discussions, and spoilers are allowed. Discussions won't be broken down by chapter, so comment as you go.*


message 2: by David Finn (new)

David Finn | 6 comments Hi Christie and everybody else! So true about how confusing it is to be sure about the right Conan stories! I think probably in last 10 years people have made it a lot simpler - but I honestly didn't know that he had been around that long! From what I read I think that the "editing" done from the 30s right thru the 70s would be prett vast and change a lot of dialog - even having Conan speak like a "Knight" in some stories! It sound absurd to me. Anyway, I myself got this series of books (there is 3 of them) and they literally cover all the Conan stories in the order I think they were released and most importantly as the author released them, usually in different magazines that were popular at the time. Honestly these stories to me are so vibrant and urgent and just grab the readers attention. I love them and especially love the character. I would definitely say they are "sword and sorcery" - he has a very suspicious attitude toward magic, which I like, as it keeps things very grounded in Conan's view of the world as a barbarian soldier, King, mercenary, and briefly, thief/thug! I think also that the author developed a very cool world almost in shorthand. It's not as super detailed as I guess some fantasy worlds but he certainly paints a picture!

Turning to the book I read over the poem and it's cool and quite dramatic but I'm ready to start reading the stories! Phoenix of the sword here I come! I'm looking forward to seeing what people think.


message 3: by Christie (new)

Christie Stratos (christiestratos) | 94 comments Mod
David wrote: "Hi Christie and everybody else! So true about how confusing it is to be sure about the right Conan stories! I think probably in last 10 years people have made it a lot simpler - but I honestly didn..."

It's almost like the rewriting and "filling in" of the stories was the earliest kind of fan fiction - I wonder if that's possible!

I like the descriptive word you used: urgent. From what I've read so far, everything keeps pushing forward, constantly and consistently, which is always a good thing. We start out right away knowing who's the good guy and who's the bad guy, although I'm sure those lines will be blurred during the actual story and series. An entire plan is revealed really quickly, which also shows us clearly that this was serialized. That's one of the good aspects of serial fiction.

The suspicious attitude towards magic sounds right for his "barbarian" personality. Can't wait to get further into this!


message 4: by Tom (new)

Tom Fallwell I read all of the Conan stories, even all that were written or edited by different people, but to me, the true Conan is Robert. E. Howard's original stories. Yet, the ones by De Camp and Carter, to me, are the closest to Howard's original.

What was interesting about Conan, is that he is larger than life, and he is not your goody hero, but there are a few scenes where you are shown that Conan does have a least a bit of compassion. A bit. His barbaric upbringing gives him a strong sense of freedom, where he does not bow to any ruler.

Interestingly enough, once he becomes King of Aquilonia in his later years, he discovers he what it means to be a King and deal with a court and politics. Reading those stories, you get the definite sense that he would rather be on the battlefield piling up the bodies, rather than a King. :)


message 5: by David Finn (last edited Mar 05, 2016 12:45AM) (new)

David Finn | 6 comments Christie wrote: "David wrote: "Hi Christie and everybody else! So true about how confusing it is to be sure about the right Conan stories! I think probably in last 10 years people have made it a lot simpler - but I..." That's so true Christie about how everything pushes forward! I love it! When I picked this book up years ago, not knowing to expect, I was absolutely left thrilled and stunned by the immediacy of the storytelling! And there is word building too, stretched over the stories, but every word feels focused on the needs of the story.

I read Phoenix on the Sword this morning - I had completely forgotten that in this story Conan is King! I actually like that the stories do jump around in time, and Conan roves thru them - in my favourites ones he's the mercenary or just a wandering sword on the run for gold and from enemies!


message 6: by Christie (new)

Christie Stratos (christiestratos) | 94 comments Mod
Tom wrote: "I read all of the Conan stories, even all that were written or edited by different people, but to me, the true Conan is Robert. E. Howard's original stories. Yet, the ones by De Camp and Carter, to..."

In the beginning of the first story in this book, he's already king and he really doesn't like it! Seeing his barbarian side play out will be interesting, and seeing how his barbarian background impacts the way he rules/the kingdom will also be interesting.


message 7: by Christie (new)

Christie Stratos (christiestratos) | 94 comments Mod
David wrote: "Christie wrote: "David wrote: "Hi Christie and everybody else! So true about how confusing it is to be sure about the right Conan stories! I think probably in last 10 years people have made it a lo..."

I really like this quote from the intro to The Phoenix on the Sword: "But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet." He sounds so diverse, so unlike a typical view of a barbarian. I just really liked that quote. It gives him depth right away.


message 8: by David Finn (new)

David Finn | 6 comments Yeah he rocks! I'm up to God in the bowl, and there is an awesome description of Conan basically ready to roll against a stack of town guards! He's chomping at the bit! The cool thing about Conan is that he is incredibly brave and powerful, but he isn't dumb either. He's a very adaptable and powerful character. I also enjoy the world building which goes on - I'm catching it on my re-read, it's very cool.


message 9: by David Finn (new)

David Finn | 6 comments One thing I note on this re-read is how much Howard did actually use the legends of the Elder Gods - they are especially prevalent in both "The Phoenix on the Sword" and "The God in the Bowl". I had read many times how Howard used some of the ideas/concepts of Lovecraft, and reading these stories that kick off this Volume I can really see that. Conan is the star though. Hang in there as well dear readers, as these stories are just a GLIMPSE into what is to come! The personification of Conan as thief is probably my least favourite "role" of Conan, probably because he is so terrible at it, but the stories with him in this role which include "Tower of the Elephant" which I am currently up to, are pretty cool!


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