What can I say about 800+ pages of pure Howard Conan goodness? Not much other than it's bloody fantastic. If you've never read the *original* Conan, you're in for an incomparable treat. Howard writes more vivid, passionate, thunderous action scenes than perhaps ANY other writer in history. "Howard's writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks!" writes Stephen King. King, no mean author himself, is absolutely true. Conan isn't the dumb, bull-headed barbarian portrayed in popular media. In fact, the very first story starts with him updating the royal library because he thinks some of it is out of date. Hardly the debut of the cartoon character most people think he is!
Fortunately, as I've said, there's over 800 pages for newcomers to realize how far off that image really is. If you're familiar with Conan, this is an excellent book to revisit an old legend. This is pure, 100% Howard Conan. No edits, no pastiches, no add-ons. Pure Howard. If you haven't read Howard's Conan, and you have a pulse, you owe yourself to read it! If you have read it, and are looking to get it again, it's now just waiting for you.
How does it compare to the Del Rey series of Conan books? First, the artwork in this book isn't quite as good, and there certainly isn't nearly as much of it. The general editing (like cathing speeling errrors) isn't as good as the Del Rey books, but it's not awful. The binding of the book (hardcover) is reasonable, but not Wandering Star, top-notch quality. But this book does offer the tremendous advantage of giving one ALL of the Conan stories in one handy volume, which makes it a great asset to any collection. Besides the Conan stories, it has a relatively complete Howard bibliography at the start, some quotes about Howard from a number of famous authors, numerous Conan fragments (unfinished stories) and an afterwords by Stephen Jones outlining Howard and Conan's lives. The afterword is decent summary of both, and it is quite fair and balanced.
So the bottom line is that if you want the new releases of pure Howard, you now have two choices: the three excellent books from Del Rey, that offer more content and artwork or this great single book that offers a bit fewer bells and whistles but comes in one single volume (for a cheaper price). The real bottom line is that it's pure Howard Conan, which means this is pure dynamite just waiting to explode when you pick it up and read it!
on October 17, 2011
It's hard to make adequate comment on a writer whose work created an entire genre and the larger creative industry that genre spawned. Conan the Barbarian means different things to different people, because the character exists in so many different versions ' the original Robert E. Howard stories; the de Camp and Carter pastiches that expanded on Howard's vision and popularity; the new generation of books that the original pastiches inspired; the Marvel comics that pushed sword-and-sorcery into the pop-culture mainstream; the Dark Horse comics that revitalized and revisualized the character; the 1982 film that first set Arnold Schwarzenegger on the path to pretending to be an actor. As a result, it's entirely possible to "know" Conan without really knowing the original stories in their original forms ' a problem that this weighty collection addresses nicely.
The Complete Chronicles pulls together all of the original Howard stories in their original forms (including those edited as a part of the Howard/de Camp/Carter paperback collections that cemented the character's popularity). Unlike previous multi-part Conan collections, this book anthologizes the stories in the order Howard wrote them, rather than in chronological order according to the character's history. This means a lot of jumping around through the different ages of the character (the first two Conan stories Howard published are actually two of the last Conan stories, both taking place when Conan is king of Aquilonia; the familiar thief, barbarian, slayer, et al came later). However, i prefer this arrangement because it shows off how Howard's own understanding of the character changed and grew over time, the narrative and the character becoming more and more complex.
Some of the Howard stories are better than others; some are more properly about the world than the character. (A surprise to a lot of people who read the Howard pieces for the first time is how often Conan appears only after other secondary characters have set the story up.) Many of the stories show their 30s pulp origins a little too strongly (most commonly with lines like " 'By the gods!" Conan ejaculated.'). But taken all in all, the Howard canon creates a haunting and memorable mythology that stands the test of time, and which can't help but make one wonder to what greater heights Robert E. Howard might have taken the character and the world of the Hyborian age if he'd had more time.
on August 4, 2014
What is there to say? If you love Conan, it's all here. Every Conan tale that Robert E Howard wrote, as well as hand drawn maps of Hyborea and essays on their fictional history. Classily bound in faux leather and topping out at almost 1000 pages of naked slave girls and swordfights, this is truly an epic tome!
on January 23, 2013
I'm just short of giving this a five-star rating. The text is great, the printing is fine and, contrary to one of the other reviews here, the binding seems perfectly sturdy to me. The only small quibble I have is with the illustrations. There are a relatively small number of pencil sketches throughout the text, which is fine, but many of them are repeated again and again. It's a minor - minor - point, but it seems like such an odd choice. Most of the pictures are also completely generic and could be used in any S&S book. With all the hundreds of famous artists out there who have given the Conan characters their attention, it seems a bit weak to have the book illustrated in this fashion. But make no mistake; I like this book and am happy to own it!
on June 30, 2009
There is no question to the quality of the stories contained in this book. It contains the original printed versions of stories told and retold in countless comics, graphic novels and magazines. It's all here in one massive tome. I would have given this book a 5 star rating, but I found (and maybe I'm being picky) that the overall assembly and binding of the book looks and feels weak (I compared it to other hardcovers in my collection). It feels like its going to fall apart as I read it. Unfortunately in this case "Leather style cover" means cheap. I mean c'mon, for something this timeless, the publishers should have at least given us something that's going to last, not fall apart after the first read! I should've opted for the softcover, in fact maybe I'll return this one for that.