Last Monday the latest book from the REHF arrived in the post, all the way from Cross Plains, Texas*. Titled Swords of the North, its a collection of Robert E. Howard’s Celtic/Viking adventure stories, including his ‘past lives’ stories wherein the characters recount adventures they lived in long-forgotten distant ages. Great adventure writing, and full of the tragic pessimism that is at the core of much of Howard’s writing. I’ve read many, if not all, of these stories before of course over the years in various collections but this book is surely definitive and a welcome opportunity to re-read them in one handsome hardback volume.
The past several years have been quite special with the REHF producing so many excellent Howard books, including collections of his letters and poetry. For a Howard fan its been a wonderful chance to collect definitive editions of his stories, and of course his letters and poetry have been the proverbial icing on the cake. The Foundation has done a fantastic job. Years ago all of this seemed impossible, and I often look at the REH books on my bookshelf and have a ‘pinch me I must be dreaming’ moment.
This book also arrived at just the right time, because I’ve just FINALLY finished reading Game of Thrones. That damn thing took over six months (looks like I’m two, maybe three seasons ahead of the HBO series now, with two books yet to come if ever the author gets around to completing them). I’ll be a little contentious here; I think I prefer the HBO series to the books. Its strange, some of the ‘big’, emotional moments in the series would, I thought, have been better in the books, but its seems that George R R Martin put his emphasis elsewhere, to other beats and characters and moments. The HBO series certainly seems more focused, which is inevitable really for such a huge sprawling saga, but I must say, having now read the books, I think the makers of the HBO series have done a remarkable job of tackling something I would have considered almost unfilmable. I suspect the series and books will begin to diverge from one another though, and it does look increasingly likely that the series will catch up and pass the books**.
So anyway, yes I can get back to reading Bob Howard (got a backlog of the last few REHF books to get through) and Philip K Dick (books 4 & 5 of the collected short stories have been waiting patiently), and there’s a few Stephen King novels that I have on the shelf too. I do wonder if I can get any movies watched at all if I do get into all this reading. Game of Thrones (I read all the books in one marathon run-through, having never read them before) created something of a backlog, taking much longer to read than I expected (had them on a kindle, which rather disguised what I was getting into), and no doubt had some impact on how many films I got to see last year. There’s only so many hours in the day, after all.
*I don’t think I’ll ever get over seeing that ‘Cross Plains,Texas’ postmark on the boxes that the books arrive in. Ever since I was a teenager reading Robert E Howard books in the mid-seventies, Cross Plains,Texas is a place has had a strange and mystical aura. A place I’d love to visit someday (looking less likely every year, but you never know….).
**Which raises the possibility of the stories having two completely different endings, doesn’t it?
2 thoughts on “Swords of the North”
Re: Thrones, the showrunners know Martin’s intended ending, so that they can aim for it. Must be interesting for book readers to see what they’re choosing to leave in and what to exclude in light of that fact. I’ve not read the books yet — I tell myself “one day”, but their entirety is so huge… I think I’ll leave it until the series is done now, at least.
Also, I love your blog’s new look. Very apt theme.
Cheers re: the blog’s new look. It was past due for a change. Wasn’t too sure about this new look at first but its growing on me. You’ll notice re-visiting that the main image is random so it’ll hopefully stay fresher longer. The common denominator for the images is easy to suss!
Re: Thrones, yeah, its very interesting which characters/events make the cut. I do prefer the show because its more focused, but of course that’s the opinion of someone who’s already seen four seasons of the HBO show. Somebody who came to the show having read the book first may have a different view completely. For myself, it was nice reading the books with a mental image of locations and actors from the series. The main difference between the two is the ages of the characters. Most of them are much younger in the books,