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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Thongor and the Wizard of Lemuria

Thongor and the Wizard of Lemuria  - Lin Carter

The first Thongor book.

Lin Carter's first published novel.

Makes me hesitate to say anything about it, for, on the one hand, it reads like juvenilia that ought to be classified as Young Adult, while on the other, it is marketed as adult fantasy. I hesitate because it lends such strong support to the opinion that fantasy has no real literary value.

No one under the age of, say, fifteen should pay any attention to this. I first read it when very young and I guess I liked it all right; it wasn't the only Thongor book I bought.

For everyone else: The book is derivative, superficial, and repetitive. Fight, capture, rescue: the pattern repeats itself over and over as Thongor and friends pursue their quest to save the ancient world of Lemuria from destruction. All sorts of bad guys seek to sacrifice Thongor to their pet deities. But, as the wizard eventually points out, Thongor leads a charmed life. Meaning: the only thing that gets sacrificed here is suspense. Plausibility survives because when the gods are willing to lend a hand, anything is possible, no matter how unlikely it might be in a world we're meant to take seriously. (During one edge-of-your-seat sequence, Thongor battles scores of evil swordsmen in a dark temple ringed with archers. Really, really stupid archers who never take a shot, who are, in fact, forgotten the moment after Carter mentions them.)

Thongor is Thongor the Barbarian and more than that the reader does not need to know nor the author care to tell. The other characters are equally shallow, of course. This is one of those stories in which the worst of the bad guys are far more interesting than the heroes--or would be, if they were given their due. They are reptile men, descendants of some strange species of dinosaur that acquired intelligence, an intelligence, we are told, higher than man's. But books like this (and that includes a lot of science fiction) give with one hand and take away with the other. Ultimately, man is superior, if not for his smarts, then his heart; if not for his heart, then his gods. A small point, perhaps, in a more mature work. When the theme is stripped bare, though, it's nothing but the stuff of daydreams and schoolboy fantasies. David and Goliath, it ain't. It's the dream of the 90-pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face by the local bully on the beach.

In his introduction, Carter tells us that this, his first published book, was the seventh he had written. My oh my, but what those earlier novels must have been like!