The Road Less Travelled (Thank Goodness)

I was all set to go over Kull today; had the book down from the shelf and everything...but I ended up taking my Kindle with me on the bus yesterday, and instead found myself reading 'Stealer of Flesh', the first in William King's 'Kormak' series. I'll get the first bit out of the way first – buy it and read it. It's good stuff, and for £2.40 on the Kindle, there's little sense in not buying it!

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can get to actually talking about it! Structurally, the book consists of four novellas, each around 15,000 words or so, which formed the linked story of the warrior belonging to an ancient order (I'm going to be vague here to avoid spoilers) hunting down a stolen artefact, which leads him on a journey across the continent. And here we launch into what I am actually talking about in this post – the author didn't feel the need to burden us with the whole journey.

I was strongly reminded of Brak the Barbarian in this sense; the structure is similar. A connected series of stories obviously taking the protagonist on a long journey, but with stories focusing on the high points, the adventures, rather than forcing us to wade through hundreds of pages of Kormak, Brak, or some other hero sampling the fine dining of a series of taverns, or getting involved in tangent side-quests. This book could easily have been expanded out to double its length in this way; the story would certainly have held up for it.

But as the writer explains in his notes, well worth reading BTW, that wasn't the story he wanted to tell. He wanted to explore his setting in a series of shorter pieces, serving as a good introduction to his world, and to the character. This works, and the story is considerably better for it. Our imaginations fill in the gaps, if such is necessary; often, it isn't. (There is the other point that there is probably room for expansion in the future – if sufficient spaces are left in the storyline, usually there is room to throw in another novella or a few short stories.)

I'm definitely going to be picking up the next two books in this series in the near future; I also plan on going through Brak again shortly, as a part of my run-up. I'd intended to in any case, but reading 'Stealer of Flesh' has put it rather higher up the schedule. Not a bad thing at all, IMO!

I've got 'Seven Princes' to go through next; John Fultz's blog rather sold me on it, so I snagged it from Amazon yesterday. Toss up between that or Kull, but I'm increasingly tempted to save Howard for while I'm actually writing, rather than in the warm-up. Though I have got 'A Means to Freedom' to read shortly (the collected letters between Lovecraft and Howard). Suffice it to say that I'm spoiled for choice.

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