WARRIOR OF LLARN by Gardner F. Fox
As a kid, I was a fan of both Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars books as well as Gardner F. Fox, who created the new takes on many of the Silver Age DC Comics heroes and wrote a fair share of fantasy novels as well as the Golden Age comics. I became aware of the Llarn books (there are two of them) while still in high school and even picked up Thief of Llarn. But I discovered that it was the second book in the series and I didn’t want to read them out of order. Years later I finally came across the first book, but never got around to reading it for some reason. Lately I came across it again (though I’ve yet to find my copy of Thief), and picked it up.
The story of Alan Morgan’s journey to Llarn is very much a page out of Burroughs’s interplanetary romances, and the writing was pedestrian at best. Gardner F. Fox was a great comics storyteller, and I’ve enjoyed his Kyrik and Kothar books when I was a kid. But I couldn’t quite connect with this one.
The narrative style was more telling than showing. Much of the book is delivered almost secondhand, without the thrill of certain death looming, or setbacks looming on the horizon. The story just plodded along. Occasionally I saw flashes of Adam Strange type architecture in the story (Fox was handpicked by Julius Schwartz to kick off the “superhero of the spaceways’” adventures in the three-issue debut in Showcase Comics) and I enjoyed those when I was a kid too.
Fox puts a lot more science in his tale than Burroughs did. Of course, Fox was writing his story fifty-two years after ERB, and the exploration of space had progressed a lot. Only seven years after Warrior of Llarn came out, the United States put a man on the Moon. There’s also a lot of psi powers present too, which was becoming all the rage in comics and science fiction of the time.
In addition to the narration problems, strangely enough, it also felt like Fox put too much into the pot. Enemies sprouted up everywhere, but readers don’t really get much of an explanation of them. After a bit they became names, and I had to work hard to keep them all separated. The final showdown between Morgan and the psionic bad guy lacked at lot too, especially since Morgan’s triumph was a foregone conclusion. Some of the narrative became repetitive as well, the parts about the lesser gravity and how good he was at swordplay.
However, the book succeeded in taking me back to that twelve year old kid who first discovered sword-wielding warriors on other planets and I enjoyed the trip enough that I’m now looking for that second Alan Morgan novel.