Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

CONAN THE REBEL by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson Conan the Rebel

Conan the Rebel was written back in 1980 by Poul Anderson, a writer I’ve read and admired for years. I’ve always enjoyed Anderson’s Dominic Flandry series (haven’t read all of them and it’s been years since I picked them up), but my favorite book he wrote was Three Hearts and Three Lions, a mix of Edgar Rice Burroughs and fantasy.

I vaguely remember reading this Conan novel before, back when it first came out, and I remember struggling through it, though I can’t remember if I’d ever finished it before.

Back then I was working at Solo Cup at a factory job and had just finished college and was trying to figure out what to do with myself. I was young and restless, and since I’m ADHD my attention span isn’t always what it should be.

So either I finished the book or I didn’t.

After reading the Red Sonja graphic novel by Gail Simone, I wanted to read about Conan. I pulled this book up on Amazon, saw that it was now an ebook, and downloaded it. Then I dug in.

I have to admit, those first two chapters are tough reading. Anderson is wonderfully descriptive and evokes the mood of the novel, but there just isn’t much happening except a prophecy that we know Conan will deliver on. The novel gets faster paced after that, but it takes a while.

One of the other reasons that I wanted to read this book is because it has Belit in it. I remember Belit more from Roy Thomas’s run on the Marvel Comics. Belit only shows up in one f Robert E. Howard’s original stories, a novelette titled “Queen of the Black Coast.” I liked Belit in the comics and I was curious as to what Anderson did with her. To my chagrin, Belit isn’t in this book much, but we do get her full origin story. Now I’ve gotta go back and read Thomas’s stuff to see if the backgrounds agree.

Anderson’s book gets really involved in all the warring countries and political gamesmanship going on with the wizards. He does a nice job of lying out the Hyborian world and talking about it with authority, but the pace is erratic and the threat level sometimes requires only scant derring-do.

There’s a lot of running around, of getting from one place to another, and no shortage of coincidence (running into a band of warriors from Belit’s home village out in the jungle?). I hung with the book because there’s a lot of good stuff in here, but I got completely worn out by the princess’s infatuation with Conan and constantly throwing herself at him. I wanted more swordplay and less lust, and seeing Conan tempted at times while at the same time trying to get the princess foisted off on the young warrior with them got old in hurry.

Another thing that was interesting was Anderson’s archaic choice of language. Granted, the author had done a lot of research for his various projects over the years, but it really shows here. I know the younger me probably just glossed over the unfamiliar words, figuring out – more or less – what they were from the words around them. However, with the Kindle’s instant fingertip dictionary, I looked up a lot of those words during this read-through and learned a lot. The words are still archaic and won’t come up in a conversation anytime soon, but it was fun seeing them in play in the novel. It makes me wonder if Anderson just knew the words or kept a thesaurus at hand.

I enjoyed the book for the most part, but the ending left me feeling a little cheated. There is a dark moment where Conan almost loses the battle, but he of course gets out of it (thanks again to the coincidence of meeting up with the tribesmen loyal to Belit). The final battle against the evil wizard isn’t seen, which chapped me to no small degree.

I’m enjoying Conan all over again and look forward to reacquainting myself with more of the series, and I think I’ll read Three Hearts and Three Lions again as well.

Original Bantam Cover

Original Bantam Cover

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