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Kull: Exile of Atlantis Paperback – October 31, 2006
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Out of the 9 Kull stories in this book, only two appeared in print during Howard's lifetime. The Shadow Kingdom and The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune were both published in Weird Tales in 1929. The Shadow Kingdom is a lively, fast-moving tale, foreshadowing numerous Conan stories, on Kull's battle against the Serpent Men of Valusia. In contrast, The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune is a moody tale, much more akin to some of Lovecraft's horror stories.
The other 7 stories are of variable quality. The Exile of Atlantis,reads more as a fragment than a complete story. Kull is only a bystander in the The Altar and the Scorpion. While some what predictable, Delcarde's Cat is a readable story. The appearance of Thulsa Doom in the story is done quite awkwardly though. Howard presents him in as a continual rival of Kull, but this was his first and only appearance in the Kull series. By This Axe I Rule, is quite readable compared to much of the sword and sorcery fiction published today, but is not Howard's best. The Striking of the Gong,is reminiscent of The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, but instead of creating a sense of mystery, Howard only details and explains Kull's experiences. Swords of the Purple KingdomEis similar to The Shadow Kingdom and By This Axe I Rule.
While enjoyable, this volume is not Howard at his best. It is clear why some of these stories didn't get published in WEIRD TALES while REH was alive, particularly when you compare them to the Conan or Solomon Kane stories. Compared to a lot of the fantasy written today though, this is great stuff! So while I may only give it 3 stars out of 5, it is still worth the cover price.
OK, now that _they're_ gone: this intriguing compilation probably merits 3-1/2 stars, but I'll give one of the genre's cornerstones the benefit of the doubt. Be warned, though, REH's writing can be quite different from that of modern writers: sometimes brooding, sometimes utterly pulp-ish in its almost garish vividness. Nonetheless, it's that very quality that makes it so fascinating and, at times, as strong and elegant as the axe of the protagonist.
Speaking of whom, he is like Rodin's "Thinker" with larger muscles and longer hair. An Atlantian usurper of the throne of Valusia, he finds himself perpetually assailed by conspirators (whether domestic, foreign or, for something completely different, possessed of human bodies and serpent heads). One could thus group the stories here into a couple of categories: (1) The Conspiracies (The Shadow Kingdom, By This Axe I Rule, and Swords of the Purple Kingdom--the latter two being quite similar); (2) The Oddities (e.g. Delcardes' Cat, The Striking of the Gong and The Skull of Silence); and (3) The Unfinished (which are obvious). (So yes, be forewarned, especially if you need closure in your tales.)
REH's genius shows through most clearly in the Conspiracies, where one marvels at the power of his imagination--he seems to have created this pre-Flood world out of whole cloth! As noted, the writing is often fine, and from the viewpoint of the fantasy fan, this is foundational reading. From here, it's logical to read _The Hour of the Dragon_, REH's only novel and a tale of that legendary king who evolves from Kull of Atlantis: Conan of Cimmeria.
"The Shadow Kingdom" is, in my opinion, the obvious standout, and it should have been the basis for the ill conceived Kevin Sorbo fiasco. Kull battles a race of serpent men who can assume human form and have infiltrated all levels of society.
"By This Ax I Rule" was never published during Howard's lifetime, and was rewritten as the first Conan story, "The Phoenix on the Sword", which is also a better story in my opinion. The climactic fight scene, which is virtually the same in both versions, is trademark Howard: extreme graphically described violence and headlong action at a breakneck pace. That's one of the things that makes Howard's stories so fun to read over and over; they thrill you on a purely visceral level. When it comes to writing an exiciting action scene, Howard has no peers, past or present.
One of the most enigmatic things about the character Kull, which Howard never clarifies, is his asexuality. Kull has no interest in the opposite sex at all. Is he a virgin? Howard seems to be saying that he is. Why? Howard never explains. Anyone who has read the Conan stories knows that his sexual prowess is almost as legendary as his prowess with a broadsword. Why is such a manly character as Kull, so full of testoterone, so disinterested.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A more philosophical barbarian king. The precursor to CONAN should not be ignored.Published 2 months ago by William Patrick Maynard
Kull the barbarian is a king of Valusia and an exile of Atlantis. As king he faces significantly more complex intrigues than Conan, Howard's other famous barbarian-king. Read morePublished 10 months ago by James M. Folks
Classic Robert E Howard - brilliant short prose and characters bursting to life in fantastic antiquity. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Rod
One of my all time favorite characters created by R.E.H. its sword and sorcery with depth. Everything that makes Kull great has be credited to Conan over the years such as being... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Michael Morales
Many folks know Robert E. Howard for his sword & sorcery character Conan. However, before there was Conan, there was Kull from Atlantis, a mere man who won the crown of Valusia. Read morePublished 12 months ago by DabOfDarkness
Better than expected. Different from Conan. I bought this because I found it used and for a good price. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Glenn