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Kull: Exile of Atlantis Paperback – October 31, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

As some cover blurbs so rightly state, "Before Conan--there was Kull!" The warrior Kull was yet another popular creation of pulp writer Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), generally credited as the originator of the subgenre heroic fantasy. Yet Kull should not be dismissed as second-rate Conan. (Although Howard did transform a few unsold Kull adventures into those of Conan the Cimmerian when the later series took off with the public.) Set in ancient, lost Atlantis, the Kull stories take place mostly after the barbarian has already come to power as King Kull of Valusia. What makes these scant dozen stories most memorable is Howard's heightened style of mystical decadence, similar here to his Weird Tales contemporary, Clark Ashton Smith. Rest assured there's enough gruesome bloodletting and wanton savagery to satisfy the most ardent Howard reader. (Variant editions of this collection have been published over the years, with the uncompleted stories finished posthumously by Lin Carter. Other editions have simply presented the few story fragments as untouched--and unadulterated--Robert E. Howard.) --Stanley Wiater --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"McLaren maintains excitement and tension without drifting into an overly dramatic performance." ---AudioFile --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345490177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345490179
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark E. Hall on January 28, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
As the title proclaims, this book contains the Kull stories, including the fragments, by Robert E. Howard. No DeCamp, Carter, or Drake; just pure Robert E. Howard!

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 KingdomEis 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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
* If you're not--or not looking to become--a reader of sword-and-sorcery or fantasy tales, then you can probably skip the rest of this review and move on . . . unless you might acquire a taste for stories of a philosophical barbarian-king, whose axe or sword slays oncomers as easily as you might mosquitoes . . . *
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.
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Format: Paperback
Although some argue that "The Shadow Kingdom" is the first Sword and Sorcery story ever published, I'm not sure that I agree. In my opinion, the earlier Solomon Kane stories could also be classified as belonging in this genre, the only real difference being a historical background rather than a fictional one. As fans of Howard already know, King Kull is sort of a prototype of Conan, and to be honest, by and large the stories are not as good as the Conan ones. Still, there are a lot a jewels here.

"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.
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