Best collection to date of Howard's early Conan tales. Highly recommended.
Makes me wish that I was a frustrated teenager again. They don't include the best part of the books, which is the map of the world.
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian is the first volume in a comprehensive library of three books that focus entirely on Robert E. Howard's Conan works. And ONLY Robert E. Howard. There are no pastiches or "fragment continuations". This is Howard and only Howard. The book contains the first several years of Howard's Conan stories in chronological order, not based on any timeline of Conan's life, but in the order they were printed, mostly in Weird Tales magazine. And they are probably some of his best works. While the Kull stories had a brooding existentialism about them, Conan was more about a man who understands his place in the universe, even if it is hard at times. The short story Queen of the Black Coast is one of Howard's most poignant stories and that is just one. It has other classics such as Tower of the Elephant and many more. If you are a true Conan fan...or you're just getting into the genre of sword and sorcery, this is a must-own book. And, not only do we get these wonderful tales, but there are some rarely seen first drafts, numerous notes, and a few fragments that don't have touch-ups done by imitators. Conan fans rejoice!!!
I didn't really know what to expect when I started this book. I don't consider myself a Conan fan, I just thought it might be a fun read. As the introduction explains, Howard began writing short stories about Conan the Barbarian for a fantasy magazine in the 1920's. When he wrote them, they were all out of order in respect to Conan's life. This book keeps the stories in the order they were written, rather than rearranging them chronologically, so you get more of a feel for what Howard was trying to accomplish. On that note, Howard was actually a pretty good writer. Reading through, you start to notice a rhythm to the words on the page, almost as if you're reading poetry in stanza form. I appreciate this sort of attention to word choice.
One more thing I'd like to point out. The introduction went into this a little and I think it's worth mentioning. 'Barbarian' fantasy was not invented by Howard. Howard simply took the concept and ran with it. As a Texan, he brought a lot of new things to the table that hadn't really been done before. The deep south has a rich cultural heritage for story telling which does come across a bit, and there's definitely a little 'gun-slinging' going on. But mostly, it engages you with the author's personal philosophies about freedom, 'civilization', the march of so-called 'progress', and what it is to truly be born of the earth. Keeping Howard in mind while reading his stories is worth as much as the stories themselves. It makes you wonder what on earth people got up to back then in the great wild boonies of Texas.