Last year I was lucky to obtain an advanced reader copy of Hadon, King of Opar by Christopher Paul Carey before its release at PulpFest 2015. PulpFest 2016 is just around the corner and once again Meteor House provided Pulp Crazy with an advanced reader copy of the latest novella in Philip Jose Farmer’s Khokarsa (Ancient Opar) series, Blood of Ancient Opar by Christopher Paul Carey.
Blood of Ancient Opar picks up immediately following the massive cliffhanger of Hadon, King of Opar. Hadon and his allies have triumphed over the forces of the Mikawaru pirates who had invaded Opar in Hadon, King of Opar (with the Priests of Resu and the Oracle of Kho assisting the raiders), but Hadon’s troubles are far from over.
His daughter La reveals an ancient prophecy to Hadon and the two of them spend the rest of the novella trying to make sense of it and use it to their advantage against an emerging threat.
Blood of Ancient Opar is a fast-paced adventure that once again has the reader side-by-side with Hadon throughout the course of the story. This is one of those tales that is tough to review, as I don’t want to spoil some major events that occur in the book, but I can discuss some portions.
During the course of the book, Hadon finds himself in the valley adjoining Opar, the Valley of the Royals. Here, Hadon visits the Palace of Queens, which readers of Tarzan and the Golden Lion will likely find very familiar. The wonderful cover painting by Bob Eggleton depicts this event. The chapters set at the royal retreat were some of my favorites, as it was fun to visit an all-new location in Ancient Opar alongside Hadon.
On a grimmer note, needless to say, before the events of Hadon, King of Opar, the queendom was already facing hard times. As Blood of Ancient Opar begins, the city is in an even worse situation. Hadon and La really have their work cut out for them if they hope to get Opar back on track.
Using Farmer’s notes, Carey skillfully executes the kind of fantasy adventure tale you just don’t see much of anymore. His contributions to the Khokarsa/Ancient Opar series feel right at home sitting beside Farmer’s original Ancient Opar books on my bookshelf and I feel fortunate to see the series continue in such great hands. Blood of Ancient Opar is everything I hoped it would be.
This is a tale of heroic fantasy skillfully brought to life through the pen and mind of a writer intimately familiar with the source material. Blood of Ancient Opar hearkens back to classic sword and sorcery adventures of the past while displaying a mastery of modern fiction writing. One thing thing is for sure, readers familiar with Opar will never look at the lost city the same way again.
Blood of Ancient Opar will be debut July 21st at PulpFest 2016 / FarmerCon XI in Columbus, Ohio. The novella is available for preorder in both softcover and hardcover formats at http://meteorhousepress.com/blood-of-ancient-opar/ . It’s highly recommend you preorder now if you want to guarantee a copy. Meteor House is also offering the remaining copies of Hadon, King of Opar for sale as well. The two novellas can be purchased together while supplies last.
Christopher Paul Carey and Meteor House graciously granted me the opportunity to read an early draft of Hadon, King of Opar. Hadon, King of Opar is the fourth book in the Khokarsa series which began with Hadon of Ancient Opar by Philip José Farmer back in 1974. Farmer wrote a sequel, Flight to Opar which followed in 1976. The conclusion to the original trilogy, The Song of Kwasin was published in 2012 in the Gods of Opar omnibus from Subterranean Press. The Song of Kwasin was co-authored by Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey. Carey also co-authored the novella, Kwasin and the Bear God with Philip José Farmer, which was first published in 2011, in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer Volume 2: Of Dust And Soul from Meteor House. It has since been reprinted in Tales of the Wold Newton Universe from Titan Books published in 2013.
In addition to co-authoring Kwasin and the Bear God and The Song of Kwasin with Farmer, Carey has also written Khokarsa tales on his own. “A Kick In the Side” was published in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer Volume 1: Protean Dimensions by Meteor House back in 2010. Exiles of Kho was published by Meteor House in 2012. Exiles of Kho is a novella written by Carey that acts a prequel to the Khokarsa series. The novella chronicles the discovery of the valley which will one day house the city of Opar.
Farmer passed the tenu (a Khokarsan broadsword to the uninitiated) to Carey, and he’s been continuing the chronicles of Khokarsa ever since. The new novella, Hadon, King of Opar continues Philip José Farmer’s saga of ancient Africa which draws from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. The Khokarsa series shows how the ancient cities encountered by Tarzan and Alan Quatermain actually have a shared history. Farmer was inspired by an essay written by two Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, John Harwood and Frank Brueckel, called Heritage of the Flaming God. Using the concept of Africa once having an inland sea (actually two seas, joined by a straight), he engaged in some Tolkien-esque world building, and connected his vision of Ancient Africa to the works of Burroughs and Haggard. The final product is the Khokarsa series starring Hadon of Opar and Kwasin of Dythbeth.
Hadon is the main character in Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar. He doesn’t make an appearance until the epilogue of The Song of Kwasin, which as you can guess, focused on his cousin, Kwasin. I’m a big fan of Kwasin, but seeing Hadon take center stage once again feels very appropriate.
Hadon, King of Opar takes place 14 years after The Song of Kwasin. Hadon is no longer the young man from the first two books, he’s now forty years old and has a family. He’s also King of Opar. His wife, Lalila, is the Queen. But don’t worry, he hasn’t let himself go like all the other Khokarsan kings (Minruth and Gamori). Hadon is still a physical specimen. He’s a paragon of heroic fantasy, and an expert swordsman. The King and Queen aren’t the only familiar faces in the novella, though.
Paga, the manling and forger of the Ax of Victory plays a role in the story. Abeth, Lalila’s daughter by the fallen hero Wi has a part to play too. Abeth was only a toddler during the original books, and now she’s a young woman. Kohr, who is Hadon’s son by the deceased priestess Klyhy, is a young man now. It’s great seeing Kohr, someone who was literally conceived during the first Ancient Opar book, play a role in the newest novella. Kohr is now a Captain in the Queensguard and he wields the Ax of Victory which once belonged to his uncle (actually second cousin) Kwasin. Kebiwabes, the bard from the original books also plays a part in the new novella. Last, but certainly not least is La, the child of prophecy born on the final page of Flight to Opar. She is Hadon and Lalila’s daughter, and is now a priestess of Kho and a follower of the teachings of Lupoeth. Lupoeth is the warrior priestess featured in Exiles of Kho.
It’s great to not only see Hadon and Lalila again, but seeing their grown children taking part in the story really drives home the scope of the Khokarsa series, and Farmer’s original vision for it. A few new characters show up too. I’m certain they will quickly become fan favorites, but saying anymore would give it away. It’s best the reader discover them when Hadon does.
Carey does a great job in putting Hadon in an interesting situation from the very beginning of the story. Hadon, King of Opar is a fast paced tale where you follow Hadon’s movements while Opar is besieged by invaders. The action takes place in, around, and under the city, thanks to the subterranean tunnel system mentioned in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the original Ancient Opar novels written by Farmer. Carey and Hadon both cover a lot of ground in this novella in regards to Opar’s geography. The vast amount of research into the Opar related Edgar Rice Burroughs tales, and Farmer’s Ancient Opar stories is very evident in the text. Carey’s research, and spot on prose has allowed him to craft a great piece of action and adventure set around Opar. I don’t think there is a person on the planet more knowledgeable about the city of Opar and Khokarsa than Carey.
Carey takes great care in the mythology and history Farmer established for the series and brings elements of both into the new novella. For instance, tensions between the priests of Resu (the Sun God) and priestesses of Kho (The Mother Goddess) are still present even during Lalila and Hadon’s reign. I also enjoyed the scenes featuring Togana’no. He’s a Gokakko, one of the neanderthal people who live in shanty towns within Ancient Opar. Farmer wrote about the Gokakko in the original Ancient Opar books, and Carey developed them further in Exiles of Kho. It’s quite a contrast to see how the Gokakko are treated by Lupoeth in Exiles of Kho compared to how the people of Opar treat them in the Ancient Opar books.
When reading Hadon, King of Opar, it felt like I was reading a lost work of Philip José Farmer himself. Carey’s talent as a writer, knowledge of the works of Burroughs, Haggard, and Farmer, his education in anthropology, and interest in linguistics has allowed him to continue the Khokarsa series with the same skill and passion as Farmer. The Khokarsa series is something both authors are going to be remembered for.
If you’re a fan of Khokarsa, Hadon, King of Opar should vault to the top of your reading list. Look at that Bob Eggleton cover; who wouldn’t want that on their bookshelf alongside the rest of the Khokarsa series? Besides an amazingly well done piece of cover art, you’re also going to get a great story.
Reading Hadon, King of Opar is like catching up with some old friends you haven’t seen in a while, then going on an adventure with them. If you’re new to Khokarsa, and are working on getting caught up, I would still preorder this book immediately. Meteor House prints a limited number of their releases, so you don’t want to miss out. Head to the Meteor House website and get your order in to guarantee your place in the party. Then return to Ancient Opar and join Hadon on another adventure.
In this weeks episode I’m going to be discussing a story that has had a huge influence on pulp and popular literature. King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. The novel was first published in September 1885. Haggard wrote King Solomon’s Mines following a bet with his brother. The wager was whether or not Haggard could write a novel half as good as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
According to wikipedia it took him between six and sixteen weeks to complete the novel between January and April 21st 1885. The book had a hard time finding a publisher, it was overlooked as a novelty. When it saw print, it became the year’s best seller, and proved difficult to keep in print given the great demand for copies.
King Solomon’s Mines stars Allan Quatermain. A character that has seen a bit of a resurgence in the last ten years.
In this weeks episode I will be discussing The Ice Goes Out by Frank Richardson Pierce. It was originally published in the July 1st 1928 issue of Adventure. The Ice Goes Out takes place in the wild Alaskan Frontier during the last 1920’s and centers around a robbery of contest money. The folks in the territory have a competition on who can guess the exact moment the ice will melt on this particular stretch of river. The contest is called the Ice Pool.