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[Epub] ❧ Conan and the Spider God By L. Sprague de Camp – Cravenjobs.co.uk

10 thoughts on “Conan and the Spider God

  1. says:

    I was almost ready to give this book two stars because, I have to admit, DeCamp seems to have learned to write a better novel in the nine years between Conan The Buccaneer and Conan And The Spider God. But then his shaky plotting, ridiculous word choices and ultimately clumsy writing come crashing down around my ears and I think, “Nope. No good.”

    DeCamp truly excels at failing to understand and interpret the character of our brooding Cimmerian. In Spider God, as in his previous Conan pastiches, he casts the Cimmerian as this sort of fun loving roustabout. He falls in love with dancing girls, leaves his sword at home, runs from giant spiders and names his horses. Conan doesn’t seem like the horse naming type. Maybe the guy would fall in love with a dancing girl but mooning over them seems to run completely against the nature of the character as Howard created him. While Conan was possessed of giant mirth as well as giant melancholy, it feels as if DeCamp wants him to be more likable to the reader and does so by making him weaker, friendlier, less capable than Howard might have liked. At one point, DeCamp says Conan “fought down a panicky urge to run screaming.” Who did that? Conan? I seriously doubt it.

    The biggest failure for DeCamp, however, is the dialogue. None of the dialogue is great and DeCamp throws in words like “nonce” and “prithee” like his life depended on it. He actually does better with descriptive passages than he had in the past but the dialogue stinks. Conan’s dialogue in particular is extremely difficult to swallow.

    Howard had Conan speak like this (from Beyond The Black River):

    “The best land near Thunder River is already taken. Plenty of good land between Scalp Creek – you crossed it a few miles back – and the fort, but that’s getting too devilish close to the river. The Picts steal over to burn and murder – like that one did. They don’t always come singly. Some day they’ll try to sweep the settlers out of Conajohara. And they may succeed. Probably will succeed. This colonization business is mad, anyway. If the Aquilonians would cut up some of the big estates of their barons, and plant wheat where now only deer are hunted, they wouldn’t have to cross the border and take the land of the Picts aweay from them.”

    DeCamp has Conan speak thus:

    “When I served at the palace, I heard rumors of this favorite, but I never clapped eyes upon her. It was said that Yildiz was a simple, easygoing fellow who relied on this particular wife to make all his hard decisions. She was more king than he. I daresay the camel was her mount. But even had I rescued the lady from the Zamorians, I have no wish to continue in Yildiz’s service.”

    He’s got a few of the short sentences that Howard has Conan speak but the manner of speech is like a knight out of a tale of chivalry. “Easygoing fellow,” “but even had I,” “never clapped eyes upon” don’t sound like things Conan would say. I mean, “I daresay the camel was her mount.” You daresay? Who are you and and what have you done with Conan? You get the sense this is how DeCamp would have every protagonist speak.

    Though I did say DeCamp’s writing seems to have improved, it’s still clumsy and heavy handed. For example:

    “Across the front of the creature’s head – or what would have been its head if members of the spider tribe possessed heads distinct from the forward segment of their bodies – a row of four great eyes gleamed with a bluish radiance in the lamplight.”

    GAH!!! He could have just said, “Across the creature’s head a row of four great eyes…” and it would have been a solid sentence. Instead, we get some weird arachnid anatomy lesson.

    DeCamp has Conan sing a song for some Zamorians (he doesn’t seem like the singing type, either) but, thankfully, gives us only the incredibly trite and amateurish “We’re born with sword and axe in hand, for men of the North are we.” Thank Crom he didn’t go any further!

    There’s a whole section where Conan returns to Shadizar and runs into a soldier who lost his job in Yezud. He talks to the bartender, Tigranes, saying he needs work. Why the hell would Conan need work when he’s trying to find the people who stole his horse? Tigranes sells him out but Conan is long gone, for which Tigranes receives a beating and swears vengeance on Conan. But he never shows up again. Conan would have ended up in Yezud, regardless. The whole scene is totally unnecessary.

    I can’t tell if this story is more full of holes or sh*t.

    The Tim Kirk drawings scattered through the book are cool, but the captions are kind of funny. There will be a drawing of severed heads on lances and the caption says, “lances with severed heads.” They are sometimes useful, though, if, for example, you didn’t know what a baldric was. I assume the cover is by Kirk as well; it's not bad.

    We’re also treated to another re-write of DeCamp and Carter’s typical intro. Why they bothered to re-write the wretched thing is beyond me. The first sentence into the second illustrates DeCamp’s inabilities. The first sentence: “Conan, the magnificent barbarian adventurer, grew up in the mind of Robert Ervin Howard, the Texan pulp writer, in 1932.” The very next sentence starts, “As Howard put it, the character “grew up in my mind…” Yes, yes, you just said that. Didn’t anyone edit this crap?

    To be fair, the introduction contains one of the best paragraphs I’ve read from DeCamp so far:

    “The Conan stories belong to a sub-genre of fantasy called heroic fantasy, or swordplay-and-sorcery fiction. The art form was originated in the 1880’s by William Morris, the British artist, poet, decorator, manufacturer and reformer, as a modern imitation of the medieval romance, which had been moribund since Cervantes burlesqued it with his Don Quixote. Morris was followed in the United Kingdom in the early twentieth century by Lord Dunsany and Eric Rucker Eddison and in the United States by Robert Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and many others.”

    Maybe DeCamp should have stuck to writing about writers.

    At another point in the intro, DeCamp takes the time to define the pastiche, “a form of literature in which a living author tries to recapture both the spirit and the style of a predecessor.” He finishes by saying, “To what extent any of us can recreate the vividness of Howard’s narratives and the excellence of his style, the reader must judge for himself.” This reader has judged. You have failed.

  2. says:

    Conan becomes a smithy in this one as he has eyes on the spider god's "eyes."

  3. says:

    Excellent novel. One of the finest novels in the canon of Conan.

  4. says:

    Conan is Captain of the Guard when, as usual, an encounter with a superior officer's woman leads him to leave town suddenly. On the same day he leaves the King's favorite wife is kidnapped, so naturally Conan is marked as the man suspect. While on the run he encounters a group of "merchants" who steal his horse and all his money. He tracks them to a mountain fortress which is the home of the spider god cult, and takes a job as blacksmith under his father's name Nial to plot his vengeance. He meets a cult dancing girl and falls in love.

    Conan plots his revenge. He woos the dancing girl who is sworn to virginity by the cult. He plots to steal some valuable gems from the temple. He works as a blacksmith, making door latches and weapons and lots of nails. Then he plots some more, and the dancing refuses to run away with him unless he settles down and gets a regular job. He fights drunkards and a tiger while plotting some more. And he makes some nails.

    De Camp does a good job writing Conan, even if his use of language is more stilted than REH. But a love sick Conan mooning over a dancing girl is not paticularly interesting. Conan is far more emotional than usual, both with the girl and with unfamiliar fearfulness when facing danger. He spends weeks working as a blacksmith in the same city as those who stole from him when in the past he did not allow such an affront go unpunished for minutes after locating the thieves. De Camp has done a good job in other works but in this one not so much.

  5. says:

    I generally enjoy the Conan books and have heard about this book for years. However, I must admit it is lackluster compared to other entries in the Conan saga. de Camp almost feels like he doesn't really have any real plot in mind until past the halfway point, and it just did not hold great. It also felt like the character of Conan was poorly pastiched versus the actual character that is Howard's creation.

  6. says:

    I've never read a Conan book before but I found this one remarkably appealing. The writing is very elegant but the story is spare with few digressions and Conan is a most human hero. OK, he has a temper and he's a really really big man, but he's also intelligent and he has an exacting code of honor. And he knows his limitations. In this episode he confronts the Spider God with surprising results.

  7. says:

    Probably the best L.Sprague de Camp “Conan” stories, but that is a low bar, and this book does not rise to the level of “good.”

  8. says:

    It was nice to see Conan develop as a person, and not just exist as a muscle bound person.

  9. says:

    By a generous estimate this book is about 3/4 padding.

    At one point Conan is impeded by a flock of sheep. You could accept this as a perfectly fine form of foreshadowing - for instance, showing that hey, maybe there is a real Spider-God and his priests are feeding him! - if it weren't for the fact that L. Sprague de Camp then proceeds to waste a whole page describing the shepherding process, which adds NOTHING to the book.

    In a less generous example, there's a several-page scene early on in the book where Conan gets a detailed rundown about temple rituals, so that later when he knocks over a pitcher of oil which accidentally starts a fire, there's a reason for that pitcher of oil to be there. Because "Conan accidentally knocked over a pitcher of oil" leaves too many open questions.

    Sadly, that seems to be the norm for most of L. Sprague de Camp. About 40 pages of real story and 120 pages of padding. The only thing that saves this from being a one-star book is that it isn't a bad book - just a really, really mediocre one.

  10. says:

    taking place between the first two store from Conan of Cimmeria, "The Curse of the Monolith" and "The Bloodstained God", at the end of Conan's 2-year career as a mercenary in the Turanian army, this pastiche novel is not bad but not up to REH. L. Sprague de Camp created some memorable scenes, but the problem is that Conan acts out of character lots of times and it's sometimes jarring. For example, he attends mass at a Temple, several times. Also, he falls in love and considers giving up the wandering life to settle down with this one girl. He almost rapes said girl at one point. There are lots of other examples. But again, it's a fun read in any case, though not essential in the chronicles of Conan's life.

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