Solomon Kane: Skulls in the Stars By Robert E. Howard


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    Best known as the creator of Conan, the prolific Robert E. Howard created a number of other heroes: Kull, Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mak Morn. But he deviated from the tales of barbarian berserkers and Gaelic warriors when he created the black-clad Puritan, Solomon Kane.
    Kane, an expert swordsman wanders the Earth righting wrongs and meting out justice in the late 16th or early 17th century (an exact date is never mentioned). From lost civilizations in Africa to battling pirates in coastal England, Kane acts as a knight errant with his pistols and rapier, rescuing maidens and bringing God's justice to evildoers everywhere.
    I found the inscrutable Solomon Kane to be one of Howard's most interesting characters. Kind of a Batman for the Reformation.
    Paperback Robert E. Howard might be best known for Conan, but his other major creations are just as interesting. Solomon Kane is a Puritan avenger wielding a rapier and dual pistols. He tracks his targets to the ends of the earth to exact revenge or simply smite evil. Kane is like a force of nature, his black clothes and stoic demeanor masking his cold-blooded rage at injustice.

    The writing is similar to most pulp writing of Howard's era, the 1920s and 1930s. You can see a lot of his contemporaries, such as H.P. Lovecraft, as they all created their stories and mythos at the same time. Kane is even more straightforward than Conan. There's less world building than in the Hyborian Age. Partially that's due to Kane wandering through the real world, traveling from England to Africa in his quests for vengeance.

    These are tales that treat good and evil as white and black, both figuratively and literally. Kane seeks out and kills bad men who have done bad things, usually to innocent women. The bad men are also often savages and in several instances African. This is the part of these stories that has aged the worst. It can be tough to treat some of the turns of phrase as historical artifacts, but like everything you have to place it in historical context. Which is not to excuse the ills of our past.

    The collection I read contained seven stories and one poem.

    Skulls in the Stars: A decent introduction to Kane, showcasing his physical prowess and courage. It includes his trademark vengeance and search for justice. Almost closer to a horror tale than an adventure.

    The Right Hand of Doom: Glad to finally read the presumptive origin for the title of the Hellboy story. Otherwise, Kane has very little to do with this story besides serving as the framing device. Again, more like horror than adventure.

    Red Shadows: The first great adventure tale in this collection. Kane tracks Le Loup from France to Africa in a good mini-epic that highlights Kane's doggedness.

    Rattle of Bones: Another short horror tale. This cements the trend that the horror tales treat Kane more as an ancillary character. It's impressive how much dread Howard can create in such a short space.

    The Castle of the Devil: A slightly out of place Kane story. It lacks the adventure and vengeance aspects of the better Kane stories. It's definitely the slowest pace of all the stories here.

    The Moon of Skulls: The true epic adventure in the collection. I'm not sure why the collection isn't titled after this one. If you only read one Kane story, read this one. It is the longest, but it shows off all the best aspects of Kane's character. It also, unfortunately, highlights the racial stereotypes.

    The One Black Stain: A thankfully short poem. I'm sure Kane and Howard completionists appreciate its inclusion but it can easily be skipped.

    Blades of the Brotherhood: This one felt a bit like a retread of Red Shadows, to the point I thought the same bad guy was going to make an appearance. It brings in pirates, which is unique, even if there aren't any real pirate tropes to distinguish them. Really highlights Kane's sense of justice for innocent women.

    A good collection of the greatest hits of Solomon Kane. Paperback A mix of original REH works and rewrites, with absolutely no indication which was which (such was the time). As usual with REH works, the ones by him are fantastic and the rewrites/reworks/expansions are...less so. I read this in conjunction with Del Rey's Savage Tales of Solomon Kane to keep track of when the REH writing stopped and the other authors' started.

    Content-wise, the stories are fun if not at times extremely problematic by today's standards, particularly those taking place in the jungles of Africa. The Castle of the Devil left me wanting more which the addition by the later writer did not fulfil. Would have loved if Howard had been able to finish this one - it was a great setup. Paperback Skulls in the Stars has more emotional depth than Red Shadows. What begins as a simple battle between warrior and evil spirit takes a tragic turn of brotherly betrayal. The spirit has no control over its actions, it is restless and vengeful because it was betrayed and killed by someone it loved. Our hero avenges the spirit and gives it the proper rest it deserves.

    Short and sweet. Paperback My first time reading Solomon Kane and i loved it! I ve read many Conan stories and i must say Solomon is a great character, if not one of my favourites. He is a grim and dour man, a puritan with a strong faith, a swordsman wielding pistols, vanquishes evil in all its forms and has a warriors savage heart! Howard is victorious yet again! Paperback

    Solomon

    There are some excellent stories in here, and a poem thrown in for good measure.

    Solomon Kane is my favourite Robert E. Howard hero, possibly because he's English so I more readily identified with him when I first encountered him in graphic form as a back-up feature in the UK reprint comic Savage Sword of Conan. As well as being English he was also dour and grim, which appealed to my pre/early teen moodiness, and probably appeals now to my middle-age grumpiness!

    The action in these tales of the Puritan avenger swings from the mist-shrouded moors of Devonshire, to the benighted forests of France and Germany, on to the jungles of Africa and then the Spanish Main. Ghosts, revenant wizards, psychotic Barons, decadent Atlantean Queens and savage pirates, all fall before Kane's muskets and rapier.

    My favourite story here is Blades of the Brotherhood which sees Kane back in England, after a trail of years, tracking down the pirate captain, Jonas Hardraker, the Fishhawk, to wreak bloody vengeance against him. Kane is outnumbered, but never outclassed! Stirring stuff. Paperback Skulls in the Stars has more emotional depth than Red Shadows. What begins as a simple battle between warrior and evil spirit takes a tragic turn of brotherly betrayal. The spirit has no control over its actions, it is restless and vengeful because it was betrayed and killed by someone it loved. Our hero avenges the spirit and gives it the proper rest it deserves.

    Short and sweet. Paperback Robert E. Howard is my all time favorite writer, but for many years much of his work was heavily edited. This is another of the heavily edited collections of Robert E. Howard's stories. I am a purist when it comes to a writers works. I know some of these stories are no longer PC but they should be read as Howard wrote them and understood that he wrote in another time period. Don't read this book unless you just can't find any others of Howard's unedited books to read. Message me if you need a list of what is good from this awesome fantasy and action writer. Paperback
    Published in Weird Tales in 1929, this story is perhaps to be taken as a sister piece to 'Rattle of Bones' also published that year and reviewed by us elsewhere.

    Howard published seven such stories, set in seventeenth century Africa and Europe, in 'Weird Tales' between 1928 and 1932 (with others appearing in collections long after his death.

    In essence, it is another story of occult vengeance made more interesting by the character of Kane whose puritan sense of justice adds horror to the horror in his judgement on the malefactor amidst the approval of villagers who have suffered too long.

    The atmosphere of the story is well-drawn even if we are well within the expectations of lurid pulp horror while there is a Lovecraftian element to the nature of the ghost-beast that seeks peace through the death of its tormentor in life. Paperback This was a re-read of one of my favourite Solomon Kane stories. Paperback

    AVENGER OF EVIL

    He was a Puritan, who flinched not from the gates of Hell. Tall, gaunt, hollow-eyed in his opposition to the forces of darkness, he defied the devil himself. Kane, cold, steely-nerved duelist, snatched his long rapier from its sheath and thrust it into the heart of evil... Ghoulish laughter follows him . Foul horror haunts his way. Kane, a man whose blood quickens with adventure. Kane, a man more dangerous than a famished wolf.

    Contents:

    The World of Solomon Kane by J. Ramsey Campbell
    Skulls in the Stars
    The Right Hand of Doom
    Red Shadows
    Rattle of Bones
    The Castle of the Devil (Completed by Ramsey Campbell)
    The Moon of Skulls
    The One Black Stain (poem)
    Blades of the Brotherhood Solomon Kane: Skulls in the Stars