Conan the Liberator by L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter (1979)

I was at a garage sale a couple of years ago, and I found a few boxes of assorted science fiction books. There was a whole box full of Conan books, but I didn't buy any, instead opting to just grab a few books about adventures in space. I later wished I had bought the lady's whole collection of books, including the Conan ones. When I recently found a few Conan books at a used bookstore, I figured it was time to give the famous barbarian a shot. I grabbed the cheapest one. The cover, which wrapped around the back and folded out in the front, was of Conan sitting upon a throne, armed with a sword, dagger, and axe, while mostly naked women adore him from the floor. A woman prostrating herself at Conan's feet seems to be in pain, and one could only guess that Conan had ravaged her moments before he sat back down on his big chair with his weapons, looking kind of pissed off for a guy in such a situation.

I don't read a lot of fantasy. I'm more of a spaceships and aliens sort of guy. There is one thing I love about fantasy, though: monsters. I love the fanged things that come out at night to terrorize townspeople. I love the slimy, stinky abominations that hunger for your face. I love the ghouls that lurk in the shadows and the demons that haunt the sky. I love tentacle-faced leviathans that wait, dreaming, beneath the sea.

Conan the Liberator encounters none of these creatures. Were it not for a brief appearance of some satyrs and the evil wizard Conan is up against, this story could have taken place in the mundane world. I envisioned a savage, solitary brute hacking and slashing his way through hordes of fearsome beasts; I got a well respected army general, leading his army, battling, regrouping, and then repeating the process until the end of the book. Along the way, there were convenient illustrations for those of us who have a hard time imagining things like swords.

I guess if I were interested in military strategy, this book would have been awesome. Instead, I found the cyclical events of the story tedious, and the lack of monsters appalling. Granted, I may have been setting myself up for disappointment by waiting for monsters the whole way through, but I just didn't enjoy this book all that much, and I imagine I'll have forgotten it by the time I read a few more books.

Ultimately, I think the lesson to be learned from Conan the Liberator is that when hastily selecting books by cover and price, I need to remember to only buy fantasy books with monsters on the cover.

Buy this book.

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