I bought these books and a couple of other Conan/Robert E. Howard paperbacks last summer in Berryville, Arkansas, and as I just watched the films in July, I thought I would pick them up. I am spending a lot of reading time this year on paperbacks, so why change now?
These books differ from some movie novelizations in that the authors were already steeped in the Conan mythos as they’d written original Conan short stories and/or novels in decades before the movies appeared. So you get a lot of depth in the books that you don’t get in a lot of cases where the novelizinator works quickly from a script.
I summarized the plots of Conan the Barbarian in the movie post thus:
In Conan the Barbarian, young Conan sees his father and mother killed before him when a raiding party strikes their undefended village, and he is taken as a slave. He grows up, becomes strong from his labor, and then ends up as a gladiator traveling with Mongol-types, still a slave, until he is released. He flees to a dead area where he finds Mako playing a sorcerer of questionable ability and seeks his revenge on the leader of the band who killed his family and razed his village, Thulsa Doom played by James Earl Jones. Of course, the man is now the leader of a spreading cult of snake-handlers. Oh, and Sandahl Bergman plays Valeria, a fighter-thief that Conan loves.
It’s as good of a read as the movie is a good movie, if that makes sense–it reads like a standalone novel, not something that simply recaptures the film so you can remember it. And it does not include photos from the movie. Perhaps the intent was to make this a backlist book that outlasted the movie.
I described the plot of this film also in that movie post:
In Conan the Destroyer, Conan is given a quest to escort the virgin niece, played by Olivia d’Abo, of a queen who is destined to restore the horn of a sleeping god. So Conan and a thief start off with the girl and her bodyguard, played by Wilt Chamberlain. They rescue Mako and a female warrior, played by Grace Jones, from a hostile tribe and they go do some sidequests and then the main quest and discover they’ve been played, and the queen is going to sacrifice the virgin to resurrect the god. So Conan has to slay the tall bodyguard and then the resurrected god.
Actually, in the case of this book, it’s a good thing that I just watched the film as this first printing has an erratum in the binding. After page 256, when Conan and his party are storming the castle, the frontspiece, title page, and the first 31 pages of the book appear again instead of the climactic showdown and end matter. I would think this might be collectible, but, c’mon, man, collecting, paperbacks, errata, and all that are so 20th century. You can find copies of this book on Ebay for $10 without mention of the errata (well, perhaps that means not all of the first printing was botched). However, if I find another copy in the wild, I might have to pick it up if it finishes the story, and perhaps I will read it again–or just the end of it. Time will tell if I count that as a complete book–but I sure counted this one as a whole book.
I shall probably delve into those other Conan paperbacks by and by–and I have already started one of the Diagnosis: Murder paperbacks I picked up on that trip.