Historical / Reviews

Book Review: I Am a Barbarian by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I am a barbarian Edgar Rice Burroughs


Genre: Historical Fiction

Who on earth expected a well researched historical take on imperial Rome from Edger Rice Burroughs? Told from the point of view of one of Caligula’s slaves (Brittanicus), this is one of Burroughs’ more mature works. Sadly, it’s long out of print; you’re lucky if you can manage a copy. Note that I Am a Barbarian is one of the only two historical novels written by the author; the other being The Outlaw of Tor.

The Story

Brittanicus is brought by Caligula’s parents to be a companion to their son. The slave watches Caligula grow up from a spoiled brat to an insane ruler. The ruler both trusts and fears Brittanicus. The story describes the adventures of Brittanicus and yes, there is a romantic angle too. Dejah thoris is substituted by the slave girl Attica.

The Style

Action packed, poignant and humorous at times, I am a Barbarian is one of the finest novels Burroughs has ever written. Surprisingly, even his trademark flat characterization is replaced here by well defined and fairly intricate individuals. Burroughs’ writing style is imaginative and crisp.

This is an epic novel of historical adventure and altogether a darn good package. You don’t have to be an ERB fan to enjoy I Am a Barbarian.

Ace Edition (1974).  Cover Art by Boris Vallejo.

Similar Books

Historical fiction of Robert E. Howard

Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace

Continue reading

Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book review: Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer

brood of the witch queen sax rohmer

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Brood of the Witch Queen is one of the creepiest and scariest books of Sax Rohmer — the creator of the fiendish Fu Manchu and Sumuru. Originally serialized in a British Magazine, this intriguing Egyptian tale of ancient curse and black magic takes you from London to Cairo involving a great adventure.

The Story

Set in London in the early 1900s, this is a tale of ancient sorcery with vampires and crawly bugs. Dr. Richard and Robert Cairn fights against diabolical powers and a dark figure called Anthony Ferarra. And the odds turn terrible when Ferarra’s ancient ancestor — a Polish/Jewish witch that placed a curse on her husband’s family — casts her evil shadow.

The Style

Rohmer’s novel reflects his passion for dramatic prose and abrupt ending. Also, the characterization seems a bit wooden. Nonetheless, Brood of the Witch Queen holds a lot of value in terms of pulp entertainment. This fast moving novel is full of adventure and creepy scenes. The plot, though predictable, will not disappoint you. Though the book is about a century old, it does not seem much dated.

Not a perfect story, pretty much over the top, but Brood of the Witch Queen is pure escapist fun.

Similar Books:

Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley

Rating ***

Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer ebook Download


Continue reading

Cover of the Week

Conan Cover Art by Frank Frazetta (Sphere/Lancer Books)

Conan the Avenger by Robert E. Howard

No, the one above is not a Sphere/Lancer edition. It is a Bantam cover by Bob Larkin. Not sure how much it appeals to the pulp readers, but I, for sure, have got an appetite for Frank Frazetta and prefer him over Larkin.

When Lancer decided to re-print Robert E. Howard’s Conan books , it fell on the able shoulders of Frazetta to work on the cover art. Frazetta, who also produced paintings for Burroughs’ Barsoom and Tarzan series, revolutionized the genre of sword and sorcery with his interpretation of Conan. Let’s take a look at some of the Sphere/Lancer covers of Conan books (below).

Continue reading

Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Smokescreen by Khaled Talib

smokescreen khaled talib

Thanks to Frederick Forsyth, Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, the last 100 years had had its share of cold war espionage novels. While CIA, MI6, and KGB kept us highly entertained, maybe we need a break from the familiar landscapes of US, Britain and Russia. How about an intriguing plot involving Israel and Singapore with a touch of Cairo? Khaled Talib, in his debut novel, brings you a cold blooded and action packed world of espionage different from the conventional thrillers.

The Story

Jethro Westrope, a journalist, accidentally learns about an international conspiracy that involves the assassination of the Prime Minister of Israel. However, he is falsely accused of murder and someone tries to use him as a smokescreen to divert attention from the actual sinister plot. Jet struggles against mighty odds and finds in himself situations that are out of his control. But he has to stop the assassination or else lose his life to serve someone else’s purpose.

“You’re just the unlucky guy chosen to die” Jet is told. He is to be blamed for the assassination of the Prime Minister. Can Jet survive?

What’s so good

“Smoke clouded the man’s face like a Tuareg’s desert veil as he exhaled a long, apple-scented plume from the sheesha’s looping pipe. It bolstered the disguise he wore in the languid summer afternoon at El Fishawy Café in Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili souk district: a fake moustache and a thick goatee that seemed to make his round chin smile more, a pair of dark metal-framed sunglasses, a long-flowing brown galabeya, and a white turban.”

The setting and storyline is fresh, and this comes as a welcome change in a genre quite saturated with clichés. The exotic feel of the thriller gets you excited from the very beginning. A combination of Israel, Singapore and Egypt can hardly go wrong, eh?

Khaled’s attention to details, comprehensive knowledge of local culture and political machinery makes the plot completely believable. The characters look real and the dialogues are carefully crafted. Cunning spies, merciless assassins, shady politicians — Smokescreen is nothing less than a Hollywood blockbuster. Khaled’s sharp sense of humor adds to the fun.

Smokescreen, with its fast pace and Jason Bourne like situations, will remind you of Ludlum’s novel. Khaled said in an interview that he was fascinated with The Bourne Identity. Smokescreen could have easily been a rip-off of the classic thriller but to his credit, Khaled succeeds in making his novel something different. Jet is not a trained killer like Bourne. He is a common journalist forced into the world of Bourne. And that makes his adventure so sublime.

Khaled Talib, a former journalist and a full time writer, has made an impressive debut. We will be waiting for more from him.

Smokescreen at Amazon.
Continue reading