BITTER STEEL: Tales and Poems of Epic Fantasy is a new collection by Charles Allen Gramlich, author of COLD IN THE LIGHT,the TALERA trilogy, and WRITING WITH FIRE, a book about the art of putting words to paper and getting something other folks would like to read.
I’ve read the previously mentioned books and an odd story here and there, but most of these were new to me. The center piece of the set are the five Thal Kyrin stories that make up half the book(a sixth one, published here for the first time, has Kyrin only as a peripheral character, but it belongs here) he of the planet Thanos, which is an impossibly future Earth, destroyed by the alien Selkrie who’d colonized us in some distant past, screwing with the moon’s orbit in their battles with other alien races. Driven from Earth, they left it in ruins, civilization regressed to barbarism, to begin the long climb back. Still a few members of all those races were left behind and they masquerade as Gods to the now primitive humans.
Thal Kyrin is big, strong, and carries a big sword, with which he’s quite adept. He knows these “Gods” for what they really are and isn’t afraid.
In reading these six stories, I found myself drawn into Kyrin’s world, the situations, his battles, the clash of weapons, the noise, the blood flowing. I was there in person, an untouchable observer of course. What more can you ask? One can feel things happening here. Little details here and there. Our hero is not unbeatable, incapable of injury, but he has a will to win, survive, not let these false Gods take him down.
Kyrin could stand proudly beside Conan. Which is an apt comparison I think. Mr. Gramlich is an admirer, as are a lot of us, of Robert E. Howard’s work and openly acknowledges the influence. Many of the other stories and poems are homages, from Slugger’s Holiday(the Sailor Steve Costigan stories) to Recompense Reprise, a poem in response to Howard’s poem, Recompense.
These I liked best. Though that’s not saying the rest were bad. A Gathering of Ravens features a female protagonist. The poem In Cold Desert Light features Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter. There’s even a couple of humorous fantasy pieces, Worms In The Earth and Mithgar.
Mr. Gramlich has extensive notes on the stories, thoughts on possible influences at the time of writing. All in all, a fine set available from Borgo Press, an imprint of Wildside Press. Definitely worth checking out.
Sunday, the 20th, is the last day for the Once Upon A Time IV reading challenge. It’s been fun. Go HERE for other participants.