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If you're at all a fan of fantasy, you owe it to yourself to read the original Conan stories

written by Robert E. Howard. He's one of the very few writers of pre-Tolkien fantasy
whose characters are still household words a hundred years later. There's a reason.
Conan is an elemental, archetypal character, and Howard's writing is masterful -- as
Stephen King described it, "Howard's writing seems so highly charged with energy that
it nearly gives off sparks." No one else in fantasy has ever managed to write action as
ferociously primal as Howard, and Howard's original Conan stories have a madness and
a ferocious joy that no other writer has ever completely recaptured. If you've only seen
Conan through knockoffs or films, do yourself a favor and read the original: the
difference is like whiskey to water.

I like this collection because it's a one-volume collection of all Howards' Conan stories,
in order of publication without extraneous materials edited by L. Sprague de Camp or
others based on Howard's notes -- for example, it foregoes including "The Treasure of
Tranicos" (de Camp's edited version) in favor of Howard's original Conan story, "The
Black Stranger" (which was rejected for publication, rewritten by Howard for another
character named Black Vulmea, which was again re-written by DeCamp as "Tranicos").
It contains Howard's two essays on the Hyborian Age (detailing history before and after
Conan, respectively), the poem "Cimmeria," and all in all contains everything it needs
to contain and nothing it shouldn't -- a solid, single-volume collection of the original
Conan stories by Howard, in order of publication.

I should mention one broad issue with Howard's writing and a couple of relatively
minor flaws with this volume.

The broad issue is that there are some explicitly racist and sexist elements in Howard's
writing. He's still very much worth reading despite that, for all the reasons mentioned
above, and because Howard's influence on the fantasy genre as a whole is probably
unmatched by anyone else short of Tolkien. But it's right there in his writing and it can't
really be papered over or apologized for; it's a problem and I'm not going to defend it.

As to this specific edition, the first issue is that for some of the stories herein, the editor
used the text as initially *published*, rather than as initially *written*. While a great
improvement over publishing de Camp's altered versions, this is still a problem because
Howard's editor at _Weird Tales_ made some edits to the stories. This isn't a critical
issue for most readers, but if you'd prefer to spend the extra for complete textual
accuracy, the three-volume Del Rey set (_The Bloody Crown of Conan_, _The Coming
of Conan the Cimmerian_, and _The Conquering Sword of Conan_) used, as much as
possible, Howard's original, unedited text. So for sticklers, go with those editions.

The second flaw with this volume is the artwork. There's a great deal of magnificent
Conan artwork out there, and the illustrations in this volume aren't the best I've seen.
Again, not a major issue, but if this had included Frank Franzetta's Conan illustrations,
it would have been a heirloom volume.

. Howard and Conan by Stephen Jones.A complete list of the contents: The Hyborian Age (essay) Cimmeria (verse) The Phoenix on the Sword The Scarlet Citadel The Tower of the Elephant Black Colossus The Slithering Shadow The Pool of the Black One Rogues in the House Shadows in the Moonlight Queen of the Black Coast The Devil in Iron The People of the Black Circle A Witch Shall Be Born Jewels of Gwahlur Beyond the Black River Shadows in Zamboula Red Nails The Hour of the Dragon (verse) The Hour of the Dragon The God in the Bowl The Black Stranger The Frost-Giant's Daughter Drums of Tombalku (draft) The Vale of Lost Women Wolves Beyond the Border (draft) The Snout in the Dark (draft) The Hall of the Dead (synopsis) The Hand of Nergal (fragment) Notes on Various Peoples of the Hyborian Age Afterword: Robert E.