Monday, March 21, 2016

Spawn of the Winds review


    Well, the submission of my novel, Cthulhu Armageddon for publication has put me in a mood to finish off the Titus Crow series by Brian Lumley. I enjoyed The Burrowers Beneath, The Transition of Titus Crow, and The Clock of Dreams but they did tend to veer from cosmic horror to classic Pulp action. Indeed, the books went completely off the rails, in my opinion, with The Clock of Dreams and only returned to normalcy with this volume.

    Spawn of the Winds is the fifth novel in the Titus Crow series which, despite its name, follows a variety of Pulpish heroes through Seventies as they do battle with a variety of Great Old Ones as well as befriend alien but benevolent beings on distant worlds opposed to their works. In the Lumley universe, half-human hybrids tend to be beautiful space babes and Cthulhu is dastardly rather than a force above good or evil. It's a universe where Cthulhu's good brother Kthanid keeps him imprisoned on Earth and the greatest way to fight gigantic blood-sucking worms is water.

    They're silly but fun books.

    Spawn of the Winds switches from Titus Crow and Henri de Marigny to Silberhutte, a psychic Texan who belongs to the same monster-hunting organization as the previous heroes. Determined to avenge his dead brother, killed by the evil wind elemental Ithaqua, he gathers a group of associates onto a plane to investigate a means to slaying the beast.

    Unfortunately for Hank, he and the others are swept through a cosmic tornado created by the Great Old One and deposited on the ice-ridden world of Borea. Narrowly avoiding being added to Ithaqua's bank of inhumanly cold worshipers, they join with the monster's beautiful half-human daughter Armandra to form a resistance. As Hank falls in love with the strange demigoddess, his sister seeks some way to protect them against their monstrous foe and unravels the history of a world in another dimension populated by fellow humans.

    Rather than Lovecraft, Lumley seems to be drawing from Edgar Rice Burroughs as Spawn of the Winds reads like an homage to his Barsoom as well as Pellucidar series. For those unfamiliar with the planetary romance genre, it's basically, "Earthman gets transported to fantastic land full of monsters. Earthman befriends local tribe with beautiful woman, Earthman impresses both, and then has to deal with whatever is ailing said tribe at the moment. There will also be an evil traitor in his tribe who is jealous of his newfound rival." Spawn of the Winds follows this formula to the tee. It actually hurts the story to some extent as I was able to predict all of the plot-twists before they happened.

    The story also had some uncomfortable traces of the racism present in Burroughs stories. Armandra is a half-Caucasian/half-Great Old One worshiped as a goddess by the Native American and Eskimo-descended tribesmen. Ithaqua prefers only white human females to be his mates, even though he's a frigging alien monster. Oh and our hero is the big burly Texan with only one person of color in his group. Eesh. Despite this, the effect is somewhat mitigated by the fact it's not superior civilization or race which makes Hank their leader but his inborn psychic powers. It is these abilities which impress Armandra and convince her he might be useful in the battle against Ithaqua. Even so, the book's attitudes feel a bit retrograde even from Lumley's other works.
 
    The world-building is the best part of the book. Borea is wonderfully detailed from its culture, religion, climate, to history. Ithaqua is a better antagonist than Great Cthulhu as he's not nearly as powerful as the rest of his fellows, allowing the heroes to pose an actual threat to him. They don't, really, but they can thwart his efforts much better than a world-destroying monster like Yog-Sothoth.

    Some may argue Ithaqua is a too humanized monster and, yeah, I agree but he's a fun too humanized monster. My preferred Great Old Ones are above good and evil the same way a storm or an earthquake are rather than the devilish evildoers which seem to populate these pages. Despite this, I like the care and attention Lumley devotes to making Borea come to life.

    The book is fun but it's not exactly something which is going to blow anyway away with its originality. If you were a fan of the original books, you may also dislike the switch from the more intellectual Titus and Henri too. Still, I don't regret my purchase and finished reading the series. I will say nothing here approaches the enjoyment factor of the original The Burrowers Beneath. Basically, if you liked the previous books, then this will probably appeal to you. It's also closer closer to the original than the other sequels.

8/10

The Burrowers Beneath 
The Transition of Titus Crow 
The Clock of Dreams
In the Moons of Borea
Elysia

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