Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Hadon Of Ancient Opar!
What an adventure! Just finished Philip Farmer's Hadon of Ancient Opar and I am happy to report it was a compelling and at times breakneck adventure with lots of action within a beautifully realized fantasy environment. The premise of Hadon is pretty interesting, Farmer speculates what might have the sprawling empire which Opar, the mysterious treasure city discovered by Tarzan of the Apes have been like in its earliest days as part of a grand African empire called Khokarsa. As it turns out Opar is relatively small outpost in this grand empire of city-states populated by a wide and complex variety of humans and human variants. It's a complicated caste system with humans on top but just barely as versions of ape-humans and neanderthal-humans also live within the confines.
We meet Hadon of Opar as he is preparing to go to the great city at the center of the vast empire of Khokarsa to compete in some grand gladitorial contest which will select the next king of the empire by offering him the hand of the Princess Awineth. But after the first part of the story which deals at length with the competition and introduces us to the boy-who-will-become-man Hadon and his comrades and enemies, we discover that the current King of the empire, an evil type named Minrauth IV, has other plans after the competition is completed. It results in a grand quest and Hadon's journey into the wilds of this dangerous ground gives us even greater insights into the nature of the cultures which comprise it.
One of the characters who is most important to the narrative is Sahindar the Gray-Eyed Archer God who it turns out is actually John Gribardson, the extremely long-lived protagonist of Farmer's earlier Wold Newton novel Time's Last Gift. Sahindar is regarded as a god among these peoples and is given credit for having advanced this culture forward in terms of agriculture and technology. The quest also introduces Pag a dwarf armed with a great axe from heavens and Lilala a beautiful and exotic woman from a doomed civilization. One character who dominates the story and gives it a real verve is the powerfully-thewed Kwasin, Hadon's mighty and often mad cousin who is in exile but chances upon the expedition and for reasons of his own joins it. His giant might and out-sized personality give a real lift to the proceedings.
It's tough to talk too much about this story as I don't want to spoil it. But be prepared it seems to be part of a unfinished series by Farmer, which has been in recent years completed, though those parts are not currently available from Titan Books. I don't know if Flight to Opar picks up where Hadon of Ancient Opar leaves off, but there's a good chance it does. I will say I personally did not find the ending unsatisfying, but I can see where opinions might differ.
I recommend this book. There are a few passages in which Farmer seems to get a bit overwhelming with detail, but by and large the story has a wonderful sweep and brisk pace. It's a grand read.