Currently I #amreading Arena of Antares, by Kenneth Bulmer writing as Alan Burt Akers. It is book 7 in the Dray Prescot series, which first saw publication in 1972 and runs through 53 volumes, though the last several have only appeared in German.
Like the John Carter stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Dray Prescot series belongs to the “sword and planet” subgenre of science fiction and they are similar in many ways. Inconceivable forces hurl a mighty Earthman to a new world more savage than the one of his birth, catapulting him into the middle of rugged adventure. He hits things with swords, leaps from burning airships, arm-wrestles creatures who have more limbs than is proper, and resists the alluring charms of mysterious women–sometimes all at once.
But while John Carter hits things with swords on Mars, Dray Prescot leaps from burning airships on Kregen, a planet 400 light-years from Earth.
While on Kregen, Prescot is subject to the whim of powerful and inscrutable entities known as the Star Lords. The Star Lords often fling him into unpleasant situations using some sort of teleportation technology and expect him to perform dangerous missions, but they pretty much never tell him what the mission actually is. If he gets it wrong, they either fling him back into the unpleasant situation to try again, or hurl him back to Earth. Then the Star Lords realize they actually need him after all, so they fling him into some other unpleasant situation and the madness begins anew.
Prescot would rather stay on Kregen with his wife, so this behavior makes him angry. No doubt he yearns to express his displeasure by hitting the Star Lords with swords.
This series was a favorite of mine when I was in middle school, and I used to have a fairly extensive collection of paperbacks. I’m glad to see them in ebook form. They don’t hold up quite as well as I remember, but they deliver what I expect. Serviceable writing. Uncomplicated characters and plots. An array of creatures with too many arms and who probably have a fiendish time finding shirts that fit. Adventure so rugged it gives my eReader five o’clock shadow.
Arena of Antares is shaping up to be no different. In this one, Prescot has to drive an army of conquerors from a once-peaceful nation. Judging by the title, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that an arena is the mastermind behind the dastardly plot.
In sword and planet stories, it often is.
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What book are you currently reading? How do you like it so far?