#amreading: Arena of Antares

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.

Kindle Nook Kobo

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What book are you currently reading?  How do you like it so far?

19 thoughts on “#amreading: Arena of Antares

  1. Prue

    “He hits things with swords, leaps from burning airships, arm-wrestles creatures who have more limbs than is proper,”
    I was amused by the last bit and thinking it all sounded action-packed in a swashbuckling sort of way then read,
    “and resists the alluring charms of mysterious women”
    which also made me smile but then got to,
    “–sometimes all at once”
    and nearly fell off my chair laughing 😀

    This is an author I’ve never tried, and that seems a pity. Thanks for this Mike.

    Currently reading ‘A Far Cry from Kensington’ by Muriel Spark.

    Enjoying your blog muchly 🙂

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed that. The Dray Prescot series definitely subscribes to the multiple limbs=alien theory of creature design. Just take something like a panther, make it bigger, change the color of its fur, glue a couple more sets of legs onto it, and BAM!…instant monster living on a savage and distant world.

      And now that you mention it, yeah…there’s definitely a swashbuckling vibe running through books like this.

      ‘A Far Cry from Kensington’ sounds interesting. Too bad it doesn’t seem to be available as an ebook so I could give it a try sometime 😦

  2. lwsapir

    I have never read any of these books, but they sound fascinating. Like James Bond…in outer space, with a dash of hallucinogens thrown in.

    Currently I am reading On Basilisk Station by David Weber…per your recommendation, of course!

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      They’re pretty far from being the most amazing books I’ve ever read. But they give me a warm fuzzy because I liked them so much when I was young, and they don’t do anything to ruin that. I’ve reread some stuff I liked when I was a kid and it was like, “Oh, wow…what did I ever see in this stuff?”

      On Basilisk Station…interesting choice. Later volumes in the series have been letting me down in a lot of ways, but I remember liking that one quite a bit. Nimitz is like a cat turned up to 11 😉

          1. lwsapir

            That is rumored to be part of a secret 5th book that is in the works… That, and she files for divorce from her bossy buzz-kill of a husband.

          2. lwsapir

            My Little Ponies are incredibly dangerous. We had one prowling the neighborhood for a while. It had fangs. Reportedly, it ate a dachshund.

  3. Lara Schiffbauer

    Have you ever read the Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazney? I started it, and am interested, but it is kind of hard to get past the dated writing. Is that a problem for you, reading the Dray Prescott series?

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      I’ve actually never read any Roger Zelazney. I always meant to because I would always see his books everywhere, but somehow I never got around to trying any of them.

      Yeah, the Prescot series certainly is no showcase for modern writing. I usually don’t mind dated writing. I just try to go with it and appreciate it for what it is–a product of its time. Although, that gets much harder when we get into the realm of the literary stuff they make you read in English class 🙂

  4. Kirsten

    I am intrigued by this, and will have to check it out. I am curious how writing styles might have changed over the decades, reflecting perhaps the changing tastes and priorities of our culture. Or not.

    I just finished reading ‘Debris’ by Jo Anderton–who is a debut author over at Angry Robot. I was fortunate enough to win a signed copy in a blog contest. (Have I mentioned how much I love blogging?! Free stuff!)
    I loved the world building in this story, both sumptuous and stark at intervals. The story has it all, stunning setting, sinister undercurrents, strange symbols, steam pouring from the cracks in the streets, as well as sizzling romance interludes. All without an extra limb in sight! So, in summary, I loved it.
    In the nonfiction department of my reading, I’m devouring ‘The Sixties’ by Jenny Diski, a combination of her personal memories combined with the historical perspective of a young woman growing up in London during that turbulent decade. I was especially pleased with her assertion that the best thing to come out of that decade was the music. It tied in nicely with the theme for my WIP. 🙂


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