Friday, November 23, 2007
The Department of Lost Barbarians: Ryre
Technically speaking, Ramsey Campbell's Ryre isn't a barbarian, but rather a mercenary swordsman of somewhat murky origins, however his adventures are suitably sword & sorcery-ish to get him included in the DoLB.
I've already mentioned his first adventure, The Sustenance of Hoak from Swords against Darkness volume 1. Ryre has three more adventures in further volumes of Swords Against Darkness, The Pit of Wings, The Changer of Names, and The Mouths of Light. Hoak is probably the strongest of the lot, with Pit next in line.
All four share two attributes in that they are all primarily horror stories with action added to the mix and that all feature menaces you've never seen before. One of Ramsey Campbell's stated goals as a writer is to not repeat himself and to not write about the same old things. He succeeds admirably, both in the tales of Ryre and in his horror fiction. I've read about half the stories in the collection, Alone with the Horrors, and I've yet to run into anything trite or overused. Campbell has a lot of original and disturbing ideas. It's nice to see a writer who isn't satisfied to just fall back on the same old tropes.
I find it a little disappointing that there are no more Ryre stories. They're some of the more effective sword & sorcery tales I've read in a long time. Campbell has reportedly written at least four other heroic fantasy stories, but none of these feature Ryre as the protagonist. All four Ryre tales and the other four fantasy stories are collected in a small book called Far Away and Never published by Necronomicon Press in 1995. I've got a copy on the way.
I also discovered while researching Campbell, that he completed three of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane fragments. I'm not usually one for anyone finishing up fragments in this way, but I figure Campbell can pull it off if anyone can. And as it turns out, I already own the edition that the stories appear in. It was sitting in a stack of REH paperbacks I'd bought a while back. I'd just never looked at it carefully because the Del Rey edition of Solomon Kane is now the definitive one.