Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Vestments of Pestilence

   Do you like sword and sorcery? The real stuff, I mean, where sorcery is something dark and dangerous and people get hurt when they fight with sharp edged weapons? Something that's a little exotic and makes you think of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, but still is very much its own thing?
   Then boy have I got a story for you.
   Vestments of Pestilence is a short story by John C. Hocking, author of one of my top five Conan pastiches, Conan and the Emerald Lotus. Over the last few years John has written several stories about a pair of adventurers, The Archivist and Lucella. The Archivist is what his title implies, a man of learning who travels John's well imagined world seeking knowledge of arcane and Eldrich subjects. Lucella is a warrior woman who is not to be messed with.
   I'm not going to give you a plot summary of this one, because watching events unfold is half the fun of this story. There are some mystery elements, some humor, a lot of action, and considerable sorcery, all told in a smooth first person voice that has echoes of hard boiled heroes like Marlowe and Spade, but not the overblown snark that seems to be so popular in current urban fantasy. You wouldn't mind hanging out with The Archivist after the adventure has passed. First person is hard to carry off in fantasy I think, but John's got the knack.
   Don't get the idea that this is some sort of old school REH pastiche though. The feel of the story is nice and dark but the story telling itself is very modern. I was aware as I read that the pace and the suspense were slowly being ratcheted up until I was racing through the last couple of scenes to see how things turned out. There's also some marvelous characterization in the tale, and trust me, in a story of this length, that's a hard thing to do.
   So yeah, very cool story, with engaging heroes and solid action and suspense. This is the real thing for S&S fans. And get this. Right now you can read it for free over at Black Gate Magazine. I'll supply a link at the bottom of the post. This is the fifth tale of The Archivist and Lucella, so maybe John will put together a collection soon. Or better yet, a novel featuring the pair.
   Now here's the link. Go check it out.



Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks, Charles.
Kindest words my story has received. Glad it reached you.


Rachel said...

I'm not a huge S&S fan so I love these short stories that you highlight so I can dabble with a genre I have a little trouble with. I think this is the third one that I've read off your recommendation so thanks for sharing these gems you find.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I really enjoyed it, John. Like I said, great characterization and plenty of action, plus an original and cool sorcerous menace.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Glad I can steer you toward the good stuff, Rachel.