Filed under: SF | Tags: human sacrifice, kings of wood, pulp novels, vikings v. mongols v. aztecs
The below entry was originally published as an email to friends.
Last month, I attended a party at a friend’s apartment. Toward the end of the evening, I was perusing the book shelves when my friend pointed out one of his prized literary possessions. He had purchased it at a garage sale or, I would prefer to think, an estate sale. It was a Tor pulp paperback, published in the 80s, entitled “KING OF THE WOOD.” On the cover, a ginger viking (he has a horned helmet signifying he is a viking), baring his teeth, lifts his broad sword aloft. Appropriately enough, he is standing in a forest. His shiny iron shield bears a wolf’s head. Above the title, the caption screams: “VIKINGS CLASH WITH MONGOL HORDES, AND AMERICA IS THE PRIZE!”
Upon reading the caption, I knew I had to read it. Or at least borrow it, just to be funny. Well, I read it. Below, for your consideration, dear reader:
MY BOOK REPORT:
The novel bears the trappings of a fantasy and science fiction joint, but it is more appropriately called “alternative history.” It takes place in 1450. A century before, the Vikings land in America and instead of being chased off like pussies by the angry natives, make permanent settlements all along the East Coast of North America. They give places like New York City Viking names like “Bjornsby Harbor.” The Moors from Muslim Spain settle in Florida (TERRORISMS!). The Aztec are unconquered and thrive throughout Mexico and Central America and after we meet them the author mentions human sacrifice 20 times a page because he is so excited about it. The villainous Mongols have conquered most of the Eurasian continent, North Africa, Japan and have their eyes set lustily on the New World…
The plot follows a ginger barbarian by the name of Hring as he is exiled from his Norse kingdom for killing a kinsmen and embarks on a meandering journey through most of North and Central America to follow his “wyrd” whatever the fuck that means. Every 25 pages or so Hring bangs a lady, or at least sees her naked (see below). Shortly after every sex scene is a badass fight sequence with swords. About 75% of the time, Hring ends up beheading some jerk. Hring somehow overcomes his absolute lack of personality or charm, when every new culture he stumbles into embraces him. Invariably they make him some kind of general or prince. Among Hring’s adventures (SPOILERS): seeing a witch naked, making fun of a king, seeing a bison in Florida, banging a witch after taking part in a pagan May Day festival where he sprays fake semen over the bodies of village virgins and molests them under official village government sanction, becomes a pirate, almost gets eaten by cannibals, hangs out with the Aztecs, scopes lots of human sacrifice, has lots of sex, decides rather randomly that he hates human sacrifice, learns Aztec, Crow, and Mongol languages, kills a bunch of guys with a stick while tied to a post at the top of the highest temple in Tenochtitlan, leads a Mongol army against the Aztecs, becomes a colonial administrator of the Mongol Horde, becomes king by his own hand in Norse North America, marries the witch, reconsiders his views on human sacrifice and offers himself up to the slaughter on another May Day to ensure a good harvest.
A choice passage: “She stripped off the outer garment, then pulled her undershirt over her head. She stood naked in front of him, her eyes as chill as steel. Her body was whiter than any milk, laced with a network of blue veins, like some fine marble. Her shoulders were broad, her waist narrow, swelling downward to wide, womanly hips. Her thighs and calves were powerful, and the sun behind her shone through a covering of white down, surrounding them with a pale halo. Her belly was rounded, swelling out from below the deep, wide navel into a double curve, cleft by a line running from the crotch upward. Her pubic thatch was a dense tangle of dark blonde curls writhing (ed. REALLY?) upward almost to the navel and coating her thighs on the insides for a handbreadth toward the knees. Hring was grateful that his mailed codpiece hid his reaction.” p. 31.
Everyone needs to read “King of the Wood.”
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