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Book Review

Book Cover

Hadon of Ancient Opar


Author: Philip José Farmer
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $12.95, Cdn $15.95
ISBN: 978 1 78116 295 8
Available 25 January 2013

Being a matriarchal society, only power over the army and navy reside in the king of Opar, the real power remains with the priestess. Opar is also unusual as it chooses its king via an athletic competition and it is to such a competition, the young man, Hadon travels, hoping to become the next King of Opar...

Hadon of Ancient Opar is the first book in Philip José Farmer’s (1918-2009) Atlantian, Khokarsan series, itself part of the wider Wold Newton family of novels. The book was initially published in 1974.

Farmer was well known for taking pulp characters, especially Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan, and portraying them as if they had actually existed. Many, but not all of the books were essentially a retelling of existing tales. In the case of Opar, it is a ruined and decayed city which appears in the Tarzan books. Farmer has rolled time back 10,000 years to tell a tale of Opar when it was strong and vibrant.

As the games are to the death, it’s not giving much of the plot away to say that Hadon triumphs. However, the nascent King has not taken account the machinations of Minruth, who is not only not particularly happy about giving up power, but actually wants to wrestle more away from the priestess, his own daughter, an act which would lead to an incestuous union as the priestess will marry the next King.

The books are set in central Africa, a savage land and dangerous to traverse, when Hadon resplendent in his robes arrives, expecting to be given the crown. He is instead sent on a mission towards the Mediterranean, a mission Minruth hopes will kill him. The adventure takes him north towards Sahhindar, an apparently eternal being from the future.

Farmer was a master of stylistically altering his writing to suit the material, in some cases you would get a direct and pared down style, suitable for his adventure stories. With Hadon Farmer provides a large amount of detail in his effort to build a convincing world, even providing appendices akin to what Tolkien did with Lord of the Rings, but not as extensive.

As with the wider Wold Newton books Farmer has also included many references to both his own reinterpretation of the pulp classics as well as the original material. Although there is carnage aplenty, Hadon does not push the violent or sexual boundaries as much as some of the others in the series.

Overall, this is another stonking good read from a well respected author and should appeal to both fans of Farmer as well as fans of the original pulp novels.


Charles Packer

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