The Coming of the Horseclans: Did Not Finish

Robert Adams 1. The Coming of the HorseclansThe Coming of the Horseclans by Robert Adams

After two centuries, the undying High Lord Milo Morai has returned to the Horseclans to lead them to their prophesied destiny. First they must conquer their enemies and the Witchmen — pre-holocaust scientists who have continued living by transplanting their minds into stolen bodies.

I stole most of that synopsis from the back of the book, because I only made it to page sixty-nine, the end of chapter six, and I still hadn’t gotten to the meat of the story.

I’ve wanted to get my hands on a copy of The Coming of the Horseclans for a while now. When I was a kid, I remember seeing these books on the grocery store magazine shelves or drugstore spinner racks, and later on at the mall bookstores in the Men’s Adventure section. I was already a fan of Conan and some other lesser-known sword & sorcery heroes, and just the name, “Horseclans,” stirred my blood. Add that to the exciting cover illustrations, which I now know were done by Ken Kelly, and I can’t explain why I never picked one up back then. (Most likely, I was just broke.) So, I really wanted to like this book and follow the rest of the series, which is eighteen books total.

However, my nostalgia for old books I hadn’t read didn’t prove strong enough to carry me through. The two prologues — that’s right, two, titled “Prologue I” and “Prologue II” — were sheer torture to read. No lie, I could hear Ben Stein’s monotone voice as I read them. I hoped that once I got to the story, things would pick up, but they didn’t.

I found nothing interesting about the hero, Milo Morai. He’s the typical macho character found in way too many cookie-cutter action-adventures. He has it all: good looks, skills (per Napoleon Dynamite, “Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills”), wealth, and brains. He doesn’t seem to be killable, or at least I never got to a point in the story that told of any Achilles’ heel. He knows how to telepathically communicate with horses and cats of the sabre-tooth variety. Women can’t resist him. They don’t even mind much when he enslaves them, which is kinda the Horseclans’ thing.

The Horeseclans are basically a post-apocalyptic version of the Huns. They wander the far-future North American plains, raiding the local farmers and doing some trade business with the slaves and the plunder they acquire. Up to the point I stopped reading, they seem to be the dominating bad-asses of their time, which is helped by the fact that their enemies stupidly fall for any strategic trap Milo sets for them. Enemies that are so vile — they sexually abuse and murder young boys — and so idiotic, I can’t imagine why any subordinates would ever indulge them. And don’t even get me started on the unpronounceable languages of all these people.

Mr. Adams takes the long way around to get to a point. Granted, maybe I would have gotten some clarification eventually if I’d have stuck with it. But I just couldn’t get motivated enough to bother. For a tale that is supposedly rife with combat and barbarian warriors, I was bored. Even the potential of sexy slave women couldn’t rouse my interest. ;)

With all due respect to the late Robert Adams, I think these stories are just dated. Perhaps genre fiction of the mid-seventies, especially the adventurous sci-fi/fantasy geared toward a male readership, wasn’t taken as seriously by publishers back then as it is nowadays. The Coming of the Horseclans lacks sophistication and uniqueness when compared to current books of similar genre.

Maybe I didn’t give Adams a fair shot. HORSECLANS fans, feel free to set me straight. I sincerely want to know if I just don’t get it.


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GREG HERSOM’S addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

View all posts by Greg Hersom

13 comments

  1. Nostalgia for old books one hasn’t read — I have experienced that as well! Mostly from when I was roughly middle school age and would see, yes, books in the grocery store that I knew my parents wouldn’t let me get away with. And you’re right, they often aren’t as good as the book we built up in our head.

  2. LOL Kelly- You too with your parents? Usually once I got a book into my bookshelf, I was safe from my parents paying it much mind.. One time my mother took a marker to the Boris cover of Tarzan and the Castaways, and topless girl in g-string, ended-up in a two-piece. :) Mom used to call many of my books “Weird Stuff”
    But you’re exactly right about building those books up in our head. :)In fact, Kat did such an awesome job with the Robert Adams page, that just looking at the titles and book covers makes me want to like this book all over again -like maybe the other books are better… I’m hopeless. :(

  3. Spouse and I read some of these when they came out. I don’t think we ever read the first one. As Spouse said, “You can’t throw a rock without hitting another immortal character.” And there didn’t seem to be much of a plot–or there was, one plot over and over.

    Later there was another main character, a Horseclans chieftain. Billy Bob? Something like that. Or maybe I’m confusing the character with Billy Bob Thorton.

    Adams, however, sounded like a weird and interesting guy–apparently he made edged weapons and armor in his backyard? Or maybe that was just a rumor at the time.

  4. Was it Billy the Ax? I think I saw a title by that name.

    Not sure about the weapons, but I read somewhere he was a veteran of Vietnam, which I found a little odd, because the combat and warrior mentality just didn’t seem realistic like I would expect -say like in comparison to another Vietnam Vet, Glenn Cook .

  5. @Greg: Yes! I read all my trashy romances at the library. I was especially fond of those “saga spanning umpteen generations” ones. And then when my mom came to pick me up from the library, I’d have to quickly shuffle them onto a shelf and pretend to be reading something innocuous, or studying. LOL. I must have given the librarians fits.

  6. @Kelly- “saga spanning umpteen generations”? Is that like Flowers in the Attic? Just a guess cause I think you lost me on that one.

    Sounds like as much fun as the old comic-book in the text book during class trick. I did that from like 1st thru 3rd grade. (which probably explains why I ended-up in the class for kids that needed help with their reading, so I strongly recommend not to trying that one kids. :) )

  7. I did read VC Andrews, but I was thinking more of the ones where, like, the founders of the family came over on a boat and started a business and got rich but had a lot of romantic drama, and then their kids had drama, and then their kids had drama, and then maybe their kids resolved some big drama by solving a mystery that goes back to the first generation. Part of me thinks I mostly liked them because they were umpteen pages long!

  8. @Kelly- the only thing like that comes to my mind is Thorn Birds, or maybe Centennial?

  9. It’s obvious that Greg hasn’t been perusing the romance shelves. Greg, these things are everywhere.

  10. Apparently..
    These comments just made me realize that I know almost nothing about the romance genre, which kinda trips-me-out. Because I bet there is only a very few guys out there that know any more about romance novels than I do. On the flip-side, you gals, IF you’re are not already reading genres geared toward men, at least seem to have a pretty good grasp on what we’re reading. (Heck, I’m not even sure there is a genre that is as selectively for men as romance is for women. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though.)

  11. Greg, I’d rather read anything you read rather than what’s on the romance shelves. Right now I’m reading The Swords of Lankhmar. Such great stuff!!

  12. @Greg, actually I did read Centennial around that time, and did like it! Now that’s a doorstopper!

  13. @Kat- LOL!! I know all FanLit girls have very well rounded reading tastes, but you came to my mind first as I was typing that comment. ;)

    @Kelly- I never read that book, but when it was made into a TV mini-series, I watched every episode. (I was maybe in 5th grade.) I loved it. It made me want to be a voyageurs (and no, that’s not voyeurs, i had to look it up.)- Northwoods frontiersman who spent the winter with American Indians to trade and fur-trap.

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