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.