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Gulliver of Mars: An incredible fairy tale of adventure

Gulliver of Mars by Edwin L. Arnold

Editor's note: Because it's in the public domain, Gulliver of Mars is free in Kindle format.

On those rare occasions when it is discussed at all today, British author Edwin L. Arnold’s final book, Lt. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation, is primarily spoken of as a possible influence on Edgar Rice BurroughsJohn Carter novels. But this, it seems to me, is doing Arnold’s last writing endeavor a disservice, as the book is an exciting, highly imaginative, colorful piece of fantasy/sci-fi more than capable of standing on its own merits, discounting any possible relation to its more famous successor. Arnold’s book first saw the light of day as a 1905 hardcover published by... Read More

Starman’s Quest: Silverberg doesn’t want you to read it

Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg

Editor’s Note: Being in the public domain, Starman’s Quest (1958) is available free in Kindle format. You can add audio narration for $2.99.

There’s an author’s note attached to various versions of Starman’s Quest at Amazon that goes like this: “This book is a very early and not very good work of the author, who has tried to prevent the issue of a new edition of it. Unfortunately, since it is no longer protected by copyright, he can't prevent its distribution, but he recommends that you choose some other book of his to read.” The audio version I listened to has a less dire warning: “This was my second novel which I wrote when I was 19, in my junior year at Columbia. I’ve written better ones since. But readers interested in the archaeology of a writing career will probably find much to e... Read More

Carmilla: If you’re not an 1800s-horror expert, it’s better with a little homework

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Editor's note: Carmilla is free in Kindle format because it's in the public domain.

Giving Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) a 4-star rating feels a bit like critiquing my cat’s life choices. Sure, she could act more like a cat, and she could definitely make more sense from time to time — but ultimately, I love her and that ought to be enough.

Carmilla truly begins when Carmilla (surprise) arrives somewhat suddenly at the summer home of Laura and her father. It’s a picturesque manse on a hill, and the family is happy to take Carmi... Read More

The Chessmen of Mars: Fun and lively

The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Editor's note: This title can be purchased free on Kindle.

The Chessmen of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs' fifth JOHN CARTER novel out of eleven, first appeared in serial form in the magazine Argosy All Story Weekly from February to April 1922. It is easily the best of the Carter lot to this point; the most detailed, the most imaginative, and the best written. Carter himself only appears at the beginning and end of the tale. Instead, our action heroes are his daughter, Tara, who gets lost in a rare Barsoomian storm while joyriding in her flier and blown halfway across the surface of the planet, and the Gatholian jed Gahan, who goes in search of her.

In the first half of this novel, Tara and Gahan wind up in the clutches of the kaldanes -- bodiless brains who live in a symbi... Read More

Mr. Meeson’s Will: Half adventure novel, half legal thriller

Mr. Meeson’s Will by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: Mr. Meeson’s Will is free in Kindle format

Mr. Meeson’s Will was first printed in book form in October 1888, after having first appeared earlier that year in The Illustrated London News. It was H. Rider Haggard’s 11th novel (out of 58), and one in which his experiences as both a writer and aspiring lawyer were given vent. The novel is at once a tale of adventure, a critique of the publishing industry in late 19th century England, and a satire on the English legal system.

In the book’s first half, Augusta Smithers — our heroine and a successful author, who has unwittingly entered into an unfair contract with Meeson’s publishing firm — takes passage on board a s... Read More

SHORTS: Dicken, Martin, Sturgeon, Simak, Garcia-Rosas, Vonnegut

Here are a few short stories we've recently read and listened to that we wanted you to know about. This week's selection includes some excellent classic tales.


“The Uncarved Heart” by Evan Dicken (Nov. 2016, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue, 0.99£ UK magazine issue)
It’s hard to tell what someone is really made of, at least until you crack them open. Some have hearts fragile as spun glass, quick to break and impossible to p... Read More

Doctor Therne: A terrific medical novel by a great adventure fantasist

Doctor Therne by H. Rider Haggard

Free Kindle version.

Hard as it may be to believe, there was a time in English history when the populace vigorously refused to be protected against the smallpox scourge that so often ravaged the countryside. Indeed, to this day in the 21st century, there are still many people around the world who view vaccination against disease an unsafe practice, and refuse to partake of its proven benefits. Back in 1796, when English doctor Edward Jenner first demonstrated the usefulness of introducing cowpox into an individual to prevent smallpox, his discovery was viewed as a great advancement. By the early 1800s, vaccination of this type was widespread, despite the possible dangers of infection. But when Britain passed Vaccination Acts from 1840 - 1853 that made these vaccinations compulsory, well, that's when the trouble started. The Anti-Vaccination Leag... Read More

Philip Reeve talks RAILHEAD, Easter eggs, and gives away a book!

Today Fantasy Literature welcomes Philip Reeve, whose most recent novel, Railhead, is accruing rave reviews (including ours). Jana chatted with him about Easter eggs within his novel, his thoughts on grimdark, and more. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Railhead!

Jana Nyman: I recently discovered that Railhead is being adapted to film, so congratulations are absolutely in order! How excited are you to see your novel morph from page to screen? Are you involved with the process at all?

Philip Reeve: Yes, Warner Brothers bought the rights for the director Doug Liman, and I believe they have someone at work on a script — I’m not involved in the process in any way. Doug Liman’... Read More

Mark Andrew Ferguson chats LOST BOYS SYMPHONY

Today, Mark Andrew Ferguson visits Fantasy Literature to celebrate the paperback release of his well-received debut novel, The Lost Boys Symphony, which brings mental illness, time travel, and the bonds of friendship into a compelling and cohesive whole. He was kind enough to talk with Jana about his novel, sharing insight into his writing process and an upcoming project. One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Lost Boys Symphony!

Jana Nyman: I appreciated your treatment of Henry’s mental state: you took a serious approach with a very real illness and added a fantastical layer to it, which then affects Gabe and Val as well. Did you worry while writing that readers might think you were making light of mental il... Read More

Colonel Quaritch, V.C.: Far from a feeble novel

Colonel Quaritch, V.C.: A Tale of Country Life by H. Rider Haggard

Here is a free Kindle Version.

Almost 120 years before British author J.K. Rowling faced the pressure and the problem of how to follow a string of phenomenally successful novels, another British writer was faced with the same dilemma. H. Rider Haggard, between the years 1885 and 1887, had come out with four of the most popular novels of the late Victorian era: King Solomon's Mines (1885); its tremendous sequel, Allan Quatermain (1887); an extremely popular (and excellent) novel of the first Boer War, but one which is largely forgotten today, Jess (1887); and the seminal fan... Read More

The People of the Mist: An exciting lost-race novel… with no Quatermain

The People of the Mist by H. Rider Haggard

Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the so-called "Father of the Lost Race Novel," didn't write such stories featuring only Allan Quatermain and Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed. For example, his 17th novel, The People of the Mist (1894), is a smashing, wonderfully exciting, stand-alone lost-race tale featuring all-new characters. But the first third of the novel is hardly a lost-race story at all, but rather one of hard-bitten African adventure.

In it, we meet Leonard Outram, a penniless British adventurer who is seeking wealth in the wilds of the "Dark Continent" after losing his family lands and estates (through no fault of his own, it should be added). He becomes involved in the rescue of a young Portuguese woman from the largest slaving camp in Africa, and this thrilling and quit... Read More

Beatrice: A love… pentangle

Beatrice by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: This book, which is in the public domain, is available free in Kindle format.

Beatrice was first published in 1890, and was H. Rider Haggard's 10th novel, out of 58 titles. Unlike so many of his other books, Beatrice is one that features almost no action scenes whatsoever; no lost races, no adventure, no battles, no supernatural elements. (My editors here at FanLit are thus indulging me once again by allowing me to submit a review of a book by my favorite author, despite the fact that this book has little in the way of fantasy content.) What it IS, is a beautifully written romance novel; indeed, is is one of Haggard's most emotional works. It tells the story of the ill-fated love affair between Beatri... Read More

The Lady of Blossholme: A rousing historical novel with traces of the fantastic

The Lady of Blossholme by H. Rider Haggard

The Lady of Blossholme was Henry Rider Haggard's 34th piece of fiction, out of an eventual 58 titles. It is a novel that he wrote (or, to be technically accurate, dictated) in the year 1907, although it would not see publication until the tail end of 1909, and is one of the author's more straightforward historical adventures, with hardly any fantasy elements to speak of.

The story takes place in England during the reign of Henry VIII, in the year 1536. This was the period when King Henry was rebelling against Pope Clement VII, and when many Englishmen in the north, and many clergymen, were consequently rebelling against Henry, in the so-called Pilgrimage of Grace. To raise needed funds for this rebellion against the king, the Spanish abbot Clement Maldon murders Cicely Foterell's father a... Read More

Margaret: A full-blooded swashbuckler

(Fair) Margaret by H. Rider Haggard

Every schoolchild knows that in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. But what about the year before that? Did anything of note happen in 1491? Well, as any reader of H. Rider Haggard's 31st novel, Margaret, will discover, the answer is: plenty! Margaret, which Haggard wrote from 1905 - ‘06, was initially published in London in September 1907 under the title Fair Margaret, and here in the U.S. with the shortened title a month later. It is one of Haggard's historical fictions, but unlike some of his other historicals, such as 1911's Red Eve, this one contains absolutely no fantasy elements to speak of (my editors here on FanLit are perhaps being indulgent and generous for allowing me to even post ... Read More

Stella Fregelius: Nothing to apologize for

Stella Fregelius: A Tale of Three Destinies by H. Rider Haggard

At the beginning of his 25th novel, Stella Fregelius (1903), H. Rider Haggard deemed it necessary to offer an apology to his public. In this brief foreword, the author warns prospective readers that Stella is not one of his typical tales, and one with "few exciting incidents." Indeed, those expecting the typical Haggardian mix of lost races, African adventure, big-game hunting, massive battle scenes and historical sweep may be disappointed with this book. However, I feel that Rider Haggard need not have bothered with an apology, as Stella Fregelius turns out to be one of his most beautifully written, deeply felt and truly romantic works.

Free Kindle version


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Jess: An all-but-forgotten winner from H. Rider Haggard

Jess by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: Because it's in the public domain, Jess is available free on Kindle.

Jess was first published in the U.K. in March 1887, and was H. Rider Haggard's fifth novel out of 58. Haggard wrote this book toward the end of 1885... and, remarkably, in just nine weeks! But then again, this is the same man who, earlier in 1885, was able to write the astounding sequel to King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain, in just ten weeks, and who, in 1886, wrote the seminal fantasy She in just six! H... Read More

Queen Sheba’s Ring: Middling Haggard but still hugely entertaining

Queen Sheba’s Ring by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: The Kindle version of Queen Sheba's Ring is free!

I am not an author myself, and probably never will be (big sigh), so I can only imagine what a thrill it must be for a writer to see his or her hard work finally appear in print before the public. But can anyone imagine what it must feel like to have three novels released simultaneously?!?! Well, such was the lot for the great H. Rider Haggard, who, facing diminishing fortunes and increased familial responsibilities, was working at a frantic pace toward the end of the first decade of th... Read More

The Beasts of Tarzan: Raw lion steaks, anyone?

The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

To celebrate the centennial of Tarzan of the Apes in October 2012 — Edgar Rice Burroughs' first Tarzan novel was released in the October 1912 issue of All-Story Magazine — I  have been compulsively reading the first novels in what eventually became a series of some two dozen books. Book #2, The Return of Tarzan (1913), was a fairly direct sequel to the initial classic outing, while book #3, The Beasts of Tarzan, picks up the tale several years later. This novel originally appeared in serial form in the pages of All-Story Cavalier magazine in 1914 (the popular pulp had debuted in 1905 and would end its run in 1916), with a cover price of ... 10 cents. It made its first book appearance two years lat... Read More

Swallow: Action, romance, and some mystical elements, too

Swallow: A Tale of the Great Trek by H. Rider Haggard

No, this is not the Linda Lovelace biography. (Oops, sorry ... bad joke.) Rather, Swallow is yet another fine piece of adventure fantasy from the so-called "father of lost-race fiction," H. Rider Haggard. In addition to some 14 novels depicting the adventures of hunter Allan Quatermain, Haggard penned some dozen or so other books that were set in the wilds of Africa. Swallow, his 22nd novel, was written in 1896, but did not see publication until January 1899. It is a somewhat unique book in the Haggard canon, being narrated, as it is, by an old Boer woman, the Vrouw Botmar, who is anything but sympathetic to the cause of British imperialism. She tells her story of the Great Trek of 1836, and all the many incidents surrounding it. And what a tale thi... Read More

Tarzan of the Apes: A very fine introduction to the original swinger

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Three years ago, the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th birthday. Making his initial appearance in the October 1912 issue of All-Story Magazine, in the original Tarzan novel Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation proved to be so popular that the author went on to create 25 more novels featuring the jungle swinger. Released in book form two years later, the novel is a perfect introduction to the character who has been called the best-known fictional creation of the 20th century. Like many others, my only previous familiarity with Tarzan was via the Johnny Weissmuller films of the '30s and '40s — all dozen of them — and, to a lesser degree, those featuring Bruce Bennett, Buster Crabbe, Lex Barker and Gordon Scott (I have never gotten a chance to see the... Read More

Elissa and Black Heart and White Heart: Two classic tales of adventure

Elissa & Black Heart and White Heart by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: Because they are in the public domain, both Elissa and Black Heart and White Heart are available for free on Kindle. To find them, click on the Kindle covers in this review.

The H. Rider Haggard novels Elissa and Black Heart and White Heart are usually to be found (when they can be found at all) together in a single volume, and for good reason. They are both shorter works by this great author (indeed, at a mere 105 pages, Black Heart and White Heart must be considered more of a novella or longish short story), and both are tales of adventure in the African milieu that Haggard knew so well, although the tales take place in ti... Read More

The Yellow God: An African adventure

The Yellow God: An Idol of Africa by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard's 33rd work of fiction out of an eventual 58, The Yellow God was first published in the U.S. in November 1908, and in Britain several months later. In this one, Haggard deals with one of his favorite subjects -- African adventure -- but puts a fresh spin on things. Thus, instead of Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal and Egypt, where the bulk of his African tales take place, The Yellow God transpires, for the most part, in what I gather is now northern Nigeria. And instead of big-game hunter Allan Quatermain (the protagonist of no less than 14 Haggard novels), here we are given Alan Vernon, an ex-Army colonel who, with his steadfast servant Jeekie, goes on a quest to find the legendary gold hordes of the undiscovered Asiki people. And, after braving a ha... Read More

Love Eternal: A gold mine for the truly romantic at heart

Love Eternal by H. Rider Haggard

Although English author H. Rider Haggard is popularly known today as “the father of the lost race novel,” such adventure tales of vanished civilizations were scarcely his sole concern. As any reader who has pursued this writer further than his “big 3” (1885’s King Solomon’s Mines, 1887’s Allan Quatermain and 1887’s She) would tell you, Haggard was also very much concerned with the matter of reincarnation and with what I suppose we might call “ love that survives beyond the grave.” These two themes comprise the very heart of She and its three sequels (1905’s Ayesha, 1921’s She and Allan and 1923’s Wisdom’s Daughter) and crop up in such disparate works of the author as his very first, Dawn (1884), and Stella Fregelius (1904). But perhaps the author’s most conc... Read More

The Defiant Agents: Not one of Norton’s best stories

The Defiant Agents by Andre Norton

The Defiant Agents is the third book in Andre Norton’s TIME TRADERS series about a secret United States government program that uses time travel to solve geopolitical problems, especially those involving the Cold War with the Russians. In the first book, The Time Traders, we met Ross Murdock, a criminal who avoided his sentence by signing on with the Time Traders and discovering the source of the Russians’ new powers. In the second book, Galactic Derelict, we met Travis Fox, an Apache who joined the Time Traders and was sent to recover an alien spaceship.

In this third book, the United States has tossed all ethics out the window and decided that the end justifies the means. They’ve used a process called Redax on Travis Fox and some other unknowing Apache volunteers which causes them to forget their modern selves and embrace their inner Apache. The govern... Read More

The Time Traders: Non-stop adventure for kids and adults

The Time Traders by Andre Norton

Ross Murdock just can’t follow the rules, so he keeps getting in trouble with the law. He’s arrogant, rebellious, independent, smart, competent, and proud. That makes him the perfect recruit for the government’s secret Time Traders program, so when they offer Ross the option to either join up or go to jail, he doesn’t have much choice. Ross has no idea what’s going on with his new job, but he figures he’ll be able to escape. That turns out to be a lot harder than he expected — because they’ve sent him back in time! Ross’s job is to figure out how the Soviets (“the reds”) are getting their advanced technology. The U.S. government thinks they are getting it from somewhere in the past and Ross must try to find their secret base in a Bronze Age society. Stubborn and hard to defeat, Ross Murdock is the perfect man for the job. But this job isn’t easy — it’s a constant fight for survival.

... Read More