SMITH, CLARK ASHTON – THE EMPEROR OF DREAMS. 2002. Fantasy Masterworks #26. Gollancz Books.
Smith wrote for Weird Tales, alongside H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Smith’s fantasy stories created some astonishingly well described alien landscapes populated by sorcerers, demons and vampires. There is a very hallucagenic feel to his very alien creations. This late collection presents some of his finest stories. In The Theft Of Thirty Nine Girdles, a couple of thieves hire an alchemist to help them steal the jewel-encrusted underwear from a sacred temple full of virgins. The Alchemist conjures up a series of smoke and mist demons, which frighten the temple users while the thieves, take the girdles from the loins of the women. However, the alchemist kills a temple priest in the raid, and the authorities know him, and so the thieves become fugitives. In The Door To Saturn a notorious dark magician escapes the man sent to arrest him by stepping through a portal that takes him to Saturn. The pursuer follows him, and the two mortal enemies are forced to work together to survive on the hostile new world, where they are soon regarded as Gods. The delightfully titled The Weird Of Avoosi Wuthoqquan deals with a man who steals a valuable but cursed emerald like stone. When it rolls away from him, he chases it through the streets and out to a cave where the jewel and thousands like it trap him in a quicksand like hold as a demon comes out to devour him. In The Empire Of The Necromancers two extremely evil sorcerers head to a lost civilisation in a deep desert. They resurrect the dead and make themselves king and queen of the corpses, which are forced to serve their every whim. However, one man remembers that he himself was a magician. He uses his old skills to turn the tables on the necromancers. This allows the dead to return to death, while the dismembered but still living corpses of the necromancers are left rolling about in agony in the desert sands for all eternity. Powerful and poetic material of tremendous imaginative power.
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