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SMITH, CLARK ASHTON THE EMPEROR OF DREAMS. 2002. Fantasy Masterworks #26. Gollancz Books. My second review of stories from this lengthy collection of astounding fantasy material by C A S. The stories include The Isle of the Torturers. In which the hero survives a mysterious yellow plague that has consumed most of his people. His salvation comes from a magic ring given to him by a prophetic wizard. The hero is advised to only make further use of the ring at some time of terrible peril. That time comes when he is sailing to a new land and his crew are shipwrecked on an island noted for its cruel and inhuman tortures. After an initial pleasant reception, the castaways are herded into prison cells below sea level. Through glass windows they see the first victims of the torturers being fed to sharks and other sea creatures. A young beautiful woman tells the hero that she despises the cult of torture and that she will rescue him. However, over weeks of torment, she keeps making excuses for failing to rescue him and he finally realises that she is only building up his hopes of rescue as a further torture. He now activates his ring, which introduces the plague to the Isle, killing the torturers instantly. In The Hunters From Beyond, an artist has been sculpting Lovecraftian demon like artefacts of terrifying realism. A friend realises that the artist is in fact using real demons as models for his work. The artist is convinced that he can control the creatures, until they attack a girl who also poses for him. The artist and his friend now unite to send the creatures back from whence they came. In The Beast Of Averoign, a werewolf like monster is attacking and killing animals and digging up corpses. When it begins to kill and eat monks at a monastery, the Inquisition hires a noted occultist. They had planned on arresting him for heresy, but now they offer him a pardon and freedom to continue to practice if he will use his skills to rid them of the monster. He agrees, and uses his own demon against the monastery creature, which turns out to be the abbot in charge of the monastery himself. A great collection of truly fantastic scope and colourful descriptive power. http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/clark-ashton-smith/

 

Copyright. Arthur Chappell           

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