Monday, 23 January 2017

Warlord of Kor

Terry Carr Warlord of Kor (1963)
I don't know much about the late Terry Carr beyond that he edited a whole string of science-fiction collections, and that Simak rated his short story, The Dance of the Changer and the Three fairly highly, or at least praised Carr's attempt to write genuinely alien characters betraying as little obvious cultural contamination from their author as possible:

We can only think in human terms. What we try to do is twist human concepts into strange, distorted shapes. They seem alien, but all they are are distorted human concepts. You don't know how many years I have tried to develop a true alien. I have never been able to. Terry Carr came awful close in The Dance of Changer and the Three, but he wasn't quite successful. I think probably it's very close to impossible to do it.

I haven't read much Terry Carr, and I gather there may not actually be that much available to be read, relatively speaking, but between this and the aforementioned short story, it would be difficult to miss the recurrence of certain themes. The unknowable and alien here are silent leathery giants called the Hirlaji bearing no discernible resemblance to anything appearing on the cover, at least not beyond scale. Warlord of Kor is mostly about attempts made to communicate with the Hirlaji and what little we have in common, referring to an ancient archaeological history of which very little remains. There's a level of drama, as is somewhat over-egged by the cover painting, but it's mostly a contemplative novel written in a mature tone which wouldn't really have suited an excess of thrills and scrapes.

Unfortunately it's also kind of dry, and the typos really don't help. Some I guess I didn't notice, but then you get instances like the one where Manning raises his weapon towards Rynason, but Horng's huge fish smashed it from his hand. Here's what that would look like:

He probably meant fist. I might not have noticed had the thing achieved a better hold on my attention. It's short with a commendable message about how we treat the alien and how we should treat the alien; and it's nicely written with plenty of character, but somehow it just never quite takes off.


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