Thursday, February 13, 2020

Richard Blade 1: The Bronze Axe by Jeffrey Lord

Richard Blade 1
The Bronze Axe
by Jeffrey Lord (Manning Lee Stokes)
1969 Pinnacle


"Blade, you've been chosen for this mission because you're a perfect physical specimen.  Now take off your clothes and put on this loincloth."
"Excuse me?"
"Do it for England."

MI6 agent Richard Blade is assigned to take part of an experiment to implant knowledge directly into his brain Matrix style, only the experiment sends him to a pseudo-Hyborian dimension, which is about as good a justification as any other John Carter pastiche.

Like John Carter, Blade pops into this other world bare ass naked, and remains so through many pages.  He rescues a princess and goes through several capture/escape cycles through different kingdoms.  The action is plentiful and violent, but with the exception of killing a dog every fight is part of a formal, trial by combat type duel.  Too many banjo acts.

The series has been described as James Bond meets Conan, but Blade is no Bond, at least in this installment.  He's strong, has an aptitude for ancient weaponry, a skilled outdoorsman, and has fought grizzly bears before, as one does as a British secret agent.  But he brings no skills or modern knowledge with him, and at least in this installment the gimmick of him being from 1969 England is unexplored.  He might as well have been a barbarian contemporaneous with the setting.

Richard Blade could be considered amoral to the point of sociopathy.  His underling steals and kills without a shrug, and he completely forgets about the boats filled with child slaves that he inherits.  Alternatively, Stokes just didn't write in enough character or motivation to be able to tell.

Then there's the sexy.  Some men's adventure scenes have a few sex scenes shoehorned in, but The Bronze Axe is infused throughout with hyper-masculine sexuality, the kind that mentions Blade's boners three times as much as any lady bits.  As much sexual tension is in the story, the first sex scene involves him banging the wig and false teeth out of an old lady.

I started out more enthusiastic about this series than I ended.  I kept waiting for a plot to show up, but other than a vague "get the princess to her kingdom" thread there was just variations of trial by combat.  As much as I hate the thousands of pages of world building in most fantasy novels, the little that is built up here is evidently scrapped for the next installment, as Blade goes to a different dimension each book.  I'll give the next one a try, but things got a bit samey by the end of this one.

Paperback from AbeBooks

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