Kull: Exile of Atlantis - Robert E. Howard, Justin Sweet, Patrice Louinet I first read Howard's Kull stories on a trip home from college one Christmas. My brother had picked up a used copy (a very used copy) of a paperback collection, which was falling apart in my hands as I read.

My initial reaction was one of disappointment. Perhaps, at that time, I was looking for a more Conan-like story. Whatever the case, when I was building my GR library, I gave these stories but 2 stars. I'm glad that I took advantage of a SF Book Club sale to pick up this reissue of the series because on rereading them, I found Kull much more interesting.

Is Kull a "failed" Conan?

Well, if you're looking at it from a popularity point of view, then the answer would be "yes." But if you're looking at it from a literary point of view, then the answer is definitely "no." True they're both barbarians from a lost, prehistoric world and both carve a bloody path to the thrones of civilized kingdoms but even a cursory reading of a Kull story shows that Howard was experimenting with a very different type of story and character. Kull thinks. Kull broods (boy, does he brood). Kull has no time for women. Kull is an elemental force but he keeps asking "why."

Howard is also experimenting with ways to tell a story. I'd describe most of these tales as "Dunsanian" in flavor - the settings are sketchily laid out and the writing style is very dreamlike (often Kull thinks he's just moving through a dream, in fact) and the characters are passive.

This edition has some really nice interior illustrations (I'm particularly taken with the picture of Delcardes and her cat on page 88) and an interesting essay about Howard and the writing of the Kull stories.

Definitely recommended for Howard fans, though they shouldn't expect a proto-Conan.