Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Door to Saturn by Clark Ashton Smith

This is the second volume in the "Collected Fantasies" series from Night Shade Books.

It collects some of his most popular stories, but beyond those, and a handful of other good stories, it's mostly dominated by somewhat lackluster science fiction efforts. About a quarter of the book is devoted to two space opera tales of the starship Alycone, and another quarter to two tales about people who travel into the future.

Unlike fantasy, these sort of tales really don't hold up very well, I feel. Having basically half the book taken up with them, feels like quite a bit of a waste, especially since this book isn't exactly cheap. $29 for 265 pages of public domain stories isn't a very good value, but worth paying to get the definitive texts in a very nice format. But when only half the book is worth reading more than once, well, it's a terrible value.

That said, it does contain some very good stories. The title story, which relates a surprisingly amusing adventure of the wizard Eibon. "A Rendezvous in Averoigne", one of the most picturesque vampire tales ever written. "The Testament of Athammaus" which is almost a fantasy version of The Dunwich Horror. And "The Return of the Sorcerer", which was badly adapted on an episode of Night Gallery. "The City of Singing Flame", another very picturesque and haunting tale, this one about dimensional travel.

Outside of those famous ones, there are a couple of other gems. "The Ghoul" and "Told in the Desert" I really liked. But that's about it.