"Kuurus, of the Caste of Assassins, crouched on the crest of the small hill, leaning with both hands on the shaft of his spear, looking down into the shallow valley, waiting. He would not yet be welcome.
In the distance he could see the white walls, and some of the towers of the city of Ko-ro-ba, which was being rebuilt."
I can’t quite recall where I bought this, but I do remember where I was when I read it – on a family holiday to Castleton (home of the famous Blue John stone, which is rather appropriate, given how the series later developed! Very blue indeed…).
Poor old John Norman (the nom de plume of Dr. John Lange, a professor of philosophy and a classical scholar) got a bad rep for the rather racier (some might say seedier) aspects of his derivative sci-fi sword n' sandals potboilers.
And in truth, when you get past book 6, they degenerate into a little bit of sci-fi adventure sandwiched between a whole lot of smut, and at Book 19, you're struggling to find any plot advancement whatsoever. They've generated a sordid little subcult that occasionally comes to the attention of the mass media with predictably hilarious - not to mention pathetic - results.
But...those first few books are actually pretty damn good.
It was the cover that drew me, drawn by Chris Achilleos, though the paperback edition I hold gives no art credit. There's just so much happening in it! Who is this man riding the giant bird, attacking this army? What sort of sci-fi world is this?
And despite being book 5, it was actually pretty easy to get into, and (if you could fight your way through the aggrieved feminists) would make a damned good film, being absolutely packed full of spectacle, intrigue and plot twists, all of which seemed to be what non-fantasy lovers enjoyed so much in the televised adaptation of 'Game Of Thrones', after all.. The climactic, nail-biting tarn race alone cries out for a proper CGI treatment!
Sadly for poor old Norman, two abortive attempts at filming his works were made and it's probably best to forget all about them.
But, on a dreary rainy day, when the equivalent of literary popcorn is required, why not take a trip to Counter Earth?
Just pack a broad mind... ;)