Novel adaptation of Conan the Barbarian returns 40 years later

Review by C.J. Bunce

Robert E. Howard’s fantasy hero Conan the Cimmerian, also known as Conan the Barbarian, has taken many journeys, written by many people–some surprising.  In 1982 director John Milius adapted Robert E. Howard’s classic fantasy character into its first major motion picture with a script co-written by Oliver Stone.  The result launched the mega-star career of Arnold Schwarzenegger and propelled Conan from the realm of fantasy readers into a character known in every household.  Milius and Stone knew what they were doing, condensing key elements of Howard’s tales into a worthy origin story.  Fantasy writers L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter adapted the screenplay into a tie-in adaptation written even more faithful to Howard’s works.  Four decades later, Conan the Barbarian: The Official Motion Picture Adaptation is back in print.

Conan the Barbarian belongs to that famous year of movies that saw E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tron, Blade Runner, The Dark Crystal, John Carpenter’s The Thing, First Blood, and Poltergeist.  Despite all the competition, Conan the movie emerged as a financial box office success.  Ninety years after the creation of the character, Conan fans who missed out on the adaptation of the movie in 1982 now can fill that gap in their Conan library.  Authors De Camp and Carter wrote their adaptation as Howard would have–a sweeping fantasy story full of detailed world building, character development, and tight writing.

From Conan being ripped from his parents to his years on the Wheel, to his Pit fighting and on to his quest for Yasimina–the spirited away daughter of King Elric, to his reclamation of his legendary steel sword and revenge against Thulsa Doom, this novel was given the seriousness that the character deserved.  Readers meet familiar but different versions of characters they first read about from Howard, including Doom and the key warrior Valeria.  The authors also pull in characters not written by Howard that became part of the canon, like King Elric, created by Michael Moorcock (later written about by others including Roy Thomas).

What makes this a fantastic tie-in and adaptation is the literary skill of De Camp and Carter, both who, between 1951 and 1980, assembled unpublished writings from the late Conan creator Robert E. Howard and published twenty new Conan novels.  Well-known to fans of Conan, these books form some readers’ favorite adventures.

The filmmakers are known to have approached the movie like a historical account, including language elements and cultural crossovers from the Asian and Arabian worlds.  This hero’s journey includes it all.  Readers will find Conan to be a bit less bumbling than Arnold’s version, and Valeria to be a particularly intriguing voice in Conan’s story.

A must for fans of the film and Conan readers old and new, order Conan the Barbarian: The Official Motion Picture Adaptation now here at Amazon.  And don’t miss our recent borg review of the new behind-the-scenes look at the movie, Conan the Barbarian: The Making of the Film here.  Both are great reads for your favorite Conan fan from Titan Books.

Leave a Reply