Reviews

30 Mar

Scars :  A Lost Novel of Earthdawn

By Caroline Spector

If you don’t know what Earthdawn is, you might want to Google it for a more detailed explanation, but in brief it is a fantasy roleplaying game inspired by the Shadowrun game, but set in the ancient past in a world of magic and myth. It was supposed to be a different sort of fantasy, darker and more flavoursome, but it found itself caught between the inability of writers to provide something different to the generic format and the incomprehension of gamers who wondered at the way in which it shook off old stereotypes. As a result, sales were poor and the novel line, for which Scars was intended, failed. In fact, Scars was part one of a trilogy of which only the third and final part, a Shadowrun novel called Worlds Without End, was published. But now, at last, fans have the chance to read the rest of it (part two, Little Treasures, should be out soon).

Scars is a difficult novel to appraise. Obviously, if you are a fan, you must buy it to finally sate that curiosity which has burning within you. But, would anyone else want to read it? I suppose that’s not an important question to the publishers, as it is aimed squarely at the fans, but others of you, reading this review, might be curious.

It certainly has its good points, generally avoiding falling into the pitfalls that can afflict the average fantasy novel. Caroline Spector is a pretty good writer and the setting is strong and different enough that many will find it interesting to read the tale of the elf Aina who survived the horrors of the Scourge only to suffer the personal attention of one Horror in particular over the centuries. Unfortunately, non-fans will probably not find it as interesting as fans, lacking the ties to the games that inspired – fans will be interested to see the name Aithne Oakforest but anyone else will have no idea who he is. I’m not too sure that the average fantasy reader would find it that entertaining – and that’s a real shame as it has a lot of potential. Still, if you did Google Earthdawn and were intrigued, you might want to see if you can still find this on Amazon…

DRAGON’S CLAWS

Written by Simon Furman, Art by Geoff Senior and Bryan Hitch. Marvel. RRP :  £14.99

When Dragon’s Claws was first published – twenty years ago – I absolutely loved it, and it inspired a serial I wrote for early issues of Monomyth a decade later, but, I was unable to collect all ten issues. Those issues that I did have became treasured possessions, reread and enjoyed down the years as I fruitlessly searched for either the missing issues or a collected volume. Then, one day, there it was – the collected volume had finally been released without fanfare. At last, I had my hands on all ten issues (plus the crossover in issue two of Death’s Head magazine)… although I had years of rereading to assure me that my memory wasn’t playing tricks as to their quality, I did wonder how the whole would hang together… Well, I am pleased to report that the whole is just as good as the elements that form it and that I absolutely enjoyed reading it!

Dragon’s Claws is set in 8162 AD when the earth is on its last legs and authority is breaking-down. The Claws is a team from the gladiatorial-like game that was used to pacify the people of Earth until the violence began to spread from the pitch and cause just as much chaos as it distracted from. With the games halted, members of the teams either drifted back into normal life, rather like soldiers returning to civilian life, or drifted into a life of crime. Dragon, founder and leader of The Claws, is one of the former, but, as the greatest team ever, it seems that he and his cohorts are required to reform and handle their former rivals who are running riot, along with a variety of other criminal threats. At first, Dragon, pressured by his wife, refuses to reform, but, after an encounter with one of those teams that had turned to crime and violence, he realises that he has to return to the adrenalin rush of adventure.

Having reformed, Dragon and his Claws face not only their archrivals, The Evil Dead, but a series of exciting adventures involving terrorists, neo-feudal French knights, a vigilante modelling her activities on the career of Claws member, Mercy, and the infamous bountyhunting robot, Death’s Head (formerly of Transformersfame).  The individual tales are exciting and often reveal something of the pasts of the team members, but there is also an overarching plot as NURSE, the body that oversees their activities, displays a marked tendency towards corruption… culminating in a major showdown and a cliffhanger ending that begs for more, but leaves things sufficiently tied-up that you do not feel cheated that the title ceased with issue ten. And, although informed by its time, it has a timeless feel that continues to resonate today.

At over 270 pages, this is a chunky collection which collects all their adventures in one place, along with the character fact files and posters that appeared in the issues, as well as some commentary and a one-page strip drawn for charity in 2004. This is an absolute must for all Dragon’s Claws fans, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction, whether or not comics are your preferred medium. Well drawn, Dragon’s Claws is driven by a brilliant imagination that grabs your attention with issue one and holds it all the way through the series. It was a strip created with the aim of rising above the competition and it not only succeeded in doing so, but remains an outstanding piece of fiction to this day, a real classic! Definitely one of the best comics creations ever – highly recommended!

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