Cover of the first edition
|Author||Robert E. Howard|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
Almuric is a science fiction novel by Robert E. Howard. It was originally serialized in three parts in the magazine Weird Tales beginning in May 1939. The novel was first published in book form in 1964 by Ace Books.
The novel features a muscular hero known on earth as Esau Cairn, a complete misfit in modern America who "belongs in a simpler age". Exploited by a corrupt political boss whom he finally kills with his bare hands, Cairn must flee. A sympathetic scientist helps him get through space to a world known as Almuric, by unspecified scientific methods. There he finds a life to which he is more fitted, battles with frightening monsters, and beautiful women. Cairn becomes known as the Iron Hand due to his powerful punches and boxing skills. The novel shares similar elements with the John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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The novel is a planetary romance which stars Esau Cairn, an Earth-man of great physical strength and prowess. The novel begins narrated by scientist Professor Hildebrand, who describes Cairn's life on Earth prior to traveling to Almuric. Cairn is described as an honorable man who was "born out of his time" in terms of his temperament and physical abilities. He attempted brief careers in college football and boxing, but had to abandon both due to severely injuring opponents due to his incredible strength. From then, he became a wanderer, seeking his place in the world but unable to find one.
After an altercation with a corrupt political official that left the official dead, Cairn became a wanted fugitive of the law. In an effort to hide Cairn from a confrontation with the law, Professor Hildebrand used an experimental teleporter to send Cairn to the planet Almuric.
Upon arriving on Almuric, Cairn battles a Gura, ape-like humanoids that inhabit the planet. Despite the Gura possessing greater physical strength, Cairn was able to defeat him using his boxing skills. After taking the Gura's sword, he then lives off the land for a long period of time, taking his already incredible physical abilities to new heights and learning to hunt and fend off the wild beasts of Almuric.
After attempting to save another Gura from an attack by a "sabretooth leopard", Cairn decides he needs human companionship and decides to seek civilization. He comes to the city of Koth and is taken prisoner by the inhabitants. There, he learns that despite the males being very hairy and ape-like, the women have hairless bodies and are beautiful by human standards. The explanation for this is that the male Guras endure all hardships and evolved to be powerful and animalistic, while female Guras are shielded from hardship and evolved to be soft and beautiful.
While in captivity, Cairn notices he has captured the interest of Altha, a beautiful Gura female, and becomes infatuated with her.
Cairn learns that the Gura who he defeated upon entering Almuric was Logar of Thurga, who is from a rival tribe and considered to be one of the finest warriors on Almuric. This claim leads to the Koths offering Cairn the opportunity to join their tribe if he can defeat their finest warrior, Ghor the Bear, in a wrestling match. Cairn succeeds in defeating Ghor and is welcomed to the tribe.
Cairn enjoys life with the Koth and feels he has finally found a world in which he belongs. While on a hunt, he discovers that Altha has left the city of Koth and seeks another life. He decides to escort her back to Koth but on their return, they are overtaken by a pack of Yagas. The Yagas are described as athletic winged men, with hawk-like faces and shiny black skin. Despite Cairn's efforts, Altha is kidnapped by the Yagas. Cairn captures a Yaga and forces him carry him in pursuit of the Yaga pack.
Upon arriving at the Yaga camp, he sees that they have been eviscerated by beasts described as having bodies "like those of deformed apes, covered with sparse dirty white fur. Their heads were doglike, with small close-set ears. But their eyes were those of serpents--the same venomous steady lidless stare." The beasts have captured Altha, who Cairn rescues after defeating them and a large spider-like creature.
Attempting to journey back to Koth, Cairn and Altha are captured by warriors of Thugra led by Logar, who seeks vengeance for his earlier defeat by Cairn. Cairn is chained and imprisoned in a Thugra prison, while Altha escapes and stays hidden, aided by sympathetic women in the city.
Thugra is attacked by a massive army of Yagas, who raid the city to capture female slaves. The city is destroyed and in the carnage, Altha attempts to aid Cairn in an escape. Logar enters the cell and is killed by Cairn, who is still chained. Cairn and hundreds of women are captured by the Yagas; some are butchered and eaten by the Yagas while others are flown to Ugg, the Yaga capital city.
Cairn is kept a prisoner in Ugg, where he learns that the female slaves are treated with inhuman cruelty, often tortured, killed, or eaten at the whims of the Yaga people, who possess little to no compassion or sympathy for other races. The Yaga women are wingless, having their wings clipped at an early age so that they remain dependent and subservient of the males. Only one Yaga female is allowed to keep her wings, the queen Yasmeena. He also learns that other humanoid races exist on Almuric; he sees slave women of other races and the Yagas are served by a less intelligent species of blue humanoid called Akkas, who live at the base of the cliff which holds their city and worship the Yagas as gods.
The Yaga queen Yasmeena takes an interest in Cairn due to his unusual physical appearance (unusual by Almuric standards—hairless with white skin and blue eyes). During a meeting in her chamber, Cairn feigns drunken unconsciousness and Yasmeena leaves to attend other matters. He discovers a tunnel in the floor which leads to a temple in which the Akkas worship the Yaga. He escapes the city and heads to Koth, to assemble an army to return to Ugg and rescue the women.
On his journey home, he chances to meet the Koth army, who are on their way to battle the Khor, a rival tribe. He convinces both to put aside their differences temporarily to attack the Yaga capital city. As many have had wives and female relatives kidnapped by the winged men, they agree to join forces.
Cairn leads this combined army of 9,000 Gura warriors to the city of Ugg, where they enter through the Akka temple. They attack the Akka and Yaga people, rescuing as many female slaves as they can. In city walls, the confined areas give the Gura fighting men the advantage, as the Yaga cannot take to the air and use their traditional fighting tactics. Seeing her people defeated, Yasmeena unleashes what she describes as "the ultimate horror", a large creature described as resembling a gigantic slug with a fringe of tentacles all about its body that emit sparks and flashes of blue flame.
Cairn defeats this creature and loses consciousness from wounds accrued in the battle. He wakes to learn that they have lost approximately 4,000 men in the battle but have saved 50,000 female slaves. All women are escorted back to their home cities by the Guras warriors. Cairn and Altha are now in a committed relationship and the cities of Koth and Khor are allies for the first time in history.
- 1939, US, Weird Tales, Pub date May 1939, magazine serialization in 3 parts
- 1964, US, Ace Books F-305 OCLC 5821930, Pub date 1964, Paperback, first book publication
- 1975, US, Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. OCLC 1367492, Pub date 1975, Hardback
- Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd.
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.