The Ship of Ishtar: A Trifecta of Reviews

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Last Tuesday, Ryan Harvey, one of Black Gate’s elite crew of bloggers, reviewed the new editi0n of A. Merritt’s The Ship of Ishtar recently published by Paizo. Saturday night, Morgan Holmes posted his own take on the Paizo edition over at the REHupa blog. Today, James Maliszewski, warlord of Grognardia, weighed in on Merritt’s classic novel as well. Obviously, this phenomenon had reached some sort of critical mass and warranted a look by yours truly.

Ryan’s review does a fine job of examining The Ship of Ishtar (and its author) from several angles. Merritt’s career, the art of Virgil Finlay and the textual vissicitudes of the novel are all looked at.

My favorite passage from the review is this one:

When Merritt pours on the action, the swinging blades and flying arrows generate all the excitement a sword-and-sorcery lover could want . . . which isn’t what readers might expect when they sample the author’s more lavender prose portions. The battle to seize the ship and the stand in the tower of Emahktila are passionate and thrilling action set pieces. Merritt manages to balance this swashbuckling with the vistas of the imagination in a way few authors today would even dare to attempt.

A fine review and one worth reading in full here.

The review by Morgan Holmes, as would be expected from a man who knows his pulps, looks deeply into the pulp history behind the novel and its creator. Holmes serves up a big slice of cool facts, as well as pondering the extent of Merritt’s influence on Robert E. Howard. For instance, there is this passage by Mr. Holmes:

Howard wrote two stories in 1927, “The Valley of the Golden Web,” and “Sanctuary of the Sun.” Both stories were submitted and rejected by Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales and now lost.  These stories have very Merrittesque sounding titles. This is a period before the Lovecraft influence manifests itself. There might have been a period where Howard noticed the success of A. Merritt in Argosy-All Story Weekly and incorporated some elements of Merritt.

Check it all out at the REHupa website.

James Maliszewski has his own take (as always) regarding The Ship of Ishtar. He has long been a vocal admirer of Merritt on the interwebs, so a review of the novel that he says “may well be [Merritt’s] masterpiece” was basically inevitable. James, as he has done several times before, examines the impact Merritt’s fiction has had on the history of role-playing games, noting that AM was prominently mentioned by Gygax in the now-legendary “Appendix N.”

Regarding the novel itself, Maliszewski has this to say:

The Ship of Ishtar resembles many pulp fantasies of its time and after: a modern man, thrown into an unusual locale/time, finds himself able to go places and do things that those native to it cannot. What differentiates Merritt’s novel, though, is its gorgeous prose and deep characterizations. 

The curious reader can peruse what Mr. Maliszewski has to say about The Ship of Ishtar (and many other works of Merritt) here.