|Yep, she's good with an axe.|
Leigh Brackett was apparently a fairly big name in the pulp SF magazines; in fact she was called the Queen of Space Opera! She wrote a whole lot of short stories and novellas, plus some screenplays (she helped with Empire Strikes Back just before her death). One of her planetary-conquest series was about Eric John Stark (formerly N'Chaka of Mercury), a human man who is really something of a barbarian. I was strongly reminded of Conan or Tarzan, only on Mars.
Stark is traveling with a friend to the fortified border city of Kushat, but the friend dies on the way, entrusting Stark with a relic that is supposed to protect the city. Stark tries to return it, but first the barbarian hordes capture him! After an interview with a mysterious masked black-clad warlord and some torture, he escapes and reaches Kushat, warning the city that invasion is imminent. Lord Ciaran wants the city because it guards the Gates of Death, beyond which lies some mysterious power--and why not use that power to conquer all Mars?
There's a lot of bloodshed and conquest and celebration thereof. Some elements of the story are lifted from Irish myth; the Talisman of Ban Cruach reminds me of the Eye of Crom Cruach from the Secret of Kells movie!
It was a fun space opera story, total pulp. I'll have to read more Brackett.
And this post hereby finishes up my vintage SF reading for January. Thanks to Redhead--it's been fun!