The Ship of Ishtar

The Ship of Ishtar

A. Merritt, © 1924, Planet Stories (Pazio Publishing) 2009 trade paperback – fantasy

Amateur archaeologist John Kenton didn’t know what he expected when he broke open the stone block from Babylon, but it wasn’t to be hurled through time and space into an ageless conflict.

On a golden ship in a strange dimension of endless sea, the goddess of love and vengeance lies locked in an eternal stalemate with the god of the underworld. The coming of an outsider may tip the balance once and for all, or it might simply cause pain and sorrow for all. With the beautiful priestesses of Ishtar and the pale warriors of the Black God both seeking to bend him to their own ends, will Kenton become a slave of alien powers, or take up his sword and prove himself the true master of the Ship of Ishtar?

First published in 1924, this is considered to be one of the best of Merritt’s works. Merritt was an inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, and though forgotten by most of the world,  remains one of the most celebrated fantasists of all time by those who remember, and have read, his works.

This is a complete edition of the adventure, with the original illustrations by legendary artist Virgil Finlay. Tim Powers writes the introduction.

Okay, it’s a classic. “Not to be missed” the publisher says. Lots of good things are said about Merritt, but when it comes to reading this book, things began to break down for me. The style is archaic – just too dated and antiquated for me, there are too many cliff-hanger paragraphs, too many exclamation marks, to much over-the-top language. I’m not saying it’s bad, many people will undoubtedly like it, and Planet Stories is to be congratulated for bringing it back into print, but it just wasn’t much to my liking.

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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7 Responses to The Ship of Ishtar

  1. Bill Crider says:

    I loved it when I was about 13. Haven’t read it since and probably won’t.

  2. Drat, I was going to review THE SHIP OF ISHTAR for FORGOTTEN BOOKS. I love the redhead on the cover!

  3. Richard says:

    Go ahead, George! My guess is you’ll have something different to say than I did.

    The next one (Steppe) looks to be better.

  4. Drongo says:

    I’ve tried two, maybe three times to read this one, and just can’t get into it.

    I’ll probably give it one more chance sometime this year.

  5. Richard says:

    That was my reaction, but over the space of 6-7 weeks, I ploughed through it.

  6. I have this one also, just haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ve had the same reservations from past experience with other titles.

    We’ll see.

  7. Richard says:

    I subscribe to Planet Stories now, but if Steppe and the following one aren’t an improvement, I’m out. The first one, Robots Have No Tails was great.

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