The weekend before last I dragged a friend of mine down to Wicker Park for the first time. And, as per usual, I took a look through Myopic Books. I felt somewhat obligated to buy something, and I was really interested in finding something random and new to read. At least, that’s what I will claim happened.
As I was checking the science fiction section for anything of note by favorite authors, a book caught my eye. The spine clearly showed some wear (it’s taped, as I later discovered) and the title was, well, typical sci-fi. The Crystal Warriors by William R. Forstchen and Greg Morrison. It sounded vaguely interesting. The cover art was…well, it had a cover with art. And I was pretty sure I’d read something by one of those authors. Greg Morrsion, maybe? (It turns out it wasn’t Greg Morrison I’d read but William R. Forstchen.) I barely glanced at the synopsis – people from our world end up in a different world where magic is real. That’s enough for me, and I decided to give the book a shot.
I have no regrets whatsoever about picking up this book. Oh sure, it’s a little dated, it’s a little homophobic, but it’s still a solid and enjoyable read. Captain Mark Phillips of the U.S. Air Force is grounded during a bombing run against Japan in WWII. He ends up landing in China after running out of gas between a lucky shot to his tank and pursuing Japanese. On the ground, he and his crew meet up with Captain Ikawa Yoshio of the Imperial Japanese Army, whose troops are trying to get home after dealing with Chinese bandits. And then the world turns upside down and both the Americans and Japanese find themselves Elsewhere.
Elsewhere not only has magic, but also gods. Real and active gods who don’t always get along. The Crystal Warriors has some solid concepts that do make you think about some things. Philosophy instead of hard truths like the Dragon Jousters, but still, given how utterly ridiculous this cover looks, that’s something. And yes, I do have to show you this cover because it is…so typically eighties. There’s a reason I barely glance at covers some days.
I know that’s Mark on the left and I think that’s Pina on the right but my goodness does the sorceror look ridiculous. Anyway, as is typical for these “fish out of water” stories, it turns out that the soldiers have the potential to become sorcerors themselves, meaning the middle section of the book is their learning how to control their abilities as well as becoming accustomed to this new world.
As I’ve mentioned, I had a great time reading this book. I knew from the title and cover that this was likely to be somewhat silly and over-the-top, so I wasn’t likely to become annoyed. Even if I hadn’t been ready though, I don’t think it would’ve been a big problem. Sure, some things are more grandiose than necessary, but there are gods in this book, and sorcerors can live for centuries.
Upon finishing The Crystal Warriors I was left with the feeling that at least two things remained unfinished, and that there should be a sequel. Well, lo and behold there is! I shall have to find myself a copy of The Crystal Sorcerors and find out how the story ends.
Now, back to the authors. As I mentioned, it turned out that I have a short story written by William R. Forstchen. Titled “Yesterday’s Gods,” it’s from the fourth Bolo anthology. On reflection, I can see a lot of parallels between the two stories; not so much so that one can be considered a rehashing of others, but similar elements. Both are “fish out of water” stories. Both have a soldier bringing his understanding of war to people whose culture is very different (one is primitive, the other has found it more effective to advance in other ways than ours). Both have the soldier in a place where getting back home may not be possible. Etc.
The point is, this was a great random choice and an excellent change of pace.