The SFFaudio Podcast #525 – Jesse and Paul Weimer talk about Last Days Of Thronas by Stuart J. Byrne
Talked about on today’s show:
and today we’re reading…, John Bloodstone, an old science fiction novel, why wouldn’t I read this book?, public domain, never heard of this guy, Science Stories, February 1954, house names or pseudonyms, tiers of science fiction magazines, armchair fiction, digging into the issue, the cover has nothing to do with the contents of the story, a brilliant 45,000 word novel, a singular spaceship, J. Allen St. John, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan, Warlord Of Mars, The Moon Maid, a Burroughsian planetary romance, splash page, the creature, his former lover, a precursor, L. Sprague de Camp’s Viagens Interplanetarias, against the rules, find each other attractive, tentacles out of eyebrows, an ancient spaceship, the subjugated people have invented gunpowder, backgrounded to Garthanas’ story, what Paul would be thinking about Jesse would be thinking about the worldbuilding, how little this book has been published, it does was it says on the tin, a man off his world (or not our world), the ending, a solar system with two and a half inhabitable planets, Thronas is the fifth world, Carson of Venus, Hamardeen, the math and the names, a panspermia story, dinosaur time, Dalathasheen, Haven, Adamas, a tropical haven, a vast natural garden which they named…, Atlantis,
Their dreams of old we, too, have known,
But we are flesh and they are
And Yesterday is dust…
just some rando, a weird way to start a story, Tolkien, narrator Tim Harper, preeeety good job, so good, very specific vocab, names of days, all of the logic, names of ranks, layer up this world, as logical and rational as possible, lovely detail, the amphitheater, very vivid, very colourful, a real sense of embodiment, the interests of the author, elf names, etymological construction to the names of things, the measuring system, worldbuilding and making a whole universe (or solar system) for a FIVE HOUR BOOK, and to make the story work as well, the same trick over and over: a secret identity, he’s teaching us, you like Twelfth Night, you like Shakespeare, he’s turning evil, what if I’ve been rooting for a monster this whole time, that’s good writing, the AI of the ship, the metal god, a very early AI, from such an oblique angle, The Great C by Philip K. Dick, he Kirks the computer, I love that idea, the computer doesn’t say, if Kirking is a verb, apparently Gene Roddenberry was a fan, “I’d stand in a line in the rain for one of Stu Byrne’s stories”, back when Paul was young and strong, Thundarr The Barbarian Garth Ennis, one of the many many rip-off’s if Conan, make the show to sell the toys, unpublished Tarzan novel, fan fiction, the Pellucidars, the Barsoom books, male romancesque, lost to time, when the book is THIS interesting, the archaeology of this sort of thing, born in 1911, Jam Packed with Burroughs, more of the same, He-Man, She-Ra, Red Sonja (from the comics), filed-off serial numbers, friendship works differently in Burroughs-world, honor-based friendship, more sex and drinking, more carousing, no animal friend, no Woola, The Green Odyssey, a loving-parody-comedy vs. straight-up, Michael Moorcock, Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein, hard to escape the orbit of Burroughs, S.M. Stirling, Tantor Media, The Sky People, In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings, he goes wide, characterizing the responses to Burroughs, dinosaurs on Mars, Leigh Brackett, aliens, A World Of Difference by Harry Turtledove, a collapsed empire, the golden ship is a great piece, with that ending he’s cutting off all the sequels, what it turns this book into is a science fiction book of the mainstream type, acceleration, artificial gravity, a force of nature like the tides, the worship of many many gods, how much work he put into this, not a work of slapdashery, Goodreads reviews, the used bookstores podcast, Goodreads is owned by Amazon, many moral hazards in the universe, AbeBooks is owned by Amazon, Byrne is from St. Paul,
It has all the hallmarks of a hastily-written product plus one whose creator has a very specific beginning and endpoint in mind and is working to bridge the two. Byrne occasionally has to paste in the gaps with backstory or offstage events–clearly he was not going to go back and revise–and this leaves the impression that more interesting things are happening to more interesting people while Garthanas is standing around waiting or being talked to.
The story is also strangely unspecific about the context. It’s implied that the oppressed Harmarians are some kind of ethnic minority who are slowly being deported to planet Hamardeen (Mars) because the Thronasians would prefer to be served by the unpredictable and violent nonhuman polar inhabitants, but nobody says this and it is not explained clearly. The half-explanations conspire to baffle and not tantalize with unseen depths.
“Space barbarians” is arrived at uniquely, with a robotic Golden Ship left behind by an earlier civilization. It is a tragedy that this is the only remnant of super-science and one wonders what more Byrne could have added to liven up this story.
The final moments, as it starts to wrap up, do achieve power. Byrne finally has a specific vision with a specific end goal and Garanthas is in place to witness it all and to act appropriately. But the overall impression is less “tale of multigenerational tragedy” than “muddled mess”.
hanging out with a Roman slave who knows how the Roman Empire works, a case of reviewism, a disease that effects many reviewers, space barbarians, a trope, maybe it needed more pondering, a lot of battle scenes, before we talk about the art, action packed, almost the script for Buck Rogers, so many court scenes, sneaking around inside of a space ship, a Star Wars (1977) level of action, kissing, intrigue, how you are when you come to something, a serious problem when they do reviews a lot, IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, he’s writing to his own conclusion, award winning is a bad word in Jesse’s mind, The Aquiliad: Aquila In The New World by S.P. Somtow, you need to know what the author is doing, answers to What If, the artist knew truth, the only person better at sculpting than me is my master, a very small pair of worlds, another connection to Star Wars, hello Jupiter, reading into it, he wanted to have philosophy in it without getting into it, a thinker king like King Kull, appreciating the art, about that meditation, a John Carter who is appreciating the martian sculptures, normally that’s us when reading the books, the statue at the end, it’s in that opening song, a future echo, an echo of the past, Battlestar Galactica, page 13, we are flesh and they are stone, playing with, the word “Truth”, Ozymandias by Percy Shelley, Ozymandias by Horace Smith, On A Stupendous Leg Of Granite…, hubris is a great problem, uh huh and yup and we’re going to be the same way, more political, Lovecraftian vs. science fictional, that projection, Beyond Thirty by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Charles Wilson’s Darwinia, the journals and a report about what’s going on in North America, Planet Of The Apes, fast paced, Jack McDevitt’s Eternity Road, so many great books that are just hidden away, ratings are a part of the problem of reviewism, star ratings, clouding judgement, it straight jackets you, the pain management chart, hangnail 1, gaping flesh wound from sword stab 8, a standard of one person, the way Luke Burrage justifies his rating system, this is not a classic like a The House On The Borderland, The Time Machine, more worldbuilding than The Green odyssey, Tolkien vs. Narnia, portal fantasy vs. secondary world, six hours well spent, thank you to Tim Harper.
Posted by Jesse Willis
2 thoughts to “The SFFaudio Podcast #565 – READALONG: Last Days Of Thronas by Stuart J. Byrne”
I wish I had been able to join you for this podcast. This story is certainly a good conversation starter. I appreciate you taking the time to discuss this work, and the kind words about me. I value any public attention, and selfishly suggest that everyone purchase a copy of the audiobook (AudibleAmazoniTunes) and write reviews.
Since I couldn’t participate I’ll provide a few random thoughts here.
I find the pulp fiction formula refreshing. Characters have clear, generally single, motivation for everything they do. I like more realistic characters in more detailed stories who are usually conflicted in some way. But reading a book like this without all the complication is strangely relaxing. I don’t have a lot to analyze. I can just follow and enjoy the story.
The character Garthanas is an example in this story. While he still loves Carthis he is never remotely tempted to betray his people. His only true motivation is in being “The Hamarian Sword”. He sees right and wrong as black and white and never wavers in his beliefs.
The emperor Thamas is the opposite of Garthanas. He lives only for power and his own personal pleasure. He is pretty much evil personified, even if you argue that circumstances turned him to that evil worldview.
Zircuth is probably the only character with any real inner conflict. He is torn between protecting his child and doing what could be argued is for the greater good. But, his motivation never wavers. He will protect his child until keeping secrets no longer matters.
Beauty in simplicity. Even when you think someone might have a change of heart – nope, just kidding. This is not the sci-fi fantasy of today with elaborate world building, complicated and conflicted characters, thousands of pages and many sequels. Also not as exhausting. It reads more like a Sunday afternoon drive than hiking the Appalachian Trail.
I won’t try to comment on the areas you covered in this podcast. I enjoyed the conversation and thought you did an excellent job. Very interesting.
It was entertaining for me to try to think about the story from the perspective of the people who would have been reading at the time of publication. The 50s were a much more black and white time in the U.S. in terms of right and wrong. Although a sci-fi story, the characters fit the mold of the 50s very well.
Similarly, I think the 50s provide some insight into the relationship between the Thronasians and the Hamarians. While the story never really addresses the origins of the relationship between the two races, in my mind the people of the 1950s United States this would have been seen as a clear parallel to RomanChristian stories. The wicked, corrupt, drunken Romans eventually fall due to their debauchery. The persecuted Christians survive and live for the remainder of days in happiness. I mean Garthanas is “crucified”, and virtually rises from the dead, before ultimately sacrificing himself to save his people who are lifted away to a home in the sky.
Jesus with a sword, bringing his wrath down on the wicked. I think this fits well with your discussion of LDoT as an Eden origin story.
I was entertained by the 1950s description of “magical screens” and the computer that runs the ship. The computer in particular was interesting. It couldn’t think and make judgements like a human, but on some level it understood right from wrong. It apparently goes off into space to take time contemplating the meaning of life, or consciousness, or something. I would kind of like to read a sequel that covers the return of The Golden Ship.
Maybe the Golden Ship started the race of living machines that sent back Voyager in the original Star Trek movie. (I had that thought before I knew that Gene Roddenberry was a fan.)
Thanks again for the attention, and the kind words.
Thank you for the suggestion Tim! You’re a talented narrator and I hope you do lots more cool SF books!