Discuss published campaign worlds that do not have a specific forum here.
- Giant Space Hamster
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Illuminatus mentioned that he was reading some of the Tekumel novels in Shesheyan's What novels are you reading these days?
Illuminatus wrote:I just finished the first two of M.A.R. Barker’s five Tekumel novels, to satisfy a decades-old curiosity about the setting. I was eager to read the next three, but found that they are rare and expensive (having been published in small runs by a minor company.) I also read a review stating that only the first two books read like novels, while the last three read like game transcripts. Sadly, I guess i will never finish the series.
I did a search and found a page on Tita's House of Games called Novels & Studies
, but that has has descriptions of the five novels:
- The Man of Gold: M.A.R. Barker’s first novel about the quest of Harsan, acolyte of the temple of Thúmis, as he goes forth to seek a forgotten empire’s super-weapon known only as the Man of Gold. Because this novel is out of print, all copies for sale are used.
- Flamesong: M.A.R. Barker’s novel Flamesong concerns a commander of the Petal Throne and what occurred when he captured a high-ranking female enemy who was in possession of a horrendous weapon from the forgotten past. Isolated in the uncharted subterranean speedways of the that past, they are forced to travel together to unknown lands and undiscovered monster species. The novel is out of print and, thus, all copies for sale are used.
- Lords of Tsámra: M.A.R. Barker’s third novel, features Korúkka hiKutonyál, Priest of Ksárul, and Harsán hiTikéshmu, Priest of Thúmis (from Man of Gold). They arrive in Hólis on the Tsoléi Archipelago as part of a Tsolyáni delegation and suddenly find themselves in the middle of a deadly plague and a Mu’ugalavyáni-Livyáni war.
- Prince of Skulls: Come enjoy Prof. M.A.R. Barker’s fourth and most complex novel. A diplomatic mission to the Chákas leads to the discovery of a elaborate plot by ex-Emperor Dhích’une to recover the Petal Throne, even at the cost of all of Tékumel! Hársan, linguist and priest of Thúmis, and his companions struggle to thwart his plans.
- A Death of Kings: This novel continues the story of Hársan, as he voyages out to the Far Eastern coast of Salarvyá. The country is in chaos as various factions fight for power after the death of the ’”Mad King,” Griggatsétsa. Hársan and his companions struggle through the riot-torn streets of the capital, Tsatsayágga, and then on to distant Jækanta and obtains new insights into the mysterious College at the End of Time and the Unstraightened City. Available September, 2003
The novels do look quite expensive. Has anyone bought these?
Are they any good?
Do they teach you anything about Tekumel that the RPG books don't?
Does anyone know if there are any plans to get these novels converted to Print on Demand format?
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Because M.A.R. Barker isn’t particularly known as a novelist, I wasn’t really expecting a lot. But I was pleasantly surprised. The first two books were engaging and entertaining, with some excellent world-building. Man of Gold was the better of the two. It had a more straightforward plot, whereas Flamesong felt (to me) a little disjointed. Part of this I think has to do with character motivation…the motivations in Man of Gold are clearer, whereas a lot of Flamesong involves characters simply responding to the shifting current state of affairs and trying to turn things to their advantage. Man of Gold also ends with some good dungeon-crawly action which should appeal to any D&D player.
While Flamesong describes events shortly after the events in Man of Gold, the two novels follow different characters and are more or less independent.
I can’t compare the first two books to the RPG game, because I’ve never read the RPG material. Both books involve characters discovering remnants of the high-tech civilization that settled Tekumel many thousands of years earlier. As per Arthur C. Clarke (“any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), this ancient tech appears to have unlocked alternate dimensions and made “magic” possible. Characters in Tekumel are always eager to get their hands on ancient tech that they think will benefit them...but it usually has unanticipated results.
I love book/movie settings in which the modern era is so far in the past that it is basically lost to history (Dune, the Dying Earth series, Canticle for Liebowitz, the original Planet of the Apes, etc.) I was hoping for some clues as to what caused Tekumel to be “cut off” from the rest of the universe and left to regress technologically, but none were forthcoming. If any of that is addressed in the RPG or the other three novels, I would love to hear about it!
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I have both Man of Gold
and couldn't read either one of them.
I don't know if it's Barker's writing style or my lack of understanding of the world/language of Tekumel, but I just couldn't follow the first couple of chapters well and I gave up. I kept both on my shelf to try again later, but haven't gone back yet. I suspect it's a "me thing" and not a Barker problem.
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