Book Review: Empire of Blood
I’ll say it before, and I’ll say it again. I love a used bookstore. There’s just something entirely too fun about perusing stacks and stacks of old books and plucking out some of the older, crazier-looking titles for a buck or two.
And then I found some Blade books. I’d first heard about the series over on The Pulp Files, and their descriptions of the series got me curious enough to check them out. Empire of Blood, #23 in the series, happened to be the cheapest one on the shelf, and so that’s the one I read. I’m betting it may be a little while before The Pulp Files reaches that far in the series, not to mention the fact that, as you could imagine, this isn’t the most continuity-heavy series.
In fact, there were thirty seven Blade novels written over the course of fifteen years– these are straight up grindhousey Men’s Adventure books. They’ve even got ads for The Executioner and so on in the back.
So yeah. Look at that cover. It pretty much tells you what the book is about. There are dudes who fight with swords, and sexy ladies who watch the swordfights, and pretty much nobody wears a shirt. Pretty standard Conan pastiche, right?
So the Blade novels star Richard Blade, a guy who is never referred to as “Dick Blade” within the pages of the book but I totally will call him that anyway because I have the humor of a twelve year old. Dick Blade is an agent of MI-6, who is doing weirdo mad science experiments to send people to Dimension X. Dun dun dun. And, of course, Dick Blade is the only guy who’s awesome enough to survive the process of going through the machine. Oh, and because the machine apparently works on Terminator rules, Dick Blade shows up in Dimension X naked every time he goes there.
Dimension X is a pulpy world that’s in a vaguely late-medieval-ish setting– there are cannons and matchlock muskets, but still plenty of room for Dick Blade to get in swordfights. Between the swordfights Dick Blade bangs some Dimension X hotties in fairly explicit sex scenes, and by the end of the novel he’s brought back to the real world, often with some little bit of treasure. Seems kind of like a lot of trouble to go through just for some gold and jewels and stuff– honestly, I’d think Dick Blade has a better chance of bringing back an exotic STD. Then again, the books are a little funnier if you pretend Dick Blade just keeps the program going so he can keep on going back to Dimension X to bang sexy princesses.
Aaaanyway, this brings us to #23, Empire of Blood. Twenty three books in, this one’s slightly different in that Dick Blade and co. have finally figured out that if Dick Blade can bring something he has a deep personal connection to through the Dimension X machine. Woo! He uses this to bring his favorite commando knife and a belt across. That’s it. You’d think the dude would bring an old pair of sweatpants or his favorite boots or something, but nah. When your name is Dick Blade, you don’t need silly things like pants.
Anyway, this time around, the Dimension X machine spits Dick Blade out in the titular EMPIRE OF BLOOD. Well, it’s called Saram, but Empire of Blood sounds cooler. See, the Empire of Blood is naturally run by the insane Emperor of Blood, who pretty much punishes every crime by a tortured death. It’s also worth noting that “making friends with a stranger” is a crime in the Empire of Blood, which could almost be a plotline to a My Little Pony episode if you left out all the sex and violence. (Alternately, you could keep tall the sex and violence and it’d be the plot to a weirdo My Little Pony fanfic).
The Empire of Blood is the sort of ultraviolent dystopia that makes even Khymir look like the model of efficiency. For example, The Empire of Blood has problems with horse-riding raiders in the south. But … only the Emperor’s troops are allowed to have weapons (under penalty of death). And towns that try to build walls to protect themselves are seen as fomenting rebellion, so those kind of towns are razed in turn. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Anyway, after meeting the Emperor of Blood, Dick Blade is enslaved and sent to row on one of his war galleys. There’s the expected sea battles and mutinies and swordfights and such, and by the end of the book Dick Blade is leading a ragtag fleet of pirates and other ships against the Emperor of Blood’s fleet in a big climactic sea battle in which the good guys win and a less-assholish guy is made Emperor of Saram. Dick Blade celebrates by sexing up the dancing girl he met a few chapters in, and then he gets teleported back to Earth, along with the solid gold bathtub he happens to be lounging in when he’s brought back. Huh.
The funny thing is, this book wasn’t nearly as weirdo insane as I’d expected it to be. There’s only two explicit sex scenes (and even then they don’t last for very long). In comparison, in earlier Dick Blade novels, Dick Blade legit has to impress various sexless clone-creatures of his superiority by flashing his junk.
See, the thing is, there was no Jeffrey Lord. The Dick Blade novels were cranked out by a variety of authors all using the same pen name, so I imagine by the time they got up to #23, there was a different, less wang-obsessed writer on deck. I’d honestly love to learn more about Pinnacle Books, as well as Lyle Kenyon Engel, the editorial mastermind behind a whole ‘novel factory’ that cranked out the Blade series, as well as a dozen others.
So yeah. To be honest, Empire of Blood isn’t a good book, but at least it’s a good read. It does exactly what it wants to do, and I kind of respect that. I dunno if I’d go back and read other books in the series, but at least Empire of Blood works well enough as a bit of mindless entertainment.