In the late 1970s, Manly Wade Wellman began a series of novelettes about the last survivor of Atlantis, a warrior bard named Kardios. Or at least he began publishing them in the late 1970s. In his introduction to “Straggler from Atlantis”, Adrew Offutt says that Wellman tried to publish them in the 1930s, but some other chap was writing about an Atlantean named Kull at the time and no editor was buying.
Be that at it may, the Kardios stories were published, although to the best of my knowledge, they’ve never been collected in book form. The ISFDB shows a total of five, with the first four appearing in the first four volumes of Swords Against Darkness and the final one in an anthology from DAW books with the generic title of Heroic Fantasy.
I’ll be taking a look at each one of these stories over the next few months. I’ll probably post a review when I’m in the middle of a lengthy novel or am otherwise busy and need to put some fresh material up. My approach is to summarize the setup to the story but, in the event that someone wants to track down a copy and read it, not give away any major plot points.
Kardios is cut from a very different cloth than Robert E. Howard’s Kull. I don’t know if Wellman rewrote the stories from the originals or if they are pretty much untouched. Maybe someone else does.
Anyway, the story opens with Kardios washing up on a beach after Atlantis has submerged. It turns out he’s the cause of Atlantis sinking. We eventually learn why. I’ll not go into detail other than to say I found that to be the weakest part of the story.
Kardios is found by a group of giants, who take him back to their cave. They ask his help in defeating a monster. Some time ago what they referred to as a chariot in the sky crashed and a creature they call Fith, after the sound its breathing makes, crawled out of the wreckage and into a hole. Fith is something like the Blob. It has no shape, it hates daylight, it’s hungry, and it feeds on any mammal it can catch, including the giants, who are slow and awkward. The giants want Kardios to go down into the hole where it hides during the day and kill it.
The concept of something crashing from space and terrorizing the countryside is one Wellman used in his 1939 novel, Giants from Eternity, which was published in book form in 1959. I thought this was an interesting thing to put in a fantasy adventure story. Overall I like Wellman’s doing something different and his mixing genres a little here.
The writing didn’t seem to me to be up to the level of some of Wellman’s other work, but if this story was actually written somewhere around 1930, then that’s not too surprising. It’s still worth reading. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, as I’m curious as to the direction Wellman took things.