Saturday, 25 July 2015

Blackskull’s Captive by Tom Doolan, 2012

The first time I read about orcs, the hideous and beastly human-like creatures, was in Harvest of War by blog friend Charles Gramlich. I reviewed his fantasy short story last month. Some days later he mentioned that writer Tom Doolan of Wisconsin, USA, was offering his story about orcs free on Amazon. I did not need a second invitation. I downloaded Blackskull’s Captive immediately, read it in one sitting, and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

© Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Having never read about orcs in J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus, I was delighted to have read two very fine orc tales back to back. The stories widened my horizon. I was also pleasantly surprised to read that Tom had dedicated his story to Charles Gramlich, author of fantasy, horror, and sf, and Scott Oden, writer of historical novels.

Young Jack Monro is the sole human survivor of a brutal assault by bloodthirsty orcs who destroy his spaceship, HMS Mandrake, and take him captive aboard their own, the Grishnaak. Jack doesn’t go down without a fight and even kills an orc to prove he is made of sterner stuff. Blackskull, the captain of the enemy ship, a particularly huge and brutish orc, takes a fancy to Jack and makes him his cabin boy.

Jack is frightened beyond imagination, as he spends the first few days locked up in the orc captain’s closet. But he is also a brave and spirited lad who overcomes his fear of the repulsive humanoids and plots his escape from the foul-smelling orc ship.

The 32-page story is narrated in first person by Jack, who soon wins the trust of the captain and is allowed to move freely on the ship. The orc crew leave him alone though many eye him with “suspicion and amusement.” 
As Captain Blackskull and his orc crew stalk the space lanes and ambush and plunder more human ships, Jack quietly explores the bowels of the Grishnaak from whence he must escape.

© www.amazon.com
Blackskull’s Captive is a combination of fantasy and science fiction, and an adventure of high order. It has several twists and turns, and there is not a dull moment in the clean narrative. I liked the writer’s description of the orcs and their predatory nature, the terrifying battle between the horrid creatures and courageous humans, and the inventive mechanism of the Grishnaak. But what I liked most about the story is the skilful manner in which Tom Doolan lightens up the air despite throwing Jack Monro into a very frightening and mind-numbing situation. A fine blend of fear and fun.

I will be reading more orc stories by Tom Doolan. Recommended.

14 comments:

  1. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this, Prashant. Stories about bravery and about finding one's own strength can be very powerful. And those are themes that resonate no matter what the context is, whether it be sci-fi, fantasy or something else.

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    1. Margot, I fancy such stories, especially after my fairly recent interest in sf and fantasy. I have also been reading shorter fiction due to constraints on my time.

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  2. I never thought of orcs being part of a space opera story, but it does sound interesting. I have downloaded it, as I did Harvest of War. Not sure when I will get to reading them, since I am so far behind on my short story reading. Thanks for the review.

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    1. Tracy, you're welcome. "Space opera" is a good term to describe this story. I didn't know about orcs till I read both these fantasy stories. They're interesting creatures.

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  3. I enjoyed this one as well. I actually didn't know much about Orcs until I started researching them for Harvest of War. About all I knew was the Tolkien connection. It was fun to learn more about them.

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    1. Charles, thanks for the push in the direction of Tom Doolan's orc story. It was certainly worth it.

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  4. That sounds great for people who like the genre Prashant, but probably not for me! That is some cover, helping people make up their minds whether to read it or not....

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    1. Moira, I feel like an amateur painter who dabbles in various art forms without a clear focus! That, in a nutshell, is my reading. The cover is reflective of orc pirates.

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  5. Prashant - spooky timing. We watched the whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogy over the weekend!

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    1. Col, the LOTR trilogy is shown on cable television almost every day. My children have watched it several times while I usually catch a scene or two and then piece them together. I hope to read the book someday in the future.

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  6. Prashant, you really should read The Hobbit and then The Lord of The Rings. I don't mean see the movies, read the books.

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    1. Richard, I definitely intend to read both "The Hobbit" and the LOTR trilogy. My daughter has read them all and she enjoyed it.

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  7. Thanks for the introduction Prashant, Noolan is not an author I know. I'm not a big fanatasy reader (though like the first volme of GAME OF THRONES) but when something is good, it's good.

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    1. Hi Sergio, you're welcome. I liked BLACKSKULL'S CAPTIVE. It was short and crisply written. I'm afraid I haven't read or seen GOT.

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