FAR AWAY AND NEVER collects the fantasy stories of Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey has gained his fame primarily as a horror writer, so it was a rare treat to see how he handled my second favorite genre of stories. A few years back I looked into buying a copy of this collection, originally published in 1996, but used copies were astronomically priced. Since then, Necronomican Press has rereleased it for $7.95 + shipping. When it arrived at my house, I put everything else aside and plunged in, loving ever minute of it.
The first four tales, featuring a swordsman named Ryre, were by far my favorites in the book. After finishing them, I was sad to be done with the adventures of Ryre. If Ramsey ever returns to the character, be it novel or short story, I’ll be first in line to buy it. #BringbackRyre
1. “The Sustenance of Hoak” (1977) – The adventurer Ryre and his friend Glode travel to the walled city of Hoak, seeking a legendary treasure rumored to be hidden there. The inhabitants of the city seem terrified to leave its walls and won’t allow anyone to enter. Strange stumps carved into the fat faces of a sleeping god adorn every house, and the people of the city extract a mind-altering ale-like substance from these stumps. After Glode succumbs to wounds he suffered from bandits, Ryre is forced to uncover the secrets of the treasure, the city, and the ancient guardian protecting it in this tremendous novelette.
2. “The Changer of Names” (1977) – While passing through a harbor town, Ryre is attacked in a tavern by a swordsman claiming to be him. After the real Ryre dispatches the imposter, he’s warned by the bartender that the alleyways have been especially deadly to swordsmen these days. Ryre sets out to track down the mysterious man who stole his name and gave it to another. The tension mounts in this story as our hero chases his elusive adversary through gritty streets and labyrinthine alleyways. At the end of the story, Ryre finds the Changer of Names is far more deadly than he initially appears. This is a fantastic tale that blends both horror and fantasy together.
3. “The Pit of Wings” (1978) – Ryre comes across a group of men forcing slaves to work in a thickly forested area near a town. They try to take him as well, but he’s able to hold them off until they give up. When he ends up in the same town, they come after him with greater numbers, managing to take him captive. Their plans for him are much more grim than making him a slave, however.
4. “The Mouths of Light” (1979) – Directly following the events from “The Pit of Wings” Ryre is forced to flee the surviving slave drivers into a cavern through a mountain. After a while, he encounters a group of sailors who surround him trying to decide if they should kill him or just take his sword and use him to help carry something they’re seeking out. Escaping them, he falls down a pit, and the sailors presume him dead. After they move on, he stalks them through the dark caverns surviving flooded chambers, huge maggot-like creatures with large, glowing mouths and the sailors themselves who are searching for a treasure hidden somewhere within.
5. “The Stages of the God” (1974) -The warrior-king Topops has been evicted from his kingdom by usurpers who send mercenaries after him. His horse poisoned and his body weary, he takes refuge in an old shrine to defend himself against his pursuers but finds a powerful presence already inhabiting the sanctuary.
6. “The Song at the Hub of the Garden” (1975) – Holoth, the hero of this tale, seeks the the location of Goam, a land of mages and sages and the magical garden there.
7. “The Ways of Chaos” (1996) – This is Ramsey’s contribution to Jonathan Bacon’s round robin novel called GENSERIC’S FIFTH-BORN SON, based off some Robert E. Howard’s story fragments written by various authors. In this one, Ghor (the story’s protagonist) follows a horde of monstrous creatures toward their evil master, Mentumenen. The Hounds of Tindalos make an appearance as well.
Available here: http://necropress.com/product/campbell-ramsey-far-away-never/
Reviewed by Matt Cowan