So far the eponymous Richard Blade’s excursions into the various Dimensions X’s have found him in lands suspiciously similar to earth’s own historical epochs, if those epochs were very shoddily researched and featured a lot of buxom princesses with improbably healthy teeth. To be honest, this seems like a bit of a waste.
This is Dimension X we’re talking about! The sky is the limit! The writers could populate it with monsters, elves, robots, space pirates, lizard men Elvis impersonators, whatever they damn well please! Instead we get a thinly-veiled version of what British people in the 1930’s thought China must be like. Argh.
But friends, that all changes now. Don’t let the above cover fool you. Which it seems like it is actively trying to do. No togas are in the offing here, I assure you. This outing we are avoiding vague gestures at ‘historical’ fiction and instead imagining fantastic dystopias based on broad gender stereotypes!
As with all the ‘Blade’ books thus far, “Jewel of Tharn” begins in the thick of the action, with “J” and Lord Leighton discussing finances with the Prime Minister, and Richard Blade nowhere to be seen. “Jeffrey Lord” certainly has a keen grip on pacing. It seems Lord L wants a million pounds to continue his highly scientific ‘project’ of injecting a greasy, naked man into unknown and highly dangerous situations for weeks at a time so he can pork princesses and bring back unusual trinkets. Surprisingly, the Prime Minister signs off on this without much of a fuss.
I’m sure there’s a joke about British politics here somewhere, but I’m not British, so it is left as an exercise to the reader.
Meanwhile, Blade is having girl troubles. His beloved Zoe is leaving him. Not surprising, given that he keeps slipping off into other dimensions and sexing up everything with two legs and a loincloth. OK, Zoe doesn’t know about that, but seriously. It’s hard to get worked up about this girl being “the love of Blade’s life” when we know that he’ll soon be porking savage maidens from hell to breakfast. Let me tell you the number of times Dick Blade has thought about Zoe while he’s in Dimension X over the course of three books: Zip, zilch, and nada.
Author “Jeffrey Lord,” if that’s his name (spoiler alert: no), is endeavoring to drum up some pathos for Blade’s little domestic crisis, but all that is really interesting here is that we get some eye candy descriptions of the man himself. While this series supposedly caters to the rampaging hormones of straight males who are adolescent either in body or in mind, the fact is that Blade’s tawny physique and various, erm, ‘attributes’ are always far more lovingly described than the heaving bosoms of any of the sultry vixens he encounters.
Blade wore only a pair of white shorts. His body, so recently drained, was at ease, if not his mind, and he looked like a huge brawny tanned cat against the white sheet. He was well over six feet and built in proportion, with an awesome symmetry about him, so perfectly in scale, that a stranger did not realize how massive the shoulders, how oaken the thighs, until the stranger had occasion to see, or to feel, Blade in action.
How oaken the thighs!
Erm, where was I? Oh yes, Zoe is walking out on Blade, leaving him in their cozy little Dorset cottage for the last time to drive to London. Blade tries to change her mind with this winning bit of sexism:
Blade frowned: “That’s women’s logic – which means no logic at all.”
Alas, this sensitive plea falls on deaf ears.
Blade helps Zoe carry her luggage out to her car – apparently, called a ‘Minx’ – and she drives off into the sunset. Or dark, I have no idea what time of day it is.
Freed at last from the minx, er, Zoe, Blade can answer duty’s call. Before you can say “grease me up, Scotty” he’s wearing a loin cloth and Lord L is taping wires to his body.
Blade closes his eyes, a switch is thrown, and he opens them to find himself in
Richard “Dick” Blade comes to in a small pit surrounded by bushes. A voice is ordering about someone named ‘Jargo’.
(The book notes in passing that Blade’s spy service encompasses about twenty years, meaning our man must be pushing forty at least. An interesting factoid to file away for later.)
As Blade takes in his surroundings he notices that the sky is strange.
It was like no sky he had ever seen. There was no color. The void over him, as far as he could see to the zenith and all the horizons, was milky opaque. There were no birds. No wind. Blade was warm, comfortable, even though he was naked.
To be fair, Blade is usually pretty comfortable naked.
Blade moves out of the pit and peers through the bushes and sees that he is surrounded by well-tilled farmland, and that off in the distance are clusters of domed buildings. In the fields, dark figures are working, but they aren’t regular men or women.
They did not walk like men, some slouching half erect and some going on all fours, and the constant gabble that reached him even at this distance did not sound like human speech.
I should note here that according to the books, the alterations the computer does to Blade’s brain means he always automatically understands the speech of the local humans in whatever Dimension he finds himself. (Don’t think about that too hard, you’ll get a brain cramp.)
A different figure starts walking toward Blade, and this one is not like the others. It walks upright, and it’s naked, but it isn’t a man or a woman. Blade realizes that this is the person who was addressing “Jargo” a moment ago. Deploying the secrecy and cunning gleaned from decades as an MI6(a) agent, Blade decides to acquire some information by stepping out of the bush and introducing himself.
On sighting Blade, the creature is immediately awed – by Blade’s genitals.
An expression of fear and awe flickered on the thing’s face. It fell to its knees and held up its hands in supplication.
“Lordsman! I am sorry, Lordsman. I did not know you were there. You did not speak or I would have made slaveface sooner. Forgive me Lordsman.”
Even by Blade’s lofty standards, this is surely the most powerful impression his penis has ever made on someone.
At any rate, Blade’s penis-less new friend is happy to give him the lay of the land. This place is called Tharn, in case we hadn’t figured it out from the book’s cover, and the gender neutral thing that’s so impressed by Blade’s beef sword is named Moyna. In addition to neuters such as Moyna we are told that there is also a caste of ‘worker beasts’ known as ceboids, some of which Blade spotted earlier working the fields. They are all engaged in the harvest of ‘mani’, a cotton-like crop that is the foundation for this entire society. Mani can be eaten, made into clothing, or formed into a plastic-like substance.
The neuters and the ceboids are obviously purpose bred, even having set lifespans and intelligence levels (Moyna is only ‘fourth level’). Moyna is greatly in fear of someone named Honcho, who seems to be the boss and who has eyes and ears everywhere. Blade persuades Moyna to help him to hide from Honcho’s prying eyes by taking him down into a little-used underground tunnel. In the tunnel they find a guard room full of ‘old-fashioned’ equipment, including old-fashioned gladiatorial style armor and weapons, all plastic but functional. The weapons are all of a medieval style, which is fortunate for Blade, since he belongs to the local Medieval Weapons Club (no, seriously). Imagine if this advanced society in an alternate dimension had come up with unique weaponry. Blade would be fucked.
No sooner has Blade suited up in plastic gladiator gear than the dread Honcho appears. Honcho has a big head indicating increased intelligence, but like Moyna he lacks the bait n’ tackle. Honcho orders Moyna to destroy itself by stepping onto a nearby circular pad. When Blade attempts to intervene and attack Honcho with his plastic medieval cutlery, he discovers that Honcho is merely a projection and cannot be harmed. Moyna is disintegrated.
Blade’s cover story, at this point, is that he is a “Lordsman,” whatever that is, who has hit his head and lost his memory. This worked well enough on Moyna, but it is less effective on Honcho, who claims to be of ‘fourteenth level’ intelligence. As proof of Blade’s status, Honcho demands to see, what else, Blade’s penis:
Blade obeyed. He bared his genitals. The neuter gasped and took a step backward.
Despite having viewed Blade’s beef bayonet, Honcho doesn’t buy the “Lordsman” story. He questions whether Blade might in fact be Mazda, which turns out not to be a cheap Japanese car but “HE WHO WILL COME TO THEY,” where “THEY” refers to whoever it is that is running this gender-bending mad house. Honcho decides that whether Blade is Mazda or not, he might be made to serve as Mazda for Honcho’s purposes. Blade is all like, “Whatevs,” and then Honcho teleports him to Casa de Honcho.
There Blade is kept for several days as an honored guest/prisoner in a sumptuous apartment guarded by force fields which for some reason the writer has decided to dub ‘magveils’. One day while Blade is out strolling on the terrace, what should he spy but a similar terrace below him, with a human woman on it. A redhead. Dick Blade is all about it.
Blade’s throat was constricted and his heart thudded. Only with difficulty could he draw the dense Tharnian air into his lungs. He had always been a well sexed man, and sexually overprivileged – J’s words – but there was no accounting for the lust that raged in him now.
J is a wise man.
Blade fashions a rope out of bedsheets, because that is a thing that totally works, and lowers himself down to the woman’s terrace. She apparently believes him to be Mazda, because she starts bowing to him. Blade decides to play along and pretend to be Mazda. He kisses her, but she doesn’t know what kissing is, so he has to explain it and they do it some more.
The woman explains that her name is Zulekia of the Maidukes of THEY. Blade is like, “That’s cool baby, whatever, let’s hit the bedroom,” but Zulekia resists, saying that they can’t because she is “karno.”
Zulekia saw that he did not understand. Plainly she was puzzled by this, but she squirmed around to show him the back of the bikini-like panties she wore. “I am karno,” she insisted again. “Karno. My seal has been broken.”
Apparently Zulekia snuck off with a real Lordsman (not Blade) and got caught, which is why she has been banished here for punishment. Blade is not put off by this. What he is somewhat more put off by is the fact that he’s pretty sure that Honcho is watching their entire encounter.
Blade was beginning to understand something else about Honcho – the neuter was more than a watcher and a listener. Honcho was a voyeur, a pervert! Honcho had no sex, and yet… and yet…
Blade took her hand and led her firmly to the bed. “I do not understand,” he said. “It does not matter. I do not care. Now – obey me!”
Then they have the kind of mystically satisfying sex that people in books have when they’re supposed to be really truly in love. After they’re finished Blade looks up just in time to see Honcho’s sneering projection fading from the corner of the room. Creep city.
Honcho’s plans, it seems, extend beyond getting an eyeful of Blade’s semen demon. As soon as he’s finished unloading his cargo chute with Zulekia, Honcho’s henchmen appear along with the chief eunuch himself. They march Blade off to visit
King Org of the Pethcines, and his daughter Totha.
It seems Honcho hopes to use Blade to impress the savage Pethcines who will then help him overthrow THEY. Of course, Blade remains focused on the real issues:
Casually Blade said, “Did you enjoy it, Honcho? Watching the woman and me?”
Honcho is all like, “No, it was for science!” and Blade is all like, “Whatevs.” Honcho tells Blade that Zulekia is to be punished for her crimes and asks if he’d like to save her. Blade asks what exactly the punishment entails. The answer, it turns out, is to be raped to death by the sub-human ceboids. Honcho tells Blade that he won’t let this happen as long as Blade complies with his plans.
Eventually, they reach the Pethcines, who live in a gorge of some kind that is apparently impenetrable to THEY. The Pethcines are regular men, but of course they aren’t WHITE men, no!
Blade studied them closely. They were men, real men, and he recognized the type as what he would once have called Mongoloid.
They were squat, shaggy en dressed in skins and crude armor.
Don’t worry, the author has made sure to slip some casual racism in here along with all the creepy gender shit!
Blade and Honcho are lead into the heart of the Pethcines home, which is basically a big amphitheater full of savages:
The crude stone seats were packed with Petchines in every stage of disarray and disorder and drunkenness. Most were staring at Blade and Honcho, but some were not. The couples who were copulating nearby, in plain view of the mob, and without anyone seeming to care or notice, did not so much as glance at the two interlopers.
Honcho introduces Blade to the Pethcine chief Org, as well as to a ‘medieval broadsword’ embedded in a big stone which he is told not to touch. I’m sure that won’t be significant later.
Org is your typical big fat squinty evil racial stereotype slash caveman. While Honcho tries to impress him with how amazing Blade is, Blade and Org’s daughter Totha eye-fuck.
All this time Blade and Totha had been dueling with their eyes. She had never taken her eyes off him, since his approach to the throne, and there was no mistaking the message. Her eyes were oval, almond, true Mongoloid, and at that distance appeared a deep brown.
Naturally, she’s topless.
Her skin was dusky ivory, her pear-shaped breasts sharp and firm with long brown nipples. She wore only a very short skirt of some animal skin.
Gee, wonder if Blade will be forced to play sex slave to the evil mongoloid princess?
Totha ogles Blade, giving special attention to his crotch, then informs her father she’d like to have him. Org informs Blade and Honcho that first – stop me if you saw this coming – he’ll have to beat Totha’s current lover Gutar in single combat. While Totha is coming onto Blade hot and heavy, crushing her ‘pert breasts’ against him, etc etc, the real sexual tension here is between Blade and Gutar:
Gutar retired to confer with his Pethcine friends. He was stripped down now. Naked. It was the way the Pethcines fought.
Org said: “Shields are not permitted in private combat. You must fight naked, with only your weapons. You really wish to use only that stick, that thing?” Org gazed doubtfully at the slender rapier.
You know Blade don’t take kindly to people questioning the size of his rapier!
Blade and Gutar square off, Blade with shield and rapier, Gutar with bow and arrows and a sword and throwing net. Gutar really seems over-equipped compared to Blade, but in this case it is Blade’s own fault.
What follows may be the most homoerotic fight scene in the series. There is a lot of thrusting and naked oily muscles and so on. And then:
Blade leaped backward as Gutar, still on his knees, swung in a backhand slash at his exposed genitals.
God, just fuck each other already.
Alas, the two men repress their urges and continue battling. Gutar forces Blade back against the big stone with the sword. Blade keeps ‘poking’ him with his ‘slender rapier’. Things are pretty much even until Gutar pulls a dirty trick – scooping up one of the many decapitated heads casually strewn about the arena and throwing it in Blade’s face. This causes Blade to lose his weapon, or maybe it’s not an accident, since it allows the two naked men to finally get up close and personal.
They were both covered with blood. Blade wriggled partially from under Gutar, managed to get half astride the man, meaning to ride him, using his weight, and throttle him with the bowstring.
This is gay as fuck.
Weaponless and trapped against the rock, Blade does what everyone knew he was going to do twenty pages ago and
sucks Gutar’s cock draws the sword out of the stone. He then uses the sword to decapitate Gutar.
This feat finally convinces Org, the Pethcine chieftain, that Blade is Mazda, HE WHO COMES TO THEY. Then Totha leads Blade back to her room for some ceremonial sexing, although it is obvious who Blade really wanted here.
As she began her phallic worship Blade’s hands closed around the jeweled hilt of the great sword.
‘Phallic worship’ would be a pretty accurate title for this series.
Check out Part Deux of our hot, quivering probe into the depths of The Jewel of Tharn!!!