Here is another cover for Monster of the Maze. As you can see it’s in a fine, B-movie tradition, right down to having a tagline that makes no sense.
But we would be remiss if we passed over the audiobook cover for this. I apologize for the horrendous image quality. Still, this one is not to be missed:
I appreciate that this cover is the only one to actually advertise the book’s real hook: our hero turning into a weird man-baby. With Tom Cruise’s head, apparently! Also there’s a snake and a sexy nurse.
Weirdly, this does somehow feel like it captures the essence of this book quite well.
Moving on, let’s get back to the story.
Holding her at the point of his erect, erm, sword, Richard Blade discovers that the intruder behind his drapes is none other than the Princess Hirga. Her voice is a “deep, husky contralto” and when she steps out from behind the curtain she is a total hottie – although, rudely for a woman in this book,
She was the first woman he had seen in Zir who covered her breasts.
Since Blade just finished… entertaining… Valli, he naturally has some concerns:
“How long have you been behind my drapes, and how came you there?”
She stared at him. Her eyes were large and a deep sea green. He noted that her breathing was fast and there was a swollen, puffy look around her mouth and eyes. She had been there long enough. She had seen and heard everything and it excited her.
Either that or she’s having a dangerous allergic reaction. This sounds a lot less like arousal and a lot more like anaphylactic shock, if you ask me, Blade.
She went to the bed and sat on the edge. She put a hand on the pillow and looked at Blade and half smiled. Her teeth were very small and white. As she stared and stared, as though she could never see enough of him, she caught her nether lip in her teeth and bit it and there was no mistaking the speculation in her glance. Beneath the golden doublet her bosom swelled and moved, and he plainly heard the rasp of breath in her throat.
Seriously, someone get this woman an epinephrine injection.
Blade knew he could tumble her in an instant if he chose. This was a sensual woman and she was aroused to a high pitch by what she had seen and heard.
Hirga put a hand on the pillow again. “Still warm from your harem whore.”
Readers will quickly guess that there is something weird going on with Princess Hirga, and that it is more involved than a simple case of wantin’ the D (as in Dick!). The Princess informs Blade that she did not come here merely for an eyeful of his leather lollipop. The High Priest Casta would like a word with him.
Casta and his priests are headquartered in the Izmir’s unfinished
pyram – er, triangular stone monument. All the old dead Izmir’s are entombed in pyr triangular monuments. But the Izmir’s will be the largest yet and contains an elaborate maze to stop anyone from disturbing his body.
Hey! A maze! I sure wonder if that will figure largely into the story later! Maybe it will contain some sort of… monster?
Who can say???
Blade for some reason agrees to go into the strange maze which is the headquarters of the evil priest cult so he can talk to the high priest who hates him because… sure, why not.
The Princess departs. The next day Blade heads out to the Not Pyramid, where he is escorted by black-clad priests into the gloomy stone labyrinth within. Soon he finds himself alone in a ‘vast cavern’.
The Princess Hirga appeared from the gloom. She was wearing the silver trousers, but this time her breasts were bare and Blade felt a spasm of desire as he gazed at those perfect cones.
Wow, cone-shaped boobs! Move over, Madonna!
Our traffic cone princess escorts Blade into Casta’s presence and where he stands, shrouded in mystery.
“Turn your face to the fire, priest.”
The chuckle was low, throaty. “Yes. That is fair. Look, Blade!”
The eyes, huge and burning black, were torches in a skull. The face was a death’s head, bone with saffron flesh drawn over it like a drum. A skull. Blade could see the veins writhing like blue worms. The nose was vulpine, sharp as a nail, and the lips a bloodless anus.
Ol’ Anus-Lips wants Blade to join him so they can rule the galaxy as father and son, or some shit. Blade plays along, especially when Casta reveals that he has something that Blade wants – a huge-ass diamond. These ginormous diamonds are apparently everywhere in the barbaric land of the Hitts. But people think of them as completely valueless and use them only for cutting and decorations. Because obviously it would never naturally occur to the people of Zir to place an intrinsic value on extremely beautiful shiny crystals.
Mr. Rectal Throat has one last piece of information to persuade Dick to see things his way: the Izmir is dead. He has expired within the last hour of natural causes. Blade, feeling uncharacteristically vulnerable, agrees to play nice with his new frenemy for the time being. There are two conditions he has to follow. One, he has to conquer the barbaric Hitts. Two, he has to marry Princess Hirga and do married-people stuff with her.
No sooner has Blade left the high priest’s presence than does a topless Hirga appear once more to whisk him to a ‘bare cubicle in which there was only a cot’. Blade immediately notices an odd smell in the cubicle, and it’s not one of those musky lady smells which he is so adept at detecting. More of a rotten poop smell, maybe.
Blade has no time to dwell on these unpleasantries, though.
Hirga’s green eyes were bold and her teeth gleamed. She took Blade’s hands and placed them on her jutting breasts.
Might as well cop a feel of those traffic cone tits, Blade!
As you might expect, this is all leading up to some of the old bump n’ grind. But for once, conquering the princess isn’t making our hero feel like the alpha male.
Her eyes were wild and out of focus and she did not lie down for him at once, but insisted on loosing his kilt and making a long study of his phallus. She fondled it and stroked and leaned closer to see it, and Blade, for the first time in his life, sensed tht he was found wanting in the genital department. She did not speak of it, and when they coupled on the cot she gave every outward sign of enjoyment, but he knew. She lay on the cot and watched as he arranged his clothing and armor and buckled on his sword, and he saw discontent in the green eyes. He had not satisfied her. He could not understand it.
Naturally, Blade decides next time he’ll spend more time focusing on her needs, pay some attention to the clitoris, maybe even go down on her for a while.
Hahah, no, of course I kid. Dick Blade only satisfies women by talking down to them and treating them like trash!
Blade doesn’t get much time to brood on his inexplicable failure to be the perfect sexual partner. He has the Hitts to conquer!
Since we are in Fantasy Egypt the name ‘Hitts’ might put the reader in mind of the Hittites, a historic group of city states located in Anatolia (modern day Turkey) that were sometimes enemies of the ancient Egyptians.
Well, forget about all that shit.
These Hitts are basically just Fantasy Vikings: they are blonde-haired, blue-eyed barbarians and they wear hats with horns on them. They are the only neighbors the people of Zir have failed to conquer. This is partly because they live in an extremely mountainous region separated from Zir by a thin strip of water. It is also partly because they are ferocious warriors who will fight to the death down to the last man, woman and child rather than submit.
Dick Blade is gung ho to take on the Hitts; not just because he has a hard-on for Fantasy Vikings, but because the Hitts are sitting on an entire mountain of Dimension X diamonds. Communicating with Blade via the crystal in his brain, Lord L informs him that they are working on teleportation tech and they want those diamonds. And, I suppose, they don’t care how many hapless Dimension X natives they have to slaughter to get them. Any of these people ever heard of ‘trade’ or ‘negotiation’?
It turns out that the head engineer working on the Izmir’s
pyram – sorry! The Izmir’s pointy monument, I mean, is the one and only Hitt ever to be captured alive, a guy named Thane. Dick decides he needs Thane’s engineering expertise and his knowledge of his fellow Hitts to win the fight against them. Fortunately it turns out that it’s not too hard to persuade Thane to betray his fellow countrymen. He has an axe to grind with another Hitt named Galligantus, who stole Thane’s woman and then had her put to death when she was caught doing the nasty with Thane anyway.
So Thane is on board, but he wants to know what Blade’s strategy is for crossing the water and subduing the un-conquerable Hitts. Blade tells him his plan is to build a pontoon bridge. Thane laughs. It’s been tried before! Blade suggests a second, even more devious plan: build two pontoon bridges. Again Thane rejects Blade’s incredibly clever idea. But wait, Blade has a third suggestion: build two pontoon bridges but one of them is slightly underwater. Thunderstruck by Blade’s other-dimensional cleverness, Thane can only acquiesce to his genius.
Someone who will not acquiesce to Blade’s genius is the Princess Hirga. Blade visits her chambers unannounced one night. Once again there is a nasty funk in the air and Hirga seems to have been recently satisfied, and not by Dick Blade’s universally satisfactory penis:
Blade stood at the foot of her bed, hand on sword, and surveyed his Princess wife, “You did not miss me, Hirga?” You have taken a lover.”
Her mouth was puffy and her lip salve smeared. She still breathed hard.
Once again, I’m not sure if Hirga is aroused or if she’s having a bad reaction to her peanut allergy.
“Why do you say that, Blade? How can you know such a thing?”
“By the look of you, woman. I am neither a child nor a fool. You have just been filled, stuffed, and not long ago. It must have been greatly to your liking, by the look of you.”
Hirga gave him an enigmatic smile and wiggled a finger. “I do not admit it. Or deny it. It is a pity that you cannot do so for me.”
Blade attempts to persuade her to tell him who her lover is, promising he won’t take revenge on the man and that she can keep him as a lover.
The truth being, he told himself, that he longed to see this man who was a better cocksman than himself.
I think we should really follow Manning Lee Stokes’ lead here in bringing back this use of the word ‘cocksman’.
At any rate, the princess won’t give up the identity of her secret lover. Blade is very annoyed by this, partly because he can’t figure out how the man got into Hirga’s chambers in the first place. Blade has entered by the only passageway and it is very well guarded. Hirga taunts him, then starts saying some weird shit and dissolves into Crazy Person Laughter(tm). Blade then searches the room and discovers three “silvery scales” on the floor. They smell like the bad smell.
Blade, despite being the supposedly clever guy that the book keeps telling us he is, can’t seem to figure out that 2 + 2 = secret monster lover. So instead he leaves and gets back to plotting the conquest and exploitation of the Hitts so that Lord L can teleport out their shiny shiny diamonds.
All the plotting and planning between Blade, Thane, and Ogier (now promoted from palace guard to essentially general) is pretty tedious and takes up what seems like at least a couple of chapters. But we put up with it because we know it’s building towards an epic battle scene, right? Welllll… ‘Epic’ might not be the word. But there is a battle. Eventually.
Ogier leads most of the army over one pontoon bridge, the above-water one. The Hitts, naturally, attack this force. Meanwhile, Blade leads a secret strike force over the second, hidden pontoon bridge. He has to converge on Ogier’s position quickly or Ogier will be wiped out. So of course he stops every couple of paragraphs or so to receive a report from a scout or give instructions to some young lieutenant who we have never met before and will never hear about again. Seriously, for a secret lightning-fast flanking maneuver, Blade seems to take his sweet time.
FINALLY we get to the actual battle scene. There are a couple of pages of blood, thunder, and cavalry charges. The book has told us that the Hitts are so ferocious that even their women fight in battle. Blade discovers this to be true:
A woman, bearing no weapon, leaped at him with a scream of defiance. Blade laid the flat of his sword across her head. Even in such battle frenzy he could not bring himself to saber a woman.
Oh, I don’t think Blade has any problem sabering women IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN NUDGE NUDGE WINK WINK
Ogier and Blade’s forces have the Hitts – lead by their large and ferocious chieftain Loth Bloodax – pinned down on the beach between the water and the cliffs. But Loth’s Bloodax’s elite guard won’t break. Thane points out Bloodax to Blade and he’s this huge guy in metal armor with an axe. It looks like we’re heading for a climactic confrontation. Man-to-man combat between Blade and the barbarian chieftain. But then Bloodax and his men… disappear?
Blade began to look among the corpses for that of Loth Bloodax. He thought it wasted effort, yet he still sought without success. But maybe the Hitt chieftain was buried under other bodies, perhaps his corpse would still be found. Blade did not really believe it. He knew that he had been somehow diddled, though he could not guess at the how and why of it.
Urban dictionary has quite a different meaning for ‘diddle’ than the one clearly intended here. My, the evolution of language is truly marvelous!
They soon surmise that Bloodax and his cronies must have retreated into concealed tunnels in the cliff. Also, Bloodax’s lieutenant Galligantus has vanished with him. He’s the guy Thane wanted to kill. This has pissed off Thane.
“Galligantus has escaped me. His body is not to be found though I have it that he fought here today. I am thinking he went ahead into that tunnel, as advance guard for Bloodax. So they have diddled us both, Blade.”
Blade and Thane are finished being diddled for the moment, but alas, for some others it is just getting started.
Even though both women and children fight alongside the Hitt warriors, Blade has given orders that they not be wantonly slaughtered. This means that as night falls on his weary but mostly victorious army, there are now a lot of Hitt women around. Which, according to the book, they proceed to start raping.
For once, Dick Blade doesn’t just shrug his shoulders and say, “When in Rome…” He attempts to order his captains to stop it. They tell him that the men are now drunk and out of control and there’s nothing they can do about it. At one point Blade tries to physically go help a woman but is restrained from doing so by his captains so that he will not be attacked by his own men.
It’s nice to see Blade actually objecting to mass rape here. There have been situations in other books where he was part of a conquering army and didn’t bat an eye at this. The taking of the city of the Sea Caths in The Jade Warrior springs to mind. Still, ultimately Blade makes little attempt and completely fails to stop a pretty horrific scenario from playing out.
Blade’s plan is that in the morning, when everybody has gotten all the raping out of their system, they will follow Bloodax into the cliff tunnels and finish the barbarian chieftain once and for all. Right after a chapter break!
Blade was a royal prisoner and treated as such. For near a month he had been a captive of the Hitts, and he still did not know their intentions toward him. He knew his own intentions – escape as soon as possible. If possible. And it might be. He glanced at the pile of sen-together skins in a corner of his hut and smiled. Just possible – if his crude balloon worked and the Hitts did not kill him first.
What the fuck?!?
I have not edited this at all, easily the most jarring chapter transition in the series to date. We go from Blade victorious to Blade captured over a month later. Oh, and Thane is dead now. Also, Blade has been banging a barbarian chick named Lisma. Lisma is Loth Bloodax’s daughter, and she wants get pregnant with the child of god. Because of course these people think Blade is a god.
Being a savage barbarian maiden, Lisma has no time for niceties.
“We are wasting time, Blade. I have not all day for this. Put your man weapon in me and have done.”
Despite Lisma’s gruff approach, Blade is working the old Blade Penis Magic on her. Soon Lisma is in love with him. Blade uses her affections to convince Loth Bloodax to let him visit “the sacred place of Kings and Queens,” which is the mountain full of diamonds that Blade wants for Lord L. Bloodax is convinced that this is a good idea. It helps that Lisma has her father’s ear as well:
“I already feel his seed stirring in me, I tell you. Soon you will have a god as a grandson. Do this thing for me, father. I will see that all is well. I promise.”
Bloodax agrees, on condition that Blade be escorted to the Sacred Place by Galligantus, the warrior who killed Thane’s girlfriend and, more recently, Thane. They set off, and before long they encounter a lovely bit of descriptive scenery:
In the center of the plain a mountain stood alone. The sun was dying in the west, but a last ray struck over the mountains and cliffs and valleys and caressed one black flank of the mountain on the plain. In that moment it came alive, sequined, glowing and sparking and flashing. Blade stood awe-stricken. Here was literally a mountain of diamonds.
They decide to go inside, although it is not clear what more information Blade expects to glean. He came looking for a mountain of diamonds to somehow teleport back home to enrich Jolly Old England. And now here it is. Mountain? Check. Diamonds? Check. Good to go!
But no, Blade wants to venture inside to the Sacred Place of Kings and Queens. The Hitts have crafted figures out of diamonds and he wants to take a look at them in all the glittery goodness. Blade and Galligantus venture alone into a shaft in the side of the mountain. Inside there are the usual deep pits and bottomless chasms and things. Blade sees a bunch of statues made of out of diamonds and is suitably impressed. Then Dick Blade sees something that really cranks his engine: a naked lady!
She stood a little alone, on a natural plinth that jutted out over the chasm. She was naked and her arms were outstretched in welcome. Her glittering diamond smile seemed to welcome the torch, the light brought into the pit, and as Blade gaped she appeared to move. Warmth glowed in that perfect body. She spoke to Blade across the chasm and the years and he knew he must have her. From that moment on he reckoned himself a little mad and must live with it. But only half of him was mad.
Who is this hottie with the carbon body? Galligantus tells him her name is Janina, and she was the first queen of the Hitts.
Blade now does something that actually is mildly clever. Using his obvious awe of the nude Janina statue as cover, he tells Galligantus that he wants to see her up close. But the only way to do that is to leap a fifteen foot chasm, a nearly impossible jump. Blade plays like he is really going to do it, than catches Galligantus off guard and tosses him into the chasm to his death. Blade leaves to begin his escape attempt from the Hitts, but not before promising the naked diamond lady that he will be back.
You may remember that Blade was constructing a hot air balloon to escape from the Hitts. Much like the Sarmians were an advanced society that somehow didn’t have the wheel, the Hitts have guys with leather gliders but don’t know about hot air balloons. Which perhaps makes sense, as I’m not sure that constructing such a balloon out of animal hides would actually work. But for the purposes of this shitty pulp book, it does! Dick Blade’s hot air balloon takes off, carrying him away from the Hitts and back toward Zir. Because he’s Blade, he suffers basically no setbacks and soon arrives at his destination in perfect health other than being cold and hungry.
However, all is not well in Zir. High Priest Casta and Ogier are now locked in a struggle for power and Casta is winning. Blade decides the only thing to do is confront Casta once and for all and kill him. Even though his lair is inside the Izmir’s monument in a maze… with monsters!
Well what do you know. Monsters in a maze. It took us fucking long enough to get here, book!
Blade enters the monolith… naked. Because: Blade. Of course he’s going to do this naked.
Anyway, inside things are suitably ominous. Torches gutter in sconces. Black archways open into nothingness. No one seems to be about. Our hero plunges onward!
Blade has come prepared with a basic but reasonable strategy for defeating the maze: a ball of twine. Unfortunately for him, this isn’t one of those ancient tombs where the makers have been dead for thousands of years. Casta’s priests are present and watching Blade’s progress through the maze. They quickly cut his line. Blade is forced to rely on memory from his previous trip to the monolith to visit Casta. Also on his sense of smell: that nasty rotting-poop odor is back.
As Blade ventures deeper into the labyrinth he has to contend with obstacles such as soporific gas, magical illusions, and leaps onto moving platforms. Bravely undeterred by any of this, he presses on.
Eventually he finds himself in a short passageway that ends in a door with a small hole cut into it. Pressing his eye to the hole, our man Blade is treated to quite a peep show. Princess Hirga is lying naked on a bed, fondling her breasts and moaning. She is crying out for someone to come to her.
Blade smells the Bad Smell and then Hirga’s monstrous lover appears!
It stood near the bed and regarded the naked Hirga with eyes set deep in a face that was both animal and human. Horns curled from its forehead and it sprouted scales instead of hair. Silvery platelike scales covered its body. It had the breasts of a woman and the phallus of a man. The legs were short and crooked and ended in hooves. Cloven.
Weird. Well, I’m just relieved that we didn’t get a detailed, vivid description of the monster’s dick.
Shit, I spoke too soon!
The phallus. It had been limp and dangled to the creature’s knee. It was thick, a meaty sausage covered with tiny scales. It began to swell, to grow, to gain rigidity and strength until it jutted enormous and threatening. Blade understood then, knew why no mere man could satisfy Hirga. The High Priest sent this thing to her, controlled her by means of it, and Hirga was addicted, like an addict crying for heroin.
Hey, if I have to read about a monster’s ‘meaty sausage’, so do you!
The creature gets on top of Hirga and starts doing its thing. While the princess initially seems pretty gung-ho about her monstrous lover and its scaly sausage, as the sex goes on it seems like maybe she’s not enjoying it all that much and is in fact actually in pain and terrified. So of course Blade rushes in and puts a stop to this abomination!
No, I kid, of course not. He just watches!
Blade, Blade the voyeur, looked down at his own penis and saw it iron hard. He cursed himself.
Very politely, Blade waits until the monster has finished. Reminder: Blade is technically married to this woman. Once the creature has, ah, wrapped things up, it disappears. Finally Blade decides to go into Hirga’s room.
Hirga now explains to Blade what is going on:
“Casta,” she told him with a weariness in her voice now. “He devises it and his priests obey – in the crypts below they copulate with beasts and so produce monsters. Half animal and half men – of many sorts. Casta seeks to produce a race of monsters with brute strength and small brains so he can control them, and through them, all of Zir, and eventually the world.”
Blah blah blah, yada yada yada, evil plans, take over the world, etc. But what about Hirga? What’s her deal?
Hirga tells Blade that,
“When the desire, the madness comes over me I cannot help myself. But when the creature has come and gone I am, for a little time, satiated and I can think for myself. Now is such a time.”
And since she’s in her right mind, she has a request for her dear hubby:
“Kill me, Blade. Cut off my head and take it with you. It may be of some help when you meet Urdur.”
“And who is Urdur? Or what?”
Hirga began to weep. “A monster born of monsters. Casta mated a male with a female monster and they begat Urdur. He is Casta’s familiar and guards him, and now that you have come this far into the maze you will meet him. If you can kill Urdur you will have defeated Casta.”
So, basically Urdur is the boss fight on this level. Got it.
Blade isn’t thrilled about the idea of cutting off Hirga’s head. But Hirga really wants to die. Also, she promises Blade that if he will promise to kill her, she will tell him the secret shortcut out of the maze, which of course will begin to collapse once he defeats Urdur. Blade finally agrees and kills Hirga… off-screen during a chapter break.
Now carrying Hirga’s bloody, decapitated head, Blade proceeds. In an effort to cover all the possible cliches of one of these final confrontations, Casta begins speaking to Blade through some unseen mechanism, telling him to turn back, that they can rule together, etc. Blade just reiterates his plan to kill Casta. There is maniacal laughter followed by silence.
Blade enters the den of some kind of large creature. He sees an enormous beast in the shadows. This must be it: Urdur. The monster begat of monsters. Blade feels a nameless dread. He quotes Hamlet to himself. The hairs stand up on his neck. The creature emerges into the light.
It was half serpent, half dragon, with the head and fearsome teeth of a tyrannosaurus. Four-inch teeth glittering like daggers. Scores of them. Scythe-shaped claws on short, armored legs. Thick scales covered it, plates that would dent his sword – but for the underbelly. There the flesh was putrid white, puffy and slack. The underbelly! That was his only chance.
So… basically Urdur is a large lizard.
When I think of psychically scarring nameless horrors I usually think of things with more tentacles but… okay, fine.
Hirga seemed particularly insistent that her head was key to defeating this monster. Blade throws it at the creature, which gobbles it up, distracting it for about two seconds. This does give Blade time to cut off one of its legs, though the monster seems to function fine without it. In fact the monster doesn’t appear to need any legs, slithering around on its belly after Blade once he has severed them all.
After battling for a couple of pages, the creature tries to crush Blade. Fortunately, like all good final bosses it has an Obvious Weak Point, in this case its belly. Blade stabs it there, killing it.
There is no time to celebrate, though. Hirga has told Blade that the secret passage out of the maze is in Casta’s lair. He has to follow the priest, who was watching this final battle, before he escapes and Blade is lost in the maze.
Sure enough, Blade is able to do this. The entrance to the passage is under the grate in the fireplace in Casta’s room. It leads to a long straight passage that rises upward. Blade suspects that Casta has already headed into it. He throws his torch away so that Casta won’t know he’s coming.
Blade follows the passage in darkness and sure enough he soon begins to catch up with Casta. Right as they get to the exit from the passageway he catches up and kills Casta with a throwing knife.
When Blade emerges out into the open with Casta’s corpse he finds that Ogier’s men are rounding up the evil priests and are now in control. Victory! But Blade has no time to rest on his laurels. He’s got a naked lady with nips that are literally diamond hard that he is itching to get back to.
Blade swims the channel, hikes his way back up through the mountains, and evades the Hitt patrols. Somehow, he makes his way back to the diamond mountain and the Hitt’s Sacred Place with no problem and in only a few paragraphs. Blade is in the grip of his obsession with Janina, the diamond woman, and he’s starting to go a little crazy. When he gets to the edge of the chasm, he yells into the abyss, “How do you fare, Galligantus?”
But Blade isn’t just trying to have conversations with dead men. His craziness extends further than that. His diamond paramour seems to be talking to him too.
Janina spoke: “You have come at last, my heart. I am glad. I have waited so long. I have waited a thousand years, Blade. I can wait no longer. Come to me.”
Now you may be wondering what’s actually going on. Is Janina actually some sort of magical being in statue form? Or has our protagonist Richard Blade simply gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?
Yeah, well, in fact I… have no idea. It’s not really clear. Whether magic or madness, one thing is clear: things are getting fucking weird again.
Blade now needs to make the impossible jump across the gap to the ledge that Janina is on. But just at this moment the crystal in his brain pipes up. Lord L informs him that the whole teleportation project is not working out and that they’re just going to bring him back to the Home Dimension.
Blade is not having this. Not when he’s so close to gettin’ some sweet crystal bootay! He leaps across the abyss and somehow manages to make it. He can now feel the computer reaching for his brain, trying to drag him back, but he blocks it out. He reaches Janina, and then things take a really bizarre turn. I’m pretty sure that Dick Blade… fucks the statue?
“Now, Blade. Now, at last.”
She stroked him gently. He was rigid, blood-engorged, ravening and, at the moment, more phallus than man. Such sweet torture was past bearing.
Blade entered the valley of pleasure. Long, narrow, steep-sided ravine all pink and convoluted.
Janina enfolded him with her legs and arms and caught all of him to and in her and there were still depths in her to seek. On he plunged, deeper into the red ravine.
Unfortunately, the brink of a bottomless chasm is not a great place for a dude to stuff his meat sock in a lady’s red ravine, whether she is human or otherwise. Blade goes tumbling over the edge, Janina clutched in his arms.
They fall for a really long way – at least a page-and-a-half – until there is a massive pain in Blade’s head and the computer drags him back into the Home Dimension just before he and his statuesque lover hit bottom.
Back in London, Blade spends some time recovering in a mental ward. His memories of what transpired appear to be vague. He has managed to bring back a life-sized, diamond encrusted statue of a naked woman. By the standards of the Dimension X project, this is a pretty good get. If Lord Leighton or J noticed the fact that Dick Blade was trying to hump the statue when the computer brought him back, they’re very polite and British and don’t mention it.
One great thing about the Richard Blade series: the crude, rampant misogyny never stops! Monster of the Maze is no exception. When Blade isn’t patting women on the butt and telling them to smile, he’s wishing they could be as smart as men. It’s kind of impressive, really!
The harem Blade finds himself in at the beginning of the book is pure male wish-fulfillment. None of the women in it have any sexual agency at all, nor does it occur to anybody that they should have some. Blade feels no qualms about bribing a guard with Valli’s body. Later on his payment to Ogier and his men is basically the bodies of Blade’s own entire harem.
Speaking of Valli, even though she risks her life to help Baby Blade and is afterward his co-conspirator and lover, he remains completely dismissive of her. As fa as Blade is concerned she is an air-headed woman with no intelligence to speak of. This is despite the fact that he relies on her for a lot of information and incorporates her into his many of his plots and plans.
I guess I should talk about the part where Blade is transformed into a baby and then he’s turned on by Valli’s tits. You expect that to come up here, right?
I mean, I’m not going to lie: the man-baby stuff is weird as hell. Blade is a baby, except he’s kind of got a man’s head. He wets himself in front of a beautiful woman. He nurses at her breasts… but he’s also aroused by them. This is absolutely some kinky shit.
But honestly I don’t have a problem with it. I’m sure there are people who are into it and would be happy to role-play Baby Blade In The Harem at the drop of a hat. I say to them: let your freak flag fly! Whatever floats your little reed basket, right? As long as it’s all consensual and everyone has a safe word.
At first I felt the same way about Princess Hirga and her not-so-secret monster lover. (Seriously – while Blade is in the dark about this until the end, the reader will see this ‘revelation’ coming a mile away) Hey, as long as it’s all consensual, right? Except it turns out it isn’t consensual, it’s rapey as hell. Not that this stops Blade from watching.
Uh, speaking of rape. Absolutely the grossest bit for me was the part after the battle where Blade’s victorious army rapes the Hitt women. I hate this kind of shit in books. It is always justified by readers or writers in the name of ‘realism’. “Well, that’s what would really happen, right?” Look, in this story we’ve imagined a world here where men can transform into babies and you can have sex with women made out of diamonds. This is some far-fetched shit. But you’re telling me that imagining a scenario where men don’t mass-rape women is a bridge too far?
Come on. The rape stuff was unnecessary, it was gross, and this book would have been a lot better off without it.
As always, these books were from a different time. That doesn’t mean we have to be okay with everything that is in them. We can use the lens of history to examine them in a different light.
Monster of the Maze has a lot of problems: Blade’s blatant misogyny, an overall dismissive attitude toward’s women’s control over their own sexual choices, and a completely gratuitous scene of mass rape.
Surprisingly, though, the book does pretty well in some other areas. Previously when Blade’s adventures have taken him to fantastic versions of other parts of the world the result have been some incredibly cringe-inducing stereotypes. Seriously, every time these books try to describe an Asian or African person I die a little inside. But despite Monster taking place in what is obviously fantasy Egypt, the writer spends zero time dwelling on anybody’s skin color or eye shape or anything else. Believe me when I say that for this series, that’s a good thing.
We also don’t get any stereotypes of homosexual men as pedophiles, a la Slave of Sarma. Additionally, none of the female love interests in this book are described as underage! All the women are uniformly described as appearing to be “about twenty.” I genuinely wonder if there were complaints after Liberator of Jedd, in which Blade beds first a ‘woman’ of about 14 and then a pre-pubescent girl. At any rate, there is zero statutory rape in this book.
What I’m saying is, Monster of the Maze is super problematic. But compared to other books in this series, it could have been much worse!
So how does Monster of the Maze stack up as what it is: a piece of shlocky pulp from the 70’s meant to titillate the reader with sex, violence, and fantastic adventure?
To be honest, I feel this isn’t one of the ‘better’ Richard Blade books. The baby stuff at the beginning is bizarre enough to be entertaining. After Blade gets back to normal adult size, though, the pace really starts to drag. I complained about all the tedious plotting and talking bits, and there really are a lot of them. Despite all the promising setup of things like the evil priests, Princess Hirga’s secret lover, and the barbaric Hitts, there is very little payoff – at least at first.
Things pick up quite a bit in the second half of the book. And the finale where our hero finally enters the maze and fights the monster is pretty good, very much in the pulpy tradition of Conan.
Unfortunately we have to wait almost to the end of the book to get to it.
If you’ve never read a Richard Blade book, this is certainly not the one I’d start with. It has definite pacing problems.
It also has a lot of very weird shit, although that may or may not be a plus for some readers. Do you want to read a book where the hero gets turned into a baby and worries about his baby penis? How about a book where the hero has sex with a statue? In that case, this is highly recommended!
Apropos of nothing: but it is implied that Blade impregnates two different women in this book: Valli, the harem woman, and Lisma, Loth Bloodax’s daughter. Amazingly, for this series, both women make it to the end of the book alive and presumably go on to bear the children Blade fathered. This raises the question of whether there might be a Dimension X that is a dystopia populated by Blade’s abandoned love children. If Blade never manages to travel to such a place in any of the three dozen plus books in this series then the writers really missed a trick.
Time to score Monster of the Maze using our extremely scientific Blade Checklist!!!
- Blade gets greased up by Lord L – No. Lord L is now making Blade do the greasing up himself. Next thing you know this job will be outsourced to Asia.
- Blade is forced to be someone’s sex slave – Maybe…? Does Lisma count? We’ll give this half a point.
- Blade bones an underage girl – No! All the women in this book are quite explicitly described as appearing to be around twenty, which is quite a departure from the usual underage fare.
- Blade bones an older woman who looks like a young woman – No.
- Blade takes on a lower class rogue with a good heart as his manservant – Check! I think we have to count Ogier in this category.
- Blade befriends the bad guy’s second-in-command – No.
- Blade takes over the bad guy army – No.
- Blade condones casual rape – A thorny question. He doesn’t condone it, necessarily, but he doesn’t stop it from happening.
- Blade sleeps his way to the top – No! This time Blade rises to the top based purely on his own merits of being able to… grow from a baby to a man very quickly? God this book was fucking weird.
- Blade drops his pants for someone – No! Although Princess Hirga does give his package a close inspection. You know what, we’ll give this half a point, because we really need the points.
Our final score is [counts on fingers]…
Only TWO points?? Jeebus. That’s terrible.
Well, hopefully we can bring that score up next time, when Richard Blade returns yet again to Dimension X in… PEARL OF PATMOS!