Category Archives: Hermetic Library Reading Room

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism in a broad sense, and Aleister Crowley’s Thelema. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

My Barbarian Lord

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews My Barbarian Lord by Andrew J Offutt.

This free-standing sword-and-planet novel is fun enough, although its greatest virtue may have been to provoke its Boris Vallejo cover art. The far future setting has no conscious relationship to ancestral earth, and the interplanetary civilization that forms the setting is just surfacing from a medieval dark age. There is a post-apocalyptic theme of the rediscovery of ancient technologies. The barbarian of the title is a newly-crowned warlord of one of the “Six Worlds,” and the tale concerns imperial intrigue touched off by the prospect of his possible betrothal to the daughter of the Emperor.

Although the setting and action are very much in line with Edgar Rice Burroughs, the running commentary on “barbarism” makes for a more interesting comparison to Robert E. Howard. Both emphasize the heroic virtues of men who succeed in conditions of barbarism. Offutt’s protagonist Valeron is rather embarrassed to be considered a barbarian, which Howard’s Conan never was. (Conan would simply take advantage of the way in which it would cause civilized folks to underestimate him.)

There are some consistent verbal affectations: “it seemed not deep,” “Maybe Darcus could have done defeat on the Sungoli,” etc. But the prose is fast-paced nevertheless, as is the sequence of events. The end of the story is abundantly foreshadowed, but not hopelessly predictable. [via]

It would be scary, either way—but when time draws near, you need all the help you can get.

Uvi Poznansky and Zeev Kachel, Home

Horus Rising

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Horus Rising by Dan Abnett.

Earlier this year, I had written that I was done with Warhammer 40,000 literature for a while. I had certainly more than satisfied the appetite for “lore” that was first instilled in me by playing Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game. But I recently got my hands on the game Forbidden Stars, a much larger-scale affair of conquering multiple star systems in the WH40K setting. Thus inspired, I returned to the novels, this time picking up with the start of the interminable “Horus Heresy” series. It was much better than I expected it to be, and I read through it quickly.

The saga appears to be the history of the origin of the Chaos Space Marines, covering events centuries prior to the game setting, and this first volume precedes even that. It presents the Warmaster Horus in his glory as Primarch and chief envoy of the Emperor of Mankind, mostly as seen by the straight-arrow Space Marine Captain Garviel Loken, a leader within the Warmaster’s own Luna Wolves legion. The mystical veneration of the Emperor, so well-established in the game setting, takes a nascent, clandestine form in this book. Also of great interest to me was the depiction of an unsanctioned system of Masonic-style lodges within the Space Marine legions.

The book is divided into three parts, each addressing a different world where Horus and the Luna Wolves conduct warfare and/or diplomacy. There is an isolated human civilization that believes itself to be the original Solar System, a planet of hostile arthropod “Megarachnids,” and a human-led, mixed-species “interex” that spans a swath of star systems. I do have the next book of the series—in a box somewhere. I’ll read it when it turns up. [via]

Cursed be the kingdom, unfortunate the republic, desolate the city and home from whence the ass is banished, removed, and driven away! Woe to the senses, conscience, and soul where there is no participation in asininity!

Giordano Bruno, The Cabala of Pegasus

Who Travels with the Doctor?

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Who Travels With the Doctor?: Essays on the Companions of Doctor Who, edited by Gillian I Leitch and Sherry Ginn.

This collection of pop-scholarly papers concerns itself with the “companion” characters in the half century of Doctor Who science fiction television. The majority of these are treatments that are principally preoccupied with gender. Several of them identify one or two companions for lengthy analysis. Such treatments are provided for Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, Rose Tyler, Rory Williams, and River Song.

I think I best enjoyed the papers on outlier topics that concluded the volume: one on “companions who weren’t” (i.e. Madame de Pompadour and Astrid Peth) and the other on companion characters in novels written during the inter-series hiatus of 1991-2005. In general, the papers concerned with the “classic” series seemed to be of a higher quality than those focused on the 21st-century episodes.

The authors are all academically credentialed, and clearly writing for an academic audience, despite often wearing fandom on their sleeves. Each paper is endnoted, and there is a full reference bibliography. Hardcore fans may find some enjoyment here, but on the whole, the scholarly tone tends to dampen enthusiasm, while the pervasive tendency to hypostatize fantasy television characters creates a sense of misplaced priorities. [via]

Be alive, from crown to toe. Breathe deeply, filling every cell of the lungs for at least five minutes, morning and night, and when you draw in long, full breaths, believe you are inhaling health, wisdom and success.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, The Heart of the New Thought