This book includes the short novel Judgment Night, plus several longish short stories, all written in the period 1943-50. Besides putting the novel first, there’s no evident rhyme or reason to the sequence of the contents.
The title novel would make a good science fiction movie today. It could indulge CGI scenery creation to an exorbitant level, and it would leverage to much better effect the space opera tropes everyone knows from Star Wars. The protagonist is the butt-kicking amazon daughter of the galactic emperor, and the story is set on and around the imperial capital planet Ericon. Because there are “gods” living on Ericon–i.e. an ancient praeterhuman race–and because there is some significant personal and political intrigue–the story actually reminds me more of Dune than other space empire tales.
“Paradise Street” is a space Western in full form, much like Joss Whedon’s Firefly television series, but written fifty years earlier.
“The Code” is the outlier of the volume: not a futuristic science fiction tale at all. It has the sort of psychological conjecture that I would expect from a Ted Sturgeon story, and it also reminded me a little of Machen’s The Great God Pan. The central premise is an experimental rejuvenation treatment that has some unexpected side effects.
The remaining two stories are both set in a single future history in which terrestrial humanity has undertaken to deliberately speciate itself, creating “Thresholder” mutants, in order to be able to colonize other planets. I found these to be the least of the volume’s contents, but they were still pretty good.
The two parts of this fun book are each a suite of short stories centered on one of Moore’s characters in a different fictional world: the swords and sorcery of Jirel of Joiry (Black Gods) and the space opera of Northwest Smith (Scarlet Dreams). The entire book is full of evocatively hallucinatory fantasy and outre eroticism.
Jirel of Joiry is interesting as being a scarlet-haired “woman girt with a sword,” formulated independently from Howard’s Red Sonya (let alone the Red Sonja later created by Roy Thomas). It is almost as if the fictioneers of the pulp era were tuning in to some Platonic Idea of the Scarlet Woman. In this connection, see also the April Bell of Williamson’s Darker Than You Think.
The book is an attractive but cheaply-bound trade paperback issued in 2002 by Gollancz under their “Fantasy Masterworks” imprint. The cover shows a detail of the head of Medusa from a painting by Caravaggio, which is in allusion to the seminal Northwest Smith story (and Moore’s first-ever-published—and much re-published—fiction) “Shambleau.” Although “Shambleau” is indeed the story of encountering on Mars the creature which is the basis of the Medusa legend, Moore doesn’t describe her as looking like Caravaggio’s portrait at all. [via]