Saturday, August 15, 2015

Retro Reviews: The Baalbak Quest by David J. Kelly

The Baalbak Quest
Author:  David J. Kelly
Original Publisher and Date:  American Art Enterprises, 1980
   Carousel Science Fantasy # 70039
Still in Print:  No
Format and Length: Mass Market Paperback, 159 pages
Availability:  Used

Brief History

David J. Kelly is my first officially forgotten author. I can't find anything on him. Amazon has him tied to a David James Kelly, but without a second source to confirm it, I won't state it here as fact. Even the press Amazon mentions doesn't have a working website. I can say for certain that David J. Kelly wrote a second book that is a sequel to this book entitled Tower of Despair. I wish I had more to share with you about this author, but for now it remains a mystery.

Back Cover Description

ERON KILLSTAR. Fighter, lover, thief... ERON KILLSTAR. Created from the body of a murdered prince... ERON KILLSTAR. Hero of the sword-and-sorcery school of survival... ERON KILLSTAR.

His destiny is to locate the coveted Book of Baalbak, a volume of knowledge and magic as old as time, then use its power to destroy Sargon Arcturion, the murderous Sorcerer-Emperor of the many Earths.

But Sargon, too, quests for the book; he pursues Killstar with awesome evil spells and the military might of the deadly Dred Elite. The Killstar-Sargon conflict explodes in an exiting mixture of fantasy, magic, and heavy-metal blood violence-with the fate of mankind to the whim of the victor!

Brannigan's Review

I was first attracted to this book because of its amazing cover by an A. Bennett. It presumably shows Eron Killstar atop a boulder carved into a skull. Eron is wrapped up a lot like Mumm-Ra, and on the back of the book it mentions “heavy-metal blood violence” so how could I not get it. Damn those clever marketers.

The Baalbak Quest is a true blend of Science-Fiction and Fantasy. We have a multitude of worlds sharing a galaxy with aliens and humans alike, all of them ruled by a king on Elder Earth. The worlds are connected by gateways of both science and magic. The king we discover is killed by his eldest son, Sargon, and some aliens. The other children of the slain king rise up against their evil brother, but are killed. One of the brothers, Grendel Eron, tells a wizard that if he should die the wizard is to cut his hand off and take it to a different earth and use it to make a clone. It would be that clone's duty to kill Sargon. Eron Killstar is that clone, however something goes wrong, which makes him unable to fulfill his mission. We speed forward a thousand years to find Eron Killstar and his companion Merecastle living as thieves and scoundrels. They are sent on a mission to find a book by the name of Baalbak, which promises to unlock Eron Killstar's destiny and save a village enslaved to a blind wizard.

Kelly shows some amazing talent in world building and creating some interesting characters, excluding their names. There are some genuinely cool ideas in this book and I really love the way he mixes the two speculative genres together. The only problem is he doesn't seem to know what to do with all of these great ideas. The setups have a lot of promise, but everything falls apart quickly. Eron is unlikeable as a character and his sidekick Merecastle is left undeveloped beyond his desire to steal things and lay with women. The world is ignored and the things that showed the most promise at the beginning are soon lost as the story takes on a very generic quest.

The book ends with the capture of the book, but then it is quickly lost again and we are left with Eron Killstar on his own. We can only imagine that the next book takes up the quest, but now that I know there is only one other book I don't have enough faith that the story will find any overwhelming completion or satisfaction to continue on.

The Baalbak Quest is a perfect example of a cool idea that Kelly needed to spend more time developing or editing to truly develop. I wish I could say that my first true forgotten author deserved to be rediscovered, but now it makes more sense why I can't find anything about him, which is a stark reminder to all of us who wish to write to do it right the first time. We only have one chance to make a first impression, or at least to leave a lost treasure worth discovering in the future. There is minor violence, language and only implied sexual situations. It's a safe read for teens or adults, but I would recommend you pass on this book if you find it at your local used book store.


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