RARA-AVIS: C. L. Moore's Northwest Smith

From: Bill Crider ( bcrider@houston.rr.com)
Date: 04 Jan 2004

I thought I'd re-read some of C. L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories this month. The three I read are "Shambleau," "Black Thirst," and "The Tree of Life." All three are similar. At the beginning of each one, Northwest Smith, a pale-eyed interplanetary adventurer on the shady side of the law, encounters a beautiful alien woman in need of help. For reasons not necessarily chivalrous, he decides in each case to help out, a big mistake.
(You'd think he'd learn.) What Smith nearly loses each time isn't his life so much as some part of himself, maybe his soul. These stories are all about color, mood, and emotion rather than plot, and the mood is noirish, especially in "Shambleau." The concluding lines of this one are, I'd say, pretty despairing.

Bill Crider

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