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Swords And Deviltry (2006)

Swords and Deviltry (2006)
Author
Rating
3.89 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
1595820795 (ISBN13: 9781595820792)
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English
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publisher
dh press
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Swords And Deviltry (2006)
Swords And Deviltry (2006)

About book: I was a huge fan of Lord of the Rings when I was growing up. I really admired Tolkien's world-building, the staggering amount of backstory that bolstered every little bit of his unfolding mythos. It's a world based on history, language and the austerity of myth. It's also very British.If Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are the British archons of modern swords-and-sorcery, America's answer is probably the tandem of Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan, among many other characters) and the author in question here, Mr. Fritz Leiber.This is the first volume in the collected travails of Leiber's great duo of characters, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. In it, we get a taste of their lives before they met, and then witness the events that lead to their joining up and becoming the legendary knave-heroes of Lankhmar.As already mentioned, Tolkien's work was conceived and executed from a god's-eye view. It is a complete and intricate world with details packed in and correlated, from the haze of myth (the Silmarillion) to point of fact (Lord of the Rings). And the posthumous publication of tomes and tomes of the author's notes only adds to this image of an exacting creator with his hand in everything.Leiber, on the other hand, seems to create history only so far as it confronts his two central characters. Of course, over their long and distinguished career this gave him the opportunity to flesh out the world of Nehwon and the city of Lankhmar. But his focus is always on Fafhrd, the burly northerner, and the Gray Mouser, nimble thief and hobbyist in sorcery.The relationship between the two protagonists forms the core of this picaresque series. It becomes Leiber's point of interaction with his creation, and the rest of the world rushes in to facilitate the characters' exploits. This is the tradition of 'Don Quixote', 'Huck Finn' and Pynchon's 'Mason & Dixon'.And because he focuses his considerable literary skill on fully realizing these characters, they become far more fully alive than anybody in Tolkien (and Lewis's characters are, I believe, made from wood and caulk...). They are endearing and they are funny. Legitimately funny too, not in the 1960s sitcom kind of way that a lot of American fantasy seems to emulate. Leiber's humor is subtle without being tongue-in-cheek and, again, always rests in our understandings of the characters, the best friends in a sea of enmity.This first volume is rollicking enough, and definitely delivers in a couple great action sequences and comedic repartee. The ending (no spoilers here) also boldly sets up the trajectory for the rest of the series. It's definitely the best place to enter the world of Nehwon.That said, the pacing does flag a couple times, and I was left trying to figure out why a certain paragraph was needed or why this conversation really needed to keep going. But these minor gripes occurred entirely in the beginning of the book, before the two heroes meet. I will take this to support by point above that it is the dynamic of the two characters together that really make these stories go, and as we see them stumbling along before meeting each other, we become all the more thankful for the super-heroic duo they would later become.

Leiber is one of the fathers of sword and sorcery fiction, and it shows. Reading these stories feels a little like sitting at the feet of an old, old storyteller while he reminisces about childhood heroes. There's a feel of both age and timelessness about these stories--tall, fur-clad barbarian and short swordsman-thief who can vanish in the shadows--this is like reading the origin myth for characters we've known for decades. The four stories (three novellas and one vignette) within describe the adventures of Fafhrd, a giant barbarian from the frozen wastes, and the Gray Mouser, a youth who has apprenticed to a hedge-wizard. 'Induction,' covers a meeting between the two in a famous city. 'The Snow Women' is Fafhrd's origin story, and how he came to leave his tribe. 'The Unholy Grail' covers the Grey Mouse's origin, and 'Ill Met in Lankhmar' is when they meet again and become true companions. 'Lankhmar' won a Hugo and Nebula for best novella, and it is plain why. These are the tales that influenced the greats of fantasy. There's a tone of wry humor, perhaps a little mocking at youth and noble intentions, and early in the stories I wondered if the narrative would remain tongue-in-cheek. Then Leiber would suddenly twist it, and the frustration, the rage, and the fear in his characters would come into play. It's well done.Leiber does, perhaps, show his age in these stories, both personally and culturally. Woman have no likeable roles, playing controlling mother-witch, junior controlling fiance-witch, Lady Macbeth, and Ophelia. Still, there is something of sophistication in their character as Leiber gets inside their emotional landscape to explain their actions, or lack of. As the stories of Fafhrd and Gray span 50 years, I'm interested to see where they end up.Learning Leiber was one of the fathers of S&S sent me on an internet hunt, and I find my appreciation for his stories growing. His parents were both Shakespearean actors, and a reoccurring theme through his writing was acting and the life of actors. Late in life, he received royalties from D&D, who used Fafhrd and Gray as characters.A note for Pratchett fans out there: Lankhmar was apparently an indirect inspiration for Ankh-Morpork and Pratchett has two characters in the first Discworld based on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.A solid three and a half stars.Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...
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Reviews
Algernon
I picked this up in order to fill one of the gaps in my fantasy education. I kept seeing references to it everytime discussions turned towards sword and sorcery fantasy books. I can now add one more flag on the road mapping the transition from Poe to Howard, to Thieves World to [for example] Riyria.I'm glad I have finally got to know Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser - two spirited adventurers through highly magical and dangerous world of Newhon. This introductory collection of stories presents the heroes as young men at the moment they start in the journey to discover the world. I was expecting a lighter tone than Robert E Howard, and in the beginning there was quite a lot of humor and banter. The story turns a lot darker toward the end, showcasing the full range of the author abilities. Feminists might be turned off by the portrayal of some characters, ranging from harpies to temptress, and Leiber seems quite fond of the fantasy equivalent of strip joints, but once again toward the end, the feminine characters gain depth and subtlety.The language is quite flowery and full of adjectives, but I got used to it very fast and I was able to enjoy the scenery and the action.I hope to return soon to the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser exploits
Gary
This book is like a trip back in time to the beginnings of the sword and sorcery era. Yes, the language is dated. Yes, the viewpoint is clearly outmoded and outdated in terms of male/female relations. But if you look at this book as a snapshot of history, it is exactly what it should be-a formative piece of writing that inspired generations of writers and is a subterranean root drawn on by many of our current fantasy authors knowingly or unwittingly.There is a degree of callousness in the collection of short stories that form this book. Mothers plot the death of sons, husbands are brutally killed, even a child is run through by one of the protagonists at one point. It is definitely not politically correct material, but it is interesting and often entertaining. Personally, I like the moral ambiguity of the central characters. A hero that isn’t always a good guy is a refreshing change from the more-often-than-not flat and static characters we find in modern fiction. Shakespeare understood this principle, and often his central character (I hesitate to use the word “hero”, protagonist is more apt) would commit a cold blooded murder or something of that nature When this type of older literature is adapted for film, these scenes are inevitably deleted to purify the protagonist and make him more of a “good guy”. I personally always liked the mix of good and evil in the central characters. I think it adds an air of unpredictability.So, yes, I like this. It’s not for everyone, though. Read this if you are interested in a snapshot of the past and want to explore the roots of this genre. Pass it by if you are easily offended.
Commodore Tiberius Q. Handsome
Fritz Leiber invented the term "sword and sorcery", and he was the finest author the genre has ever had. In fact he was, in my opinion, the finest author of fantasy period. I rank him above Tolkien, Howard and Moorcock, never mind Martin or Jordan. I've read him described as a "master prose stylist", and the description is apt indeed. Fritz Leiber was, simply, a terrific, extremely talented writer with a true love of language and a prodigious, playful, incredibly unique style. The odd, absurd, weird, and terrifying, he was a maestro of storytelling, a humorist, and a weaver of weird tales and action-packed adventures. He was the best, period, and anyone with any interest at all in fantasy who neglects Leiber is cheating himself.
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