by Fritz Leiber
2014, Open Road Integrated Media, e-book
I remember back in the day (and those were the days!) when my brother and I were both really young and into the Fafrd & the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber. I mean, he was really into them and consistently recommended them to me. Sadly, I had never gotten around to reading them – until I recently found a discounted e-book edition that I couldn’t resist. Turns out it was Swords and Deviltry - the first in the series.
Almost immediately after I started reading, I was hooked, and saw why they were such an important part of his psyche back then. The first part introduces Fafrd as a youngster of 18 in his ice-world. The feelings and images I received as I read were, strangely, from those days when we were living in back country with my grandmother with few modern conveniences. In the winter, snow and ice crystals were an intimate part of our world. Leiber’s writing even brought back feelings of youthful mystery, adventure, and exploration. Fafrd’s yearning for “civilization” even echoed because in those days we were too young to know what we had and yearned to be in the city. It was as if Leiber was channeling our shared essences into his story.
From a more literary perspective, I appreciated how Leiber incorporated allusions to old Anglo-Saxon; Vikings; different eras of European history, such as that of the Mongols; and an interesting culture where the women were witches and threw frozen snowballs as well as spells at men. From a writer’s perspective, I admired how Leiber fleshed out the characters into real human beings. From a fan’s perspective, I enjoyed the Robert E. Howard flavored scenes of sword and sorcery.
Following Fafrd’s meeting with Mouser, the story veered into a direction I hadn’t expected. The new partnership was the opposite of cartoonish, which I had feared. Yes, they had brawn and brains, but also a plausible humanity (considering the time and place).
Just goes to show I should have acted on my brother’s advice ages ago. Well, what do they say?
“Too soon old. Too late smart.”
Also goes to show that my younger brother was always better and smarter than either of us may have given him credit.