Open Road Media has collected two unrelated novellas by Leiber for re-release in this package.
Ill Met in Lankhmar is one of Leiber’s most famous pieces of writing, and I was quite certain that I’d read it before. However, I think I was wrong – it didn’t seem familiar at all!
This story relates how Leiber’s notorious duo, the barbarian Fafhrd and the thief known as The Gray Mouser, first met.
Although far from being first in publication order (Leiber started writing about these two in 1939; this story came out in 1970), it’s a good introduction to both characters. This story won both a Nebula award and a Hugo award. Honestly, I feel that the award may have been partly in recognition of the body of work rather than solely in consideration of the story’s indvidual merits. The Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser stories are widely acknowledged to have been the origin of many of the commonly-accepted tropes of a certain brand of sword-and-sorcery fantasy that persist to this day, just as Tolkien’s ideas spread throughout high fantasy.
In this tale, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, working separately, mug a couple of members of the Thieves’ Guild, and make off with their ill-gotten loot. Partying with their girlfriends, their success spurs them to essay a drunken and ill-advised assault on the Guild’s stronghold. The tragedy that ensues binds the two together in shared grief.
Ship of Shadows came out in 1969, and it’s got a slightly trippy feel that might be associated with that era. On a decaying, aimless generation ship, the inhabitants are focused on booze and drugs… when they’re not worried about being attacked by “witches” or “vampires.” Our protagonist, Spar, is the janitor at a ‘moonmist’ bar frequented by addicts, whores and low-lives. He’s toothless, half-blind, and seems generally confused and possibly mentally disabled. He’s got a goal to get a doctor to help him, but along the way ends up getting caught up in a bizarre criminal conspiracy, and discovering that not all is as it might seem.
It’s a weird one – interesting, but I didn’t love it.
Many thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.