Oct 2004

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

I just finished reading the first of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books by Fritz Leiber.

Well, if you like old style swords and sorcery (the book is actually called "Swords and Deviltry") then this is the book for you. It is very much in the tradition of the Conan novels. There are six books in this series.

I suppose you need to read these books in a historical context. (That is, if the 1960s can be considered historical. I suppose it can when talking about fantasy novels.) They are quite stereotypical, where the men are treacherous and the women are seductive but ultimately either manipulative or vapid. You might not care for such characterizations. I certainly don't.

I suppose the notable characteristic about our heroes in this book (Fafhrd and the Mouser) is that they are really closer to anti-heroes, though this is a more recent term than the 1960s. This makes them interesting, because they have that strange combination of treachery and loyalty that I think one doesn't often see in leading heroic roles of that time.

The book is divided into three short stories. The last one "Ill Met in Lankhmar" won the Nebula for 1970, which was the same year Lary Niven won for Ringworld. The first two stories each discuss the independent origins of Fafhrd and the Mouser and "Ill Met" describes them meeting each other, and the unfortunate circumstances that would bind them together for the rest of the novels. "Ill Met" is the best of the three.

So, if you want some stereotypical swords and sorcery, this is the book for you. If you prefer your characters a little more complex, you might want to look somewhere else.