Thursday 15 September 2011

The Beast Within

You may have noticed I haven't been about lately again, but this time, my explanation is of a medical nature.
As I type, I'm still experiencing the monstrous tearing and ravenous gnawings of some inconceivable terror from beyond the ken of man.  Doctors claim that it is simply a viral infection which will pass in due course with the right medication and procedures, but I know better: truly, some alien being has taken up residence in my abdominal cavity and enjoys nothing more than to wrench my organs and gizzards like a crone twisting dripping towels over a bucket, or chewing at my intestines like a teething puppy.

Hopefully this fiendish horror will vacate the premises sooner rather than later, but until then, I'm returning to reading. I gave Fritz Leiber another go, feeling that he deserved another chance.  I still dislike "Ill-Met in Lankhmar" (and I'll probably have to explain myself one of these days) but then I read "The Circle Curse," which I found a pleasant change in pace: gone were the weird sentence structures and overly-flowery prose (considering the authors I like, that's saying something), and instead the tale was imbued with a strange, eerie atmosphere.  A true Weird Tale. 

I read on to "The Jewels in the Forest."  Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!  A fantastic story chock-full of adventure, thrills, mystery, invention and ingenuity.  I loved the supporting characters, the enigma of the Jewels was compelling, and the reveal of the Guardian was a good enough twist that I was pleasantly surprised, though not thrown out of left field.  Best of all, I could finally understand why the rapport between Fafhrd and Mouser was so beloved.  Finally, I think I'm "getting" it.

But then, I read "Thieves' House"... and was blown away.  This is a story I'd happily place alongside such favourites as "Kings in Darkness," "Black God's Kiss" and "The Charnel God" as my favourite non-Howard Sword-and-Sorcery stories.  It's one I might perennially re-read, it's that good.  It's unmistakably Leiber, but everything is tempered so precisely and perfectly that it's somewhat transcendent.  Then I read "The Bleak Shore," which was a beautifully dark and appropriately bleak tale reminiscent of Hodgeson or Clark Ashton Smith's dark fantasies, and after that "The Howling Tower," which was another grim, stark tale.  This is the side of Leiber I was looking for, the one that balanced out the comedy with the realism, like the early Discworld books (and it's clearer more than ever just the extent Pratchett's debt to Leiber was in those days).

So yes, I'm finally getting Fritz.  In addition, I've been re-reading The Land That Time Forgot, which is always giving me something new to ruminate over, and I'll likely be having a gander at some other books.  Hopefully whatever's practising their plaits with my guts will tire eventually, and I'll be back in business in due course.


  1. You should find a good exorcist. With a past, more twisted than one could imagine, he/she might be able to relieve you of your pains. Cheers, get well! :)

    call Australia

  2. Try OUR LADY OF DARKNESS and CONJURE, WIFE if you haven't already. Clark Ashton Smith makes a guest appearance in the former. Oh, and "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes", "Smoke Ghost", "The Black Gondolier", YOU'RE ALL ALONE (aka THE SINFUL ONES)...

  3. If you need an exorcist I can recommend one: the Reverend Sean Manchester. He isn't too far away from you (relatively speaking), though I don't suppose he makes housecalls.

  4. Al, if something really is wrenching your gizzards, then I must inform you that you are the alien as we humans don't have gizzards.

    Jokes aside, I do hope you get back on your feet, and sooner rather than later. And I'd be interested in why you dislike "Lankhmar". It's been too long since I've read Leiber, and I hope to dive into the F&GM stories early next year.

  5. Glad to hear that you're enjoying Leiber's stuff, Al. Thieves' House is indeed a fantastic sword & sorcery story. One of my favorites. Hope all your stomach problems go away soon.

  6. Al-this malady you are suffering. I would precribe a strong dose of Michael Moorcock's early novels too read next. "The ice schooner", "The eternal champion" or the simply sublime "Dancers at the end of time" trilogy should suffice to beat this nasty bug into oblivion.
    Yrs. sincerley-
    Dr.Conan T. Barbarian.

  7. Hero of the Federation14 November 2011 at 21:03

    Son, next time you have a bug problem.....