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.