BooksOfTheMoon

You’re All Alone

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 4 stars

This book contains three stories. The title story, which takes up about half the length and two shorter stories. My favourite was probably the middle story, Four Ghosts in Hamlet, which had only only tenuous fantasy elements, being a first person narrative of an actor in a touring Shakespeare company telling the story of what happened when they let an old, but now alcoholic, actor join the company and play the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

The title story is an odd one. It starts off with shades of Sartre’s Nausea, with the protagonist having feelings of isolation and extreme loneliness before veering into deterministic territory, positing that most of the people in the world are automatons, running without consciousness, and only a few people are truly ‘awake’, and how nasty and unpleasant those people could be. Our protagonist is accidentally awoken by a girl, who is herself, fleeing for her life from one of these gangs. The intriguing concept is worried around the edges, but never really tackled head-on, but I think the story benefited transitioning from a philosophical tract into a romantic thriller.

The last story, The Creature from Cleveland Depths, is set in a future where most inhabitants of the US have retreated underground, seeking safety from Soviet missiles. One of the few who remain above ground has a friendship with the research director of one of the underground companies, Fay. In a fit of pique over a missed TV programme, our protagonist suggests that Fay have his people build a device that can remind people about important events. This story takes that idea to its extreme, quite disturbing, conclusions. This was an enjoyable, creepy story with a oddly amusing denouement.

So all in all, some solid and enjoyable storytelling by Leiber in this volume.

Book details

Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1972

The Big Time

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 3 stars

Greta was plucked from her life just before it ended to become part of a war across time and space: the Change War, where two factions, the Spiders and the Snakes, are battling for control, changing history as it suits their cause. Greta is an Entertainer (part hostess, part call girl, part psychologist) in a recuperation Place outside time and space, but her latest group of recuperating soldiers are going to be a handful…

One of the first things that struck me about this book was that it was from a female perspective, which is unusual for the time, given that it was written by a man, and also that that perspective (although coloured by the prejudices of the 1950s) is actually fairly convincing. It’s also not quite what you think it is. The Change War and time travel form just the background and setting for what turns out to be more like a mystery or a thriller, with some pretty philosophical overtones.

Despite these good points, the book never became anything more than a shoulder shrug for me, never raised itself for me to really get engaged by it and I suspect that although the high concept behind it may linger in the mind, the story itself will fade away pretty quickly.

Book details

Publisher: Ace Books
Year of publication: 1958

The First Book of Lankhmar (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #1-4)

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 3 stars

This Fantasy Masterworks volume compiles the first four books of the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, each book being itself comprised of various short stories and novellas written at different times (the Wikipedia article has a rundown of all the stories, when they were written and in which book they can be found). The titular characters are Fafhrd, a giant barbarian from the frozen north and the Grey Mouser, a small roguish man with some sorcerous training. The first two stories of the first book contain origin stories for each character, with the third showing their first meeting and how they became firm friends.

The stories all have a fairly similar structure to them, often being tales in which the dynamic duo are questing for treasure or independently end up on the same quest. While certainly enjoyable, one problem that I had with the books was their treatment of women. When female characters do appear they are often quite strong, but mostly their appearance is purely cosmetic, something for the two protagonists to ogle or fight over which can be somewhat uncomfortable at times.

Enjoyable, but best read with a suitably barbarian mindset.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857983272
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2000

The Green Millennium

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 3 stars

Phil Gish is a man who feels out of place in an increasingly hectic world. Into his life comes a small green kitten that he names Lucky that changes his life and involves him in a conspiracy that will change the world.

I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this book. The last Leiber that I read was a collection of short stories that I loved, but this was a fairly straightforward adventure with some fairly odd characters. There is some wry comment on America with prescient views of a vulgarised society and the ‘Federal Bureau of Loyalty’ that I quite enjoyed though.

Possibly the most memorable thing about the book, however, is its truly awful cover.

Book details

ISBN: 9780860079156
Publisher: Futura
Year of publication: 1953

The Best of Fritz Leiber

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve not read much Leiber before but I’m really glad I picked up this volume (another of the many that I got from Jonathan). It presents Leiber’s pick of his short stories from when he started writing in the ’40s to the book’s publication in the ’70s, with the bulk of the selection being from the ’50s.

Some of the writing reminded me heavily (and in a good way) of Ray Bradbury. He has the same fun with language and the stories tend to linger in the mind. His dystopian visions of future America’s are both insightful and disturbing, while his more playful stories are fun, even when you do figure out the twist beforehand. Particular gems are ‘The Ship Sails at Midnight’, ‘A Pail of Air’ (which I’ve read anthologised several times), ‘Space-Time for Springers’, ‘Little Old Miss Macbeth’, and ‘Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-Tah-Tee’.

Book details

ISBN: 9780848821272
Publisher: Amereon Limited
Year of publication: 1974

Gather, Darkness!

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 4 stars

A scientific elite has seized absolute power through religion and lives in luxury while the populace lives in a second dark age, knowing nothing about it. Brother Jarles is a renegade priest who believes that this is wrong and teams up with the New Witchcraft to bring down the system.

I quite enjoyed this book, as long you don’t think about it too carefully, when some of the plot holes become evident. Although it was written in the 1940s, it felt pretty modern with sufficiently general technology to not feel obsolete, not that the focus was on that, but rather on psychological manipulation. An enjoyable and fairly easy read.

Book details

ISBN: 9781585861064
Publisher: eReads.com
Year of publication: 1943

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