Swords Against Death: Audio is a great format for these fun stories

Fritz Leiber Lankhmar (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) 2. Swords Against Deathbook review Fritz Leiber Lankhmar Swords Against Death Fafhrd adn  the Grey MouserSwords Against Death by Fritz Leiber

Ho, Fafhrd tall! Hist, Mouser small!
Why leave you the city Of marvelous parts?
It were a great pity To wear out your hearts
And wear out the soles of your feet,
Treading all earth, Foregoing all mirth,
Before you once more Lankhmar greet.
Now return, now return, now!

Swords Against Death is the second collection of stories about Fafhrd, the big northern barbarian, and The Gray Mouser, the small thief from the slums. For the past three years, the two have grown so close that they are now (as Neil Gaiman suggests in his introduction to the audio version) like two halves of the same person. They’ve been traveling the world together in an effort to forget their lost loves.

During their travels “they acquired new scars and skills, comprehensions and compassions, cynicisms and secrecies — a laughter that lightly mocked, and a cool poise that tightly crusted all inner miseries,” but they haven’t been able to assuage their guilt or lessen their feelings of loss outside of Lankhmar, the city which they swore never to return to.

But as Sheelba of the Eyeless Face prophesied (“Never and forever are neither for men. You’ll be returning again and again.”), Fafhrd and the Mouser are persuaded to return to Lankhmar where, it turns out, they have not been forgotten, and soon the duo is back to their old tricks and dealing with their former enemies in these stories: “The Circle Curse,” “The Jewels in the Forest,” “Thieves’ House,” “The Bleak Shore,” “The Howling Tower,” “The Sunken Land,” “The Seven Black Priests,” “Claws from the Night,” “The Price of Pain-Ease,” and “Bazaar of the Bizarre.”

Some of the stories are better than others (my favorite was “Bazaar of the Bizarre”) but all are “classical rogue” (Neil Gaiman’s term) and all are worth reading simply because they’re written in Fritz Leiber’s gorgeous prose, which is thick with alliteration, insight, and irony.

I listened to Swords Against Death on audio. It was produced by Audible Frontiers, introduced by Neil Gaiman, and read by Jonathan Davis who does a terrific job with this series. His voices for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are perfect — Fafhrd sounds pensive, intellectual, and introverted while Gray Mouser sounds a bit greasy and common. I highly recommend this format; it adds an extra dimension to these fun stories.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I love that quote “Never and forever are neither for men”. That’s a truth I’ve had to face several times.


  1. The Ghost Light: Several of Leiber’s award-winning stories | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews - [...] of the Bizarre” — I loved this novelette when I read it in Leiber’s Lankhmar collection Swords Against Death. …

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