First published in 1988 by William Morrow & Co as a Hardback
The seventh of the Swords series (In the Lankhmar chronology). Published 50 years after his first story it is the largest of the Swords books, and contains the novel length The Mouser Goes Below.
“Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are virtually a genre unto themselves. Urbane, idiosyncratic, comic, erotic and human, spiked with believable action of a master fantasist!” William Gibson
“After too long a wait, the master story teller of us all returns with a huge, anecdotal adventure in the magic-drenched lives of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Glowing imagination melds with gorgeous language to make this one of Leiber’s very best…which is a better best than this poor world usually has to offer. Leiber’s back: rejoice!” Harlan Ellison
“It’s all Fritz Leiber’s fault. If he weren’t such a deadly fine fantasist I wouldn’t be stopping everything to read his tales. And if he weren’t such a master I wouldn’t occasionally look out of the window and wish he’d interrupt my routine again, as he doesn’t do it often enough. The Knight and Knave of Swords came into my life and took over an otherwise fully programmed afternoon. I stop everything when a new Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story comes into my hands.”
Sorcery and Sex – The Times, April 26th 1990, Tom Hutchinson
The hearthside glow may, in fact, be only the flicker from a billion TV sets; the giant shadows on the walls of our suburban caves merely the humped gloom of garden gnomes. But, however in-deep we are to hi-tech, we still need story telling as gilded and baroque as Fritz Leibers. He dispels our fears with other, greater terrors, and binds us with weird enchantments that, paradoxically, allow wondrous escape.
Leiber was the man who actually invented the term swords and sorcery way back in the 30’s. His stories of the heroic Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, in the world of Newhon, influenced and inspired many who followed, notably Michael Moorcock with his Elric sagas. He himself is a legend in his own myth-time, having once acted with Garbo in Camille. And, now at the age of 80 Leiber is still conjuring magicks – that spelling preferred – and, although, there has been a gap of time, here is the climax of his epic of Fafhrd and Mouser. Nothing ancient and feeble about this newest breath of fire from the Dragon Of Unknown Worlds. As a whiff of the old stuff, to singe your eyebrows with its vitality, it lives up to all the expectations of memory.
It is an assembly of stories, from short via novella to novel, about his odd-couple heroes. Fafhrd is the robust, no-nonsense archer-swordsman, an aggressive agility made more difficult as he has only one hand. Mouser is diminutive and a drinker of bitter brandy: he is likely to forget himself and his missions in passing lusts. Lusts? Certainly. Leiber often spikes his swords and sorcery with a sex whispering of vague fetishes. You can play all kinds of games with id and psyche with some of his work.
In one story Mouser’s strange affair with a silver haired girl stowaway, who is very much at his mercy, turns into a vivid nightmare of fish-scaly horror, along with the girl’s transformation into mergirl. Sea-changes abound. Just why that sex seems correct – as for instance, with an aerial whorehouse – is because he is making realistic fables that echo deep within mental sea-caverns.
By fiery Loki and eight-limbed Mog, though, he writes with a kind of poesy. And that, admittedly, can irritate at first – an elongated prose that deals in “personages” not “people”. Yet, I swear on The Golden Cube Of Square Dealing that once you are into the full torrent of his effects, your feet never touch the ground.
All the tales deal with Our Heroes battlings with elemental forces, usually all at sea, a kind of Norse code translating former Gods for our times. Death’s sister herself appears, but it life that triumphs. Which is what Leiber, after all these years, does so well: a blast from the past that we may have thought was over, to teach today’s writing sorcerers how it should be done.
For, taking the cue from the occasional bit of bondage – lower case, not James Bondian – nobody really does it better than this old master of a literary species he has defined and honoured.
Contains the following short stories (listed in alphabetical order)