In the process of getting this site up and running again I spent a good bit of time trawling the internet for some interesting Fritz Leiber related views and comment, and there was a fair bit to find. I have added these to the links page of the site, or where more sensible onto the actual page relating to the book.
Sadly some of the highest ranking links on Google point at The Guardian website, and Sam Jordison’s reviews of The Wanderer and The Big Time as part of his journey through the Hugo’s.
Sadly? Well unfortunately Sam is a fan of neither, nor of Fritz Leiber in general it seems, and reserved particular scorn for The Wanderer. As you can imagine, as a loyal fan of Fritz, I found this very disheartening. It was made doubly depressing by the fact that the only paper I buy is The Guardian, and I had enjoyed Sam’s other articles.
(For an alternative point of view on the Big Time, see Neil Gaiman’s thoughts over at The Library of America)
I do not really consider myself a blogger, I just don’t write enough. When I originally set this site up 20 years ago, it was as a repository for Fritz related info, not for my Fritz related ramblings, but the internet has changed and I find adding the odd blog post goes with the territory.
So how do I go about defending these two novels of a Fritz, against someone who has read and reviewed many more books than me?
Having re read his reviews, I am not sure really. Many of the individual points he makes are valid. The Wanderer is sprawling, and some of the characters don’t have enough weight, and almost every aspect of the Big Time is theatrical in the extreme. Whilst I think he is a little snarky at points, that is part of the fun of reading reviews, or indeed being a reviewer I suspect.
Ultimately, for me though, I enjoy the journey. Neither is one of my all time favourite, yet over the years, both I have come back to and revisited numerous times.
The Big Time was a book I struggled to get into 20 years ago, but since then has always risen in my estimation upon re reading. Greta, as a narrator, I genuinely enjoy, and she is given added value upon reading the softer, more personal sort of sequel, No Great Magic.
The Big Time’s density and brevity generate a strong texture, and the theatrical dialogue is part of the fun. I also love the concept of ‘the place’, I love the characters, who you can cast with an array of classic actors. More importantly, at the end, you feel you have witnessed something grand and seen real emotion against this bizarre backdrop.
The Wanderer I have always found very easy to read, and the central conceit of a planet being chased across the universe is lovely. Fritz has populated this with a real myriad of characters, unsurprisingly some work better than others. The central characters the ‘saucer nuts’ and their narrative I enjoy and I have never found them lacking, but then the diversions across the world constantly pull one away from getting to know any character too well.
I always view it as a road trip. The journey is set against a tremendous back drop, the dramatic arrival if the wanderer, and the global chaos that ensues. Along the way, we see numerous vignettes, and if (like me) you enjoy Fritz’s use of language and dialogue, you have a fine time along the way, enjoying each scene for what it is. The book does seem somewhat lighter (despite its size) compared to much of Fritz’s other work, a consequence of this constant hopping.
Ultimately, what depressed me most was the lack of support and comments for Fritz on the posts. Many just joining in the piss taking, without having even read the books, with one comment asking why bother reviewing the old novels.
That is an argument I gave never understood. The great pleasure of the arts is that as we move forward we accumulate more music, art and literature. I suspect I read, view and listen to more contemporary material than older, but I would be infinitely worse off without interacting with all the artists who have produced material before the last few years or so.
I am not sure I have defended anything here, the books discussed I thoroughly enjoyed. The Big Time, I rate very highly indeed in Fritz’s canon. But an author, like a musician, has a distinctive sound, and Fritz’s, I fell in love with over 20 years ago, so I was already halfway to liking it before I read a word.
Fritz never wrote epic series, like Dune, or Amber, or numerous modern day 8 book fantasy epics. His Swords series is just a chronology of astonishing short stories. He never churned out sequel after sequel like so many other authors, turning his worlds into soap operas. I don’t think he could have done it if he wanted.
But he did have a style all of his own, that resonates through 60 years of wild and exotic writing, and keeps me endlessly entertained to this day.
Snark aside, Sam’s journey through the Hugos is very enjoyable – Guardian Article