Leiber, Fritz -- Swords and Ice Magic (Nehwon 6)

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser get laid. This is a strange collection. It starts with a scene of Death picking off heroes around Lankhmar -- certainly a direct antecedent of Pratchett's first Discworld story. Then we get some quick scenes of women falling out of the air onto our heroes, or vice versa -- barely stories at all. (This includes the scene in which the Mouser, after five books of chasing or being chased by all manner of women for honest lust or, at worst, honest cash, casually rapes a would-be assassin. The text doesn't even try to handwave it. I don't know what Leiber was thinking.) The body of the book is another long sea voyage with wacky magical antics and gods fighting at the end.

So, now that I've read the bulk of the F+GM stories? They're still tentpoles of the canon, as far as I'm concerned. The prose very deftly slides between action, humor, and lyrical tone-setting. (The image of the world of Nehwon as an airy bubble rising through an infinite sea will stay with me; and, again, it must have been an inspiration for Pratchett's ironically clunky worldbuilding.) Nehwon is a very tangible place, Lankhmar more so, and the repeated intersections with our world, if patchwork, are confidently so.

As for the Fairies of Infelicity -- I think they've pooped less upon these stories than you might expect of the era. Nehwon is a big place of many nations and ethnicities; we see national stereotypes (the Mingols as outskirt nomads) but not unmixed ones (our heroes spend several stories sailing with a Sea-Mingol boatman). The women in the earliest-set stories wind up dramatically dead, but for most of the series the female characters show up as plot instigators rather than plot tokens, and pull our heroes into bed or not as appropriate to their schemes and desires. (With the blatant exception noted above.)

So, overall: worth keeping in one's library.

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