Fritz Leiber

 

The Knight and Knave of Swords

(Book 7 in the ĎSwordsí series)

 

(1990)

 

Iíve read this book years ago, at the end of going through the whole series recommended (and leant) by C. Obviously I didnít mind the series because Iíve looked out for them when 2nd hand shopping. But Iím wondering if Book 7 was a particularly low point!

 

Sure, Lieber has created a distinctive world, with some distinctive characters. The mythology underpinning it (of mercurial and at times petty gods) is refreshingly original, and now and then our heroes find themselves caught up in some dreamlike event utterly beyond their control. He creates his own mood.

 

But, blimey, the prurience. Like, really seedy, man. Sure, I could handle the comic 007/Capt. Kirk style antics of swooning bikini clad babes turning up at the most unlikely (and frequent) intervals - as long as they merely work as props/scenery, taking up, say, as much space as the next tavern or horse, and donít distract from the strengths of the book, such as characters, nice genre ideas, and novel plotting. But perhaps Lieber was still caught up with that 70s, Hugh Hefner is cool - everyone else is repressed nonsense. Itís not quite ĎThe erotic adventures of Fafard and the Grey Mouserí, but at times he devotes several pages to gratuitous soft porn about bondage and orgies.

 

Were the earlier books quite as bad as this? I donít think so: I read The Swords of Lankhmar a year or so ago and donít remember such extended voyeurism (nor, however, do I remember much in the way of plot). Maybe I excused it before on the basis of the immediately read earlier books, but now Iím quite happy to give the book back to Lifeline, even if it jeopardises my chances of having a full set. Like Julian Mayís Golden Torc series, better to leave some holes.

 

Oh, and I noticed the cover has a ringing endorsement from Michael Moorcock - a very good anti-endorsement in my book. Moorcock was only good when I was 13, and metamorphosed into similarly prurient dross upon re-reading post-puberty.

 

January 2002