Book Review: Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber

Lankhmar

One of my very favourite books, by one of my very favorite writers, starring two of the most delightful characters in the history of fantastic literature.” – Neil Gaiman

I came across Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar while browsing through a random MPH bookstore. Having read a lot of fantasy novels since young, I was keenly intrigued by its brief description – a sword and sorcery fantasy of the highest order, harkening back to the early periods of the genre’s birth. After reading many contemporary fantasy series, I started taking notice of the influences that inspired my favorite authors to write in the first place – the original fantasy authors, pioneers of the genre, master writers. Fritz Leiber is one of them.

What separates Fritz Leiber from the other master writers is his characters. Instead of one, he has two main characters – Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. One a barbarian, the other a thief; they each have contrasting personalities that complimented the other – creating an iconic duo. They first met each other in Lankhmar (hence the title), and immediately felt a kinship between themselves, solitary souls in a chaotic world. In a world where gods and monsters, wizards and demons exist, they went on many adventures together, often working as mercenaries or thieves. Their misadventures range from fighting with elder gods, running errands for their whimsical sorcerer-masters or unlucky chance encounters with unknown elements. Every chapter is a separate story, a single adventure, unlike most fantasy series nowadays; yet each chapter is bursting with originality and wit, showcasing the synergy between our two antiheroes and the otherworldly nature of Fritz Leiber’s world.

Contemporary fantasy novels focus on character development as the plot progresses, but Lankhmar is different. Instead both our protagonists are presented fully matured, with their own ideals and morals, and we are only bystanders witnessing their misadventures one by one. Each story reveals more of their personalities, their tendencies, such that we could almost predict their next move, save for the otherworldly settings under which they were in – the world of Lankhmar. Mysterious and unpredictable, Fritz Leiber kept us on our toes as he introduced new characters, interesting plotlines (that holds up to contemporary stories) and an entirely new world filled with unique races, languages and history comparable to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Fritz Leiber can be considered one of the founding fathers of sword and sorcery fantasy, alongside Robert E. Howard and many others. Unlike epic fantasy, his is a more down-to-earth approach, where the characters are not tied to the fate of the world or such; instead they tolled and struggled through life, little gems shining through on the strength of their substance. The fantasy sub-genre spawned a generation of authors, games and other content, continuing to influence fantasy-related content to this day, and Fritz Leiber is a major contributor.


Written by Lim Shen, President of TBC

Advertisements

Audiobook Review: Hours by Jessy Calvin Ribordy

“Bethel Woods — where birds swoop in the echoes forever.”

hours
Into the waving world.

There is a current of un-reality that pulses perpetual underneath our tectonic steps, an ever-thrumming drive for ambition, mystery, and surgical unravelings of all that presents itself tangible. There is a struggle to consummate abstraction in all that we say, do, think and create, a struggle for gilded goals and realized, cerebral purpose.

Hours clothes this need in an adolescent’s guise, presenting the otherworldly on-goings at Bethel Woods (an orphanage-cum-school tucked in obscure woodland refuge) through the eyes of Seth Joran, a boy endowed with brimming intelligence and a fixation for the mathematical like no other. One fateful day, he becomes elected to lead the participation of his class in a yearly contract at Bethel Woods, reserved exclusively for each year’s Year 6 students. The contract grants access to the elusive North Quarter, an abandoned segment of the orphanage previously unknown to Seth and his classmates, and prescribes an hour’s limit to any subsequent visitations — all the while remaining strictly forbidden to all others. The ominous secrecy that shrouds the place compels them all the fiercer to it, and as they take to the mysterious room in an ardent seizing of “their time”, skeins of dark, lurking legacies and tremulous possibilities begin to peel apart, before their very eyes…

Written and recited by Jesse Calvin Ribordy (better known as the lead vocalist of Falling Up), Hours is a sci-fi tale that defies convention, coupling the sleekly mathematical with the eerie whirrings of a distant, cosmic whimsicality. Enfolded in its alien ethos is a wealth of descriptive prowess — Ribordy employs a storytelling approach that paints notions-of-the-commonplace in the electrifying other-colours that make the vision of its protagonist and his surrounding ensemble, sowing bizarre analogies and frightful metaphors that strike frissons of fantasy and foreboding in the nerves of listeners. In addition, the telling of Hours progresses on the foundation of an impressive narrative build-up, laced through to the beckoning end with suspense and twists galore, and such is further brought to life by a spine-chilling ambience wrought with purposive effect and rhythmic finesse — instruments and sounds are woven artfully in with heartfelt diction, bolstering emotions where needed.

All-in-all, Hours is a uniquely-tailored recipe for cautious wonder, and may prove refreshingly captivating for those taken by the daringly surreal.

(Click here to listen to Hours on Bandcamp!) 

– Written by Nadia Sim, Assistant Head of TBC Public Relations

Book Series Review: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Imagine the beloved fairy tales you have grown up loving, like Cinderella and Rapunzel – all being retold, but this time, in a world where streets are bustling with androids and space travel is the norm. New York Times bestselling author Marissa Meyer brings to you The Lunar Chronicles – an action-packed, four-book series where well-known fairy tales undergo a reimagining based in a futuristic world.

The Lunar Chronicles is set in the future, long after Earth had experienced its fourth World War and regained its peace. At this point of time, there exist genetically mutated humans who live on the Moon and are called Lunars. Lunars are unlike humans, due to the fact that they can control the bioelectricity in all humans, granting them the ability of controlling others and bending them against their own will. All humans on Earth have grown to fear and despise Lunars. When a deadly plague breaks out, the Earthen population is weakened and threats of a war with the Lunars are upon them. Little do they know that the entire fate of the world lies in the hands of a group of young, mismatched heroes.

cinder

The series kicks off with Cinder, a retelling of Cinderella. We are introduced to Cinder, the main character who is a teenage cyborg living in the city of New Beijing. As the series progresses, you are introduced to new characters with each book – Scarlet who is Red Riding Hood, Cress who is Rapunzel and Winter who is Snow White. Throughout this whole series, the characters are faced against Queen Levana, the cruel Lunar queen who plans to take over Earth.

scarlet

 

Meyer has crafted a series of fairy tale retellings unlike any other. In fact, these books are less like retellings and instead, more like re-imaginings of the classic stories. With its sci-fi elements and unique characters, it feels like a completely new tale. However, as the story progresses, you are able to catch familiar bits which stick to the main concepts of the fairy tales they are inspired by – Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White respectively. The whole plot is fresh and masterfully weaved together – I applaud Meyer for simply being able to merge four distinct stories into one fantastic tale.

cressThe thing I love and admire most about this series is the diversity in it. All of the characters are ethnically diverse, as well as in their goals and personality. Each and every one of them has their own abilities along with their own flaws, allowing readers a chance to empathise and relate with the characters. Something I have noticed when conversing with other readers of the series is that everybody has different characters they like and ones that they do not like, which goes to show how diverse the selection of characters is. Meyer has created protagonists who are equal in their importance with relation to the story, each having their own distinct redeeming qualities. Adding on to that, the friendships and romantic relationships formed throughout this series are healthy ones, proving that relationships do not just form overnight – something that a lot of Young Adult writers seem to forget these days.

winter

Meyer’s writing is smooth-flowing and easy to read, so for those who worry about over-poetic descriptions, fret not. The whole storyline is simple and for the most part, straight to the point. The series is action-packed, with entertaining, witty banter between characters that you cannot help but enjoy. So, for those of you who enjoy reading retellings, or you are simply fascinated with science fiction, or maybe you just want a really good read, The Lunar Chronicles is definitely right up your alley.

RATING: 5/5

– Written by Jacey Hen, Assistant Head of TBC Publicity & Promotions


NOTICE: Taylor’s Book Club is currently seeking out potential new writers to join its budding blogging team! Interested parties may direct an e-mail to bookclub.tlc@gmail.com

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

There is something about the way we exalt the tradition of holidays that testifies all-the-more horrendously to the heft of human emotion. Sentiment spurs us to bubbling excitement in the days leading up to festive fanfare, paints months and seasons in the colours of heraldry though all around us, life marches on as per the Grand Schedule of Being. The sway of emotion is what gets children up at midnight, scouring the shadows for signs of a portly man laden with gifts galore; it’s what gets stockings up and cookies a-baking, and laughter spiralling to high wintry heavens — each activity a beloved hallmark of the Christmas season.

For Arnold Spirit Jr., however, the Christmas experience is more dismal than most. The heavy reminder of poverty compels his father into a drinking rash well past the New Year’s — and yet, such is no rarity in the Spirit household, nor in the Spokane Indian reservation where poverty is rife and our story takes place.

In this reservation, resignation is but the one emotion everyone shares in certainty.

the-absolutely-true-diary

Written by Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian documents the thoughts, struggles and wit-framed misadventures of 14-year-old Arnold Spirit Jr. (or simply just ‘Junior’), an aspiring cartoonist whom fortune appears to have abandoned at the outset, in the moment he was discovered to have been born with hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). He soon embarks on the most momentous journey of his life to escape the defeating ennui that has enveloped the reservation — by enrolling into a school attended near-exclusively by privileged white youths.

This book had been bestowed upon me as an unlikely gift, and what had then prompted me to open it was little more than idle curiosity. That intrigued, metaphorical foot of mine touched down upon a tide of a page that soon sent me tumbling through a vortex of emotion — one that churned modestly in a bookful of deceptive simplicities that ring familiar, poignant and true.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is relentlessly virile in its telling, interspersed with adolescent quips and wry observations of the heart. Donning the hide of this humour as his armour (with self-sketched cartoons brandished for a sword), Junior confronts the throes of discrimination, ostracization, friendship, death, and the suffocating, seemingly toying sense of being trapped in your circumstances. Through the lens of such an awkward Native American kid, a rich inner world of raw, pithy philosophy blooms into life — clumsy, bittersweet petals and all. Alexie stints not on brutal honesty in the weaving of this heartfelt narrative, but rather, dabs the fringes of the book with briny tangs of banter and comic perspective: careless tools with which we often bumble through life.

– Written by Nadia Sim, Assistant Head of TBC Public Relations


NOTICE: Taylor’s Book Club is currently seeking out potential new writers to join its budding blogging team! Interested parties may direct an e-mail to bookclub.tlc@gmail.com