Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Appendix N: Knocking Down The Titles

I`ve had several Appendix N titles on my `to buy` list for some time. One is The Face In The Frost, by John Bellairs, published in 1969. The other: Swords Against Darkness, an anthology series that commenced in 1977, edited by Andrew Offutt.

I went to Salmon Arm, BC yesterday (a town 20 minutes from the cabins) and decided to poke around in the used bookstore there named the Book Nook. I picked up another twenty or so paperbacks, for a dollar each, including some Zelazny and Leiber, and the two above-named books. As I went to the till to pay for my books, the owner asked me, "Are these valuable?" Like most things, they`re only valuable to the people who value them ... so I told her that I recently became interested in the old pulp fantasy and swords and sorcery tales, and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. No point in telling her that I would have paid four or more times what she was charging, was there?

I`ve already breezed through the first two Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser anthologies, and had a great time doing so. I tried to read those tales more than a decade ago, but could not get past the florid language. Having this time plunged in with both feet, I found myself laughing out loud, in answer to which I was shot puzzled stares by my family. Reading the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser tales was like re-living those heady days, discovering Dungeons and Dragons again for the first time.

Next on my list is The Face In The Frost. I have made it through the preface and first chapter, and am beginning to understand why this appears in Appendix N: it seems to capture the comical, danger-laden, image-rich atmosphere of those early D&D games.

10 comments:

Sean Robson said...

The bookstore owner asked you if the books were valuable? Mightn't she have looked into that before pricing them?

Yeah, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are often laugh-out-loud funny. If you like that, you might also like Henry Kuttner's stories. I recently read his Elak of Atlantis, and Prince Raynor stories, and they have much the same qualities as Leiber's stories. I particularly love Elak's sidekick, Lycon: a fat drunk with a smart mouth who frequently starts fights that Elak has to finish, and isn't above lifting his friend's coin purse to buy ale.

David J. West said...

I too found my second time round with Fafhrd and Grey Mouser easier going, and while I haven't read Face in the Frost yet, Brian at The Silver Key gave it a great review piquing my interest to grab it soon as I find a copy at my local used shop.

John Harper Brinegar said...

The Face in the Frost is one of my favorite books. You're right that it's comical, but later chapters will prove exceedingly creepy as well. You're in for some real fun.

Padre said...

Really enjoyed reading Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser adventures back in college and I am always on the look for fun reads. Just finished reading Riverworld on vacation as well as rereading some of the early Conan stories by Howard. Will but Face in The Frost on my summer list.

dhowarth333 said...

It's "Gray" Mouser, guys... :).

Matt said...

I enjoyed Face in the Frost very much - possibly the best thing about Appendix N is that it makes you aware of books you otherwise might never have heard of.

Scallop Skulled Skald said...

I just finished rereading The Face in the Frost today- I ordered the Bellairs omnibus Magic Mirrors: The High Fantasy and Low Parody of John Bellairs and immediately set myself to devouring it when it arrived.

http://www.nesfa.org/press/Books/Bellairs.html

Bellairs does whimsical comedy well, and he does eerie, existential horror really well (in the same book, no less). Much as I love HPL, only The Colour Out of Space comes close to being as subtly unsettling as The Face in the Frost.

tandw said...

The Face in the Frost is excellent; despite the creepiness I read it to my daughter when she was seven or so and she loved it (although she found Five Dials and the Empty Forest somewhat unsettling). Rumor has it that Bellairs was working on a sequel to TFitF when he died.

Scallop Skulled Skald said...

Rumor has it that Bellairs was working on a sequel to TFitF when he died.

The first part of the sequel The Dolphin Cross was included in the Magic Mirrors omnibus. It was good, but it wasn't of the same caliber as The Face in the Frost.

fauxcrye said...

John Bellairs is a gem I discovered by accident in our backwoods but well stocked public school library system I had access to in the early 80's. They even had an original Arkham print of some H.P. Lovecraft collection for checkout. His many books while written for younger readers then to have a rather dark and creepy vibe. In many ways they are better suited for a Call of Cthultu campaign then D&D. But, The Face in the Frost is a great addition to the fantasy genre. But, sadly he didn't journey that far into that territory again. Though all of his books deal with the dark mystic arts and curses.

Leiber's work tends to decline as he ages. He still has a lot of great ideas but the author has a lot of hubris afoot. And as for his two famous rogues. At some point you fear he starts liking them too much. But, the first 4 or 5 collections are all great.