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I had very fond memories of having picked up Nifft the Lean in a used book store, and quickly reading the whole work, swept away by the complex language, dark stories, and sense of place. Reality doesn't quite live up to memory, here. This book feels very much a product of its time, with the complex language (but not the elegance) of Gene Wolfe, the bizarre stories (but not the sense-of-wonder) of Jack Vance, and the anti-heroes (but not the characterization) of Fritz Leiber.
Still, there is lots to like. Though the book is 30 years old, it never feels dated. Also, the work follows the early 1980s trend of picaresque wandering through many unusual settings, some of which are really imaginative, and some of which are just plain disgusting. The main character is appealing, the language interesting, and the stories full of swash and buckling. So much fun to be had.
However, it never quite reaches the heights I was expecting, but is a (well-read) and solid listen if you are into Wolfe and Vance. If you haven't heard either of these others, they are probably better choices. In the meantime, I may try my battered paperback copy again.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Nifft the Lean in three words, what would they be?
Imaginative, Macabre, Humorous
What was one of the most memorable moments of Nifft the Lean?
There are MANY memorable moments in these Nifft stories and that's what exactly makes his adventures the classics that they are. Shea fills these luscious stories with myriad macabre creatures, odd but charming characters and an occasional wry sense of humor that doesn't undermine the seriousness of the danger.
It's rare to find good fantasy stories that feature so many elements of horror and I've found this to be the BEST series of stories of its kind. The only other fantasy horror stories that I have found to be on its level are the Kane stories by Karl Edward Wagner.
What about John Morgan’s performance did you like?
John Morgan did a fine job with this reading. He stressed words properly at the right times for the best effect and added subtle nuances that made the drama very realistic. He not only maintained the proper tone throughout but clearly understood the material and really helped to bring the book to life. A splendid job indeed! Looking forward to more of this man's work.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
It made me laugh many times, but most of all it created the most fascinating visuals in my mind that were as stark as those in any movie I've ever seen. Shea has an uncanny ability to evoke sophisticated creatures with strange behavior patterns that are incredibly realistic with all of the unique nuances of a person with a strange personality whom you might have met.
Shea also has a wickedly clever sense of humor and imbues in his characters with charming personalities. He is very adept at knowing when to inject this humor and when to let the dangers play out in a serious manner so that the humor never 'winks' at you but is often simply a result of dire predicaments that are as funny as they are frightening.
It's an exhilarating experience to go on these adventures with Nifft and it's a series that I wish would never end.
Any additional comments?
Michael Shea is one of the MOST underrated writers of our time. He stories are like a wonderful merging of Jack Vance, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith with a dash of Robert E. Howard. This man will be considered a legend in the future when many more people have discovered his work, but he's living right now and needs all the encouragement he can get to continue writing these fantastic tales that will thrill, horrify and delight generations to come. I urge anyone interested in dark, gloriously sophisticated fantasy imbued with clever humor to PLEASE seek out this man's work and give it your attention. You won't be sorry.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful