Thursday, August 05, 2010


By Fritz Leiber

This collection of short stories is a sequel of sorts to Fritz Leiber’s landmark novel The Big Time. The stories are set in the Changewar, a secret battle that spans all space and time. The rivals are the Spiders and Snakes, though all we really learn of them is through the mercenaries they recruit from all of history. Their mode of battle is to change the past in order to promote an advantageous outcome at some point in the unimaginably distant future.

These tales break out and explore some (a very tiny fraction!) of the immense ramifications of the Changewar. “Try and Change the Past” explains with a grimly humorous example just why altering the path of time is a job for intergalactic empires. “The Oldest Soldier” lets a regular guy meet a Changewar soldier, with some dramatic results. “A Deskful of Girls” shows just how a renegade could exploit Changewar technology: the factions don’t use a person’s physical form, they use a sort of psychic impression. In an attenuated form, it creates a spiritual zombie. Don’t try it at home folks, the Spiders and Snakes don’t like it. The collection winds up with “No Great Magic” bringing us full circle to the characters from The Big Time and showing a bit of Changewarfare in process. As always, Leiber’s quirky humor and quirkier word-play is in evidence.

While I definitely recommend this book, you should read The Big Time first. The stories here are good, but perhaps are too mystifying without the background from the novel.

-Dave Hardy

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