S.E.Lindberg's rating: 4 of 5 stars
More appropriately named “Nifft the Tour Guide” since the four short stories comprising this do not develop Nifft’s character or his motivations. His presence is a mere instrument for the author (or the author’s fictional historian, Shag Marigold) to describe entertaining adventures worthy of recording.
Shae offers a strange, effective mix: non-scary, detailed, weird narratives (this is weird fantasy to be sure, but a “fun” version). Readers should expect engaging, detail-packed guided tours through hell and otherworlds. There are battles and adventures, but one should NOT expect being terrified (it is not weird horror like Lovecraft) and do NOT expect heroic battles (Nifft is not Howard’s Conan).
Shae’s strength is his meticulous detail of strange worlds which can only be conveyed by using examples:
“Those waters teemed, Banar. They glowed, patchily, with a rotten orange light, and in those swirls of light you could see them by the score: little bug-faced ectoplasms that lifted wet, blind eyes against the gloom, and twiddled their feelers imploringly; and others like tattered snakes of leper’s-flash with single human eyes and lamprey mouths. And there were bigger things too, much bigger, which swam oily curves through the light-blotched soup. One of these lifted a complete human head from the waters on a neck like a polyp’s stalk. It drooled and worked its mouth furiously, but could only babble at us. All these things feared the raft, but you could feel the boil and squirm of their thousands, right through your feet. The heavy logs of the raft seemed as taut and ticklish as a drumskin to the movement of the dead below.” --- From the first story: Come Then Mortal--We Will Seek Her Soul
“Some grottoes, for example, were densely carpeted with victims whose faces alone retained their human form. The rest of their bodies—everted and structurally transformed—now radiated from each face’s perimeter in wormy coronas. They resembled giant sea-anemones. The souls within those faces still—all too eloquently—lived …
And there were others of our species who lay in nude clusters resembling the snarls of kelp which a northern sea will disgorge on the sand in storm season. Their legs and hips merged with central, fleshy stalks, while their arms and upper-bodies endlessly and intricately writhed and interlaced. These were the very image of promiscuous lust, but the multiple voice they raised made a hospital groan, a sick-house dirge of bitter weariness. Crablike giants, hugely genitaled like human hermaphrodites, scuttled over them with proprietary briskness—pausing, probing, nibbling everywhere.” --- From the third story: Fishing of the Demon Sea
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