cover image Gummitch and Friends

Gummitch and Friends

Fritz Leiber. Donald M. Grant Publishers, $60 (260pp) ISBN 978-1-880418-17-8

This whimsical book is the first complete collection of the cat stories of the late Leiber (1910-1992), best known for his ``Fafhrd and Gray Mouser'' series, and features his last story, written especially for this volume. The roundup also serves as a tribute to Leiber; it is prefaced by a series of commemorative essays by such notables as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Andre Norton. While they are touching, their sheer number (14) is overwhelming. The volume concludes with a selection of amusing, though mediocre, feline-themed poems by Leiber's wife, Margo Skinner, and by Karen and Poul Anderson. The best of the cat stories have an autobiographical flavor and mainly concern Gummitch, a philosophically minded housecat, and his human family. Often Leiber assumes a cat's point of view, portraying non-human personalities with charm and humor and providing clever rationales for seemingly inexplicable cat-antics. The new story, ``Thrice the Brinded Cat,'' is disappointing; an incoherent and self-consciously salacious piece, it displays his talents on the wane. Other stories form an eclectic mix, from the post-apocalyptic farce ``The Great San Francisco Glacier'' to the haunting and surreal SF classic ``Ship of Shadows.'' They showcase Leiber at his peak as a master wordsmith, his prose elegant, evocative and witty. Gerberding's moody pen-and-ink drawings are a visually striking complement to the text. This collection is a must for any serious Leiber enthusiast, and it will go straight to the heart of any cat-fancying SF and fantasy fan. (Mar.)