Lord Dunsany Re-Read: Time and the Gods, Part 7

time and the godsBill Ward and I are continuing our Lord Dunsany re-read with the next two stories published in the original Time and the Gods (not the omnibus). You can find a free copy of the book here and join in the discussion. Our rating system is pretty simple. One star is a standout, and two stars is truly notable. Most of Lord Dunsany’s fantasy work is already fairly remarkable, so even a “no star” story on this scale may be worth a look. This week we read “Mlideen” and “Secret of the Gods.”

dreamer's talesHoward: Maybe it’s just me, but I keep finding myself thinking like an editor when I read these. As we continue, I pick out which ones I’d put into a “best of” Lord Dunsany collection.

I don’t think either of these would make the cut. It’s not that there aren’t some great turns of phrase or nice little concepts, but both of these felt slight to me.

“Mlideen” is my favorite of the two what with man constantly readying disasters for himself. And I do like Uldoon’s vision of the gods mourning a death from “Secret of the Gods.” The end, however, is telegraphed from the first line.

What’s your take, Bill? Am I just too jaded? Is there something I’m not celebrating enough this week?

Bill: I enjoyed both stories, but I concur, they weren’t the highlight of my week. I really think it comes back to knowing I need to write about each one — aside from giving a book report, I’m not sure what more there is to say. Both are quick, “Mlideen” especially, with punch endings.

huacachina1I would also say “Mlideen” is my favorite of the two. It’s a short, sharp little story. The gods holding this avalanche “in leash” over the city while it commits blasphemies is a great image. I didn’t really understand the purpose of the narration becoming first person at the end, unless it was to show that, even with full knowledge of impending disaster, people are going to do what they are going to do anyway.

Howard: Even though that last line broke the third person narrative, the story rose just a few degrees in estimation for me because of it, and for the reason you cite.

Bill: The “Secret of the Gods” has another nice line: how, in the beginning, the Secret was obvious, it was written on the earth before “the feet of many prophets … trampled it out.” Zyni Moe killing the prophet before he could tell the secrets of the god’s grief was effective, and I thought it was interesting he saw “the shadow” of the man much in the same way the man saw the shadow of the gods.

Lord Dunsany

Lord Dunsany

Howard: Great point on the shadow — I had missed the parallel there.

Bill: Overall, though, I think these stories are just fine in the context of the larger theme of the collection, the writing of course being fantastic; it’s just that I think you and I would love to have something to gush about every week, and it just isn’t going to happen with a collection of 20 or more stories, many of which are based around a single idea.

Howard: I suppose you’re right. We’re getting near the end of the collection. Next week join us for the next two tales…

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