Between work for work and work for Intercon, I haven't had a chance to talk about Tales of Neveryon by Samuel R. Delany which I finished last week.
So Delany's stuff is always really interesting even when it's a bit of a slog. In particular, his stuff is always very literary so while there's the trappings of science-fiction, they take things in a much deeper, more introspective direction than you would think. Tales of Neveryon is his take on sword and sorcery fiction and is the first of his Neveryon series. There are four books, all of them consisting of various short stories set in and around the kingdom of Neveryon and all loosely connected with the story of Gorgik the Liberator (my understanding is that by the end, the stories are looping back on themselves which is pretty much par for the course with Delany).
Neveryon is set at the dawn of history with a Bronze or early Iron Age level of technology. Specifically, everything is fairly new and money has only been introduced within the last three generations. This means that there are a lot of fresh takes on everything because nothing has been settled as "traditional". In the various stories we get to see differing takes on gender and social roles, how money is used and how it changes societies that come into contact with it. His stories are clearly influenced by the "barter then money then credit" story of economic history which seems to be a bit simplistic these days. I'd be curious to know what kind of stories Delany would write after reading Debt: The First 5000 Years.
But onto the stories themselves. You get set up for Conan-like adventure and there are a few fights, a few battle scenes, but mostly you're looking at the stories of people. Most of the stories read like biographies and near the end of the book major characters come together and start bouncing off one another. I'm curious to see if the next set of stories in book 2 advances them along. If there's not so much swash and buckle, there is a lot to capture the reader's attention and make them think. Philosophical sword and sorcery may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's an interesting interpretation and I enjoyed it.