The uncertainty of Richard A. Lupoff’s reputation as a writer of science fiction and fantasy stems largely from his determination not to settle into one vein of storytelling. Instead, he has attempted something radically different in almost every novel, from the Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche Sandworld (1976) to the experimental satire Space War Blues (1978). Certainly Sword of the Demon is unlike any of Lupoff’s other works. It has received praise from critics and scholars and was nominated for a Nebula Award, but it is difficult to interpret because it is unique.
Perhaps interpretation is unnecessary. Lupoff himself regards the book simply as a story, without hidden meaning. He was inspired to write it by similarities between Japanese and Western traditions. The sword, Kuzanagi, is comparable to Excalibur of Arthurian legend. The dragon is (roughly) St. George’s dragon, the Kirin is the Japanese Pegasus, and the incident of the rescue of the children has some relevance to the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
These situations and images, Lupoff has said, intrigued him. Nearly all the material in the book was based on Japanese traditional material, with nothing invented. The book was reprinted in Japan as a children’s fable.
Lupoff’s intent with this book is not so much to shape and direct his materials as simply to experience them freshly. The book’s greatest strength is its solid, vivid presentation of objects and sensations. Lupoff’s prose is as clear as a glacier-fed stream. He uses the present tense to good advantage, to focus on the immediate moment as events happen.
(The entire section is 682 words.)