Tales of the Dying Earth

Tales of the Dying Earth

The Dying Earth. The Eyes of the Overworld. Cugel's Saga. Rhialto the Marvellous

Paperback - 2000
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Jack Vance is one of the most remarkable talents to ever grace the world of science fiction. His unique, stylish voice has been beloved by generations of readers. One of his enduring classics is his 1964 novel, The Dying Earth , and its sequels--a fascinating, baroque tale set on a far-future Earth, under a giant red sun that is soon to go out forever.

This omnibus volume comprised all four books in the series, The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga and Rialto the Magnificent . It is a must-read for every sf fan.

Published: New York : Orb, [2000]
Edition: 1st Orb ed.
ISBN: 9780312874568
Branch Call Number: F VAN
Characteristics: 741 pages ;,21 cm.


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Aug 23, 2017

I really really wanted to like this book. The first book, the original 1950 'The Dying Earth' was good. In this one I could take the magic and demons to be misunderstood applications of post-human technology and in many ways the narratives seemed to confirm this.

The second book... 'The Eyes of the Overworld'... it was straight-up fantasy and I could never tell what Cugel was supposed to be. I don't think Vance knew either, it was as if he couldn't decide between an amoral rogue, an immoral villain or pretty much anyone from Discworld. I suppose I can give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter, but there was no humor involved. I started skimming paragraphs, then skimming chapters, then skipping both in the hope the third book (ugh... cugel again) would be better.

This is the first book in many years that I could not bring myself to finish - and I read Parasite (admittedly for a bookclub).

Mar 28, 2017

When I was deep on a sci-fi fantasy binge in the 60s and 70s I never even ran across the Jack Vance oeuvre. Maybe I was too taken by the cross-over mainstreamers such as Herbert, Silverberg, Anderson, Assimov, del Ray, Le Guin, Zelazny, etc.

My first encounter with the Jack Vance world(s) was not from the man himself but rather through 'Songs of the Dying Earth' a collection of tribute short stories by contemporary and new breed sci-fi/fantasy writers which feature many of the Vance characters and basic thematic structures found in his works.
But, and here's the difference, every author in this collection seems to have done a thorough and succinct literary 'study' of the Vance style and then punched up, distilled and fixed many of the structural and plotting problems that Vance rushed over in his original works. Even the 'Dying Earth' theme is fleshed out more successfully in a couple of the stories.

From cover to cover IMHO the stories in Songs of the Dying Earth are well worth adding to any good sci-fi/fantasy collection. I was lucky to get a hard cover first edition from Book Warehouse online and its a keeper for me.

MATT MORGAN Jul 24, 2013

This series caused me a lot of frustration. It gets on a lot of "best fantasy books" lists, and I can see why, but I struggled with it. It has all the pluses and minuses you're used to if you read a lot of fantasy. For example, some minuses:

1) need to move the story along? Create some unrealistic coincidence!

2) need to get the hero out of an impossible jam? Invent some new spell or magic power!

3) Want to create a sense of otherworldliness? Make up a new word for something that doesn't exist, and don't explain what it is!

4) Want to undermine the whole pretense that the people of this world are debauched and extravagant because the sun is about to blink out? Let most of the main characters travel time and space, so why would they even care!?

That said, if like a lot of people you read fantasy for that sense of otherworldliness, this series has it. I picked it up because its known to be some of the inspiration for the magic system in Dungeons and Dragons, and I did manage to finish it. If I knew ahead of time, though, I would have read only the first book, which is a series of barely-connected vignettes. It shows how the magic works and sets the tone for the world, without falling victim to most of the complaints I note above.

Apr 28, 2013

This book starts out well, but the combination of overly-dense and overly-verbose writing quickly becomes tiresome. The books transition from a somewhat interesting plot with interesting characters, to a less interesting plot and totally unappealing characters, to both the plot and characters being completely unlikable. Vance takes the filibuster approach to writing, so even plot points that should be gripping are sleep-inducing.

To top it off, even though the book is supposedly about a dying Earth, there is no sign of it. Much as one might like it to come.


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