July 18th, 2009, 09:27 AM
I've not read any Jack Vance yet, but this thread and this great article about Vance in The New York Times have got me thinking I should remedy that, and soon.
"...one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices."
I believe I'll start with the Lyonesse Trilogy.
July 20th, 2009, 04:52 PM
The NYT article is very nice. Vance is a great ironic prose stylist. Much of his work is very funny indeed. The best of his works have a supremely elegant and light picaresque quality which makes a lot of contemporary SF seem turgid and dreary in comparison.
If you like Vance try Candide by Voltaire
Here is an interesting exercise:
read and compare the following 2 novels, which have a surprisingly similar premise and plot:
Emphyrio by Jack Vance
Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein
July 21st, 2009, 09:49 AM
An Incident in Uskvosk by Elizabeth Moon is quite entertaining, about a day at the races, Dying Earth style. Funny and sharp.
Sylgarmo's Proclamation by Lucius Shepard is a good story, solid and intriguing with a nice Cugel cameo as well.
The Lamentably Comical Tragedy (or The Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Lixal Laqavee by Tad Williams is a (possibly unexpected) highlight of the book. Williams' short fiction has always been varied and intriguing and this is a superb story. Fake conjuror Lixal Laqavee decides to learn some real magic by blackmailing a wizard. When this inadvertantly backfires he finds himself in a dire situation and forced to seek the assistance of a ravenous deodand, which proves problematic. Excellent.
Guyal the Curator by John C. Wright is another extremely good story, with Manxolio Quinc, a law-enforcer of Old Romarth, helping a man who has lost his memory with the aid of his magical weapon of spectacular destructive potential. A clever story with a surprisingly twisted and dark ending. Wright makes particularly good use of the Vancian mode of speech.
The Good Magician by Glen Cook is a bit meh in comparison. Rhialto returns! Although he is not the focus of the story, which has a neophyte mage stumbling across a secret which demands the attention of Ildefonse and his tenuously allied cabal of mages. The story meanders all over the place and the ending is unsatisfactory, which I suppose makes it a good fit with the other Rhialto stories (among Vance's weakest, IMO). Not bad, but weak in comparison to some of the prior works.
The Return of the Fire Witch by Elizabeth Hand. Two witches (one of them very reluctantly) join forces to take part in a game of double-crosses and betrayal. I liked the ending but the story felt a bit too slight to justify its length. This could have been much tighter and better.
The Collegeum of Mauge by Byron Tetrick. A young man seeks magical assistance in tracking down his father. A nicely-written story although I wondered if the use of staple Dying Earth characters was necessary. Enjoyable.
Evillo the Uncunning by Tanith Lee is another book highlight, featuring a young man searching for his birthright who becomes allied to the sentient snail Khiss and whose quest for adventure is more than sated. Fantastically well-written with a truly hilarious recurring plot point that reminded me of the chicken from Family Guy. Possibly the best final lines in the entire book as well.
The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz by Dan Simmons is the longest story in the collection, a novella featuring the magician Shrue the Diabolist investigating the greatest library in the world, only to run afoul of a rival wizard and an elemental demon. Cue many battles, a strong romance storyline, the adventures of the demon KirkriK and a chase involving airships and you have what may be the best story in the collection as well.
Frogskin Cap by Howard Waldrop is...odd. Virtually nothing happens. A guy hears a story about a (different) library, goes to investigate and decides to write a book. A nicely-written mood piece, but not much more.
A Night at the Tarn House by GRRM, only his second non-ASoIaF piece of fiction written since AGoT came out, I believe. An interesting tale about the various travellers who gather one night at the inn known as the Tarn House, famous for his hissing eels, and then mayhem ensues. The ending is very clever, and open to interpretation. The characters are strong, as you may expect, and there's some midnight-black humour here.
An Invocation of Incuriosity by Neil Gaiman is a coda to not just this collection but the entire Dying Earth universe. For almost sixty years we've been told in these stories that the Sun is about to go out, so what happens when it finally does? Gaiman provides the answer in a short, sharp and disturbing tale.
August 28th, 2009, 01:24 PM
Cut my teeth only recently on the Dying Earth, and the two Cugel books recently, and couldn't stop reading them. Excellent feeling of "place" throughout both books (particularly Eyes Of The Overworld) and the dialogue throughout both is sharp as hell, like the "job interview" for position of supercargo on the Galante, between Cugel and Bunderwal.
I also love the sense of "logic" throughout some of his storylines- the imprisonment with the rat-people comes to mind. Great sense of comedy, just excellent writing. I think I will try Planet of Adventure next, all the reviews I have read suggest it would appeal to me in the same sense that Dying Earth books did.
I love this site: http://www.pharesm.org/
It was used when putting the VIE together from what I understand and can be used to search his complete works to see when a particular word was used, unless your question is nuncupatory.
August 28th, 2009, 08:57 PM
Webmaster, Great SF&F
But wait, there's more!
For the interested, there are lots of good pages and whole sites dedicated to Vance and his work; here's a link to a list of the major Vance resources. (The page it appears on, which--full disclosure--is by me, is an extended Vance appreciation that may itself be helpful.)
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