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Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted August 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A wonderful return to the world of the Dying Earth by Top Fantasy Authors

    Edited by George R.R. Martin (who contributes a story as well) and Gardner Dozois, this anthology is another journey to the Dying Earth world created by Jack Vance.

    Vance himself provides an introduction, and Dean Koontz provides an appreciation. But the heart and meat of the anthology are the stories.

    Many of the authors do a remarkable job in capturing the essence of the Dying Earth. The language, the picaresque characters, the strange rambling adventures. Some of the stories feature characters from Vance's stories as main protagonists, others rely on those characters as plot devices, or even just as background color.

    So how did they do?

    Given the truism that anthologies can vary in the quality and interest stories and authors bring, I thought the quality of the stories was uniformly high. I was gratified that my high expectations were met by the authors and their stories. And the range of subjects and stories is high. Therein you will find more doings of Cugel (contradictory stories, if you wanted to try and take all of these stories as canonical), an architect who uses his skills to defend a castle, magicians large and small scrambling for power as the sun dies, and more, much more.

    Dan Simmons has the only novella, the centerpiece of this anthology, The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz. It's one of the stronger stories in the volume. Like his digestion of Keats in the Hyperion novels, and the Iliad in Ilium, Simmons shows that he truly digests and does a good Dying Earth.

    Besides his story, I particularly liked Wright's Guyal the Creator (continuing the character's story from the Vance story), Matthew Hughes' Grolion of Almery. (Hughes' own novels show his prior affection for homage to Vance), Paula Volsky's The Traditions of Karzh (showing how a would be wizard really gets his power) and Walter Jon William's Abrizonde (the aforementioned story about a hero architect).

    But, really, few of the stories are poor, although I do wonder why Neil Gaiman felt the need to tie in the real world with the Dying Earth in his tale. I found that a bit atonal, even if its a decent story.

    In any event, fans of the Dying Earth should not miss this anthology, especially given the list of authors and the love and care they have given the world of Messr. Vance.

    The full list of stories:
    The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale --Robert Silverberg
    Grolion of Almery --Matthew Hughes
    The Copsy Door --Terry Dowling
    Caulk the Witch Doctor --Liz Williams
    Inescapable --Mike Resnick
    Abrizonde --Walter Jon Williams
    The Traditions of Karzh --Paula Volsky
    The Final Quest of the Wizard Sarnod --Jeff Vandermeer
    The Green Bird --Kage Baker
    The Last Golden Thread --Phyllis Eisenstein
    An Incident in Uskvesk --Elizabeth Moon
    Sylgarmo's Proclamation --Lucius Shepard
    The Lamentably Comical Tragedy (or The Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Lixal Laqavee --Tad Williams
    Guyal the Curator --John C Wright
    The Good Magician --Glen Cook
    The Return of the Fire Witch --Elizabeth Hand
    The Collegeum of Mauge --Byron Tetrick
    Evillo the Uncunning --Tanith Lee
    The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz --Dan Simmons
    Frogskin Cap --Howard Waldrop
    A Night at the Tarn House --George R R Martin
    An Invocation of Curiosity --Neil Gaiman

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This entire anthology is a great tribute to Jack Vance

    Sixty years ago Jack Vance issued the classic Dying Earth saga in which magic practitioners, demons, other hostile paranormal and normal species fight for power when the red sun ebbs towards solar system extinction. This volume consists of twenty-two mostly famous authors paying homage to the great Mr. Vance by providing tales that occur on the Dying Earth. The quality level differs slightly as there are no clinkers, but a couple of well written disappointments because they attempt but fail at tying up some lose threads. Most of the entries capture the essence of Mr. Vance's timely dark vision of the future. Especially entertaining are "Grolion of Almery" by Matthew Hughes who seems like a Vance clone with a the person obtaining shelter in the wrong house and Terry Dowling's "The Copsy Door" in which cursed Amberlin the Lesser stumbles into a magical contest. Mike Resnick's "Inescapable" affirms the axiom don't lose your head to a female because she may take a literal connotation. Other strong contributions include "Abrizonde" by Walter Jon Williams, Dan Simmons's "The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz", Paula Volsky's "The Traditions of Karzh", "Caulk the Witch-Chaser" by Liz Williams and "The Green Bird"' by Kage Baker. This entire anthology is a great tribute.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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