Tales of the Dying Earth – Jack Vance

“Turjan sat in his workroom, legs sprawled out from the stool, back against and elbows on the bench.”

I don’t have a great deal to say about this, other than I didn’t really like it. A lot of ‘classic’ sci-fi and fantasy (this is a curious mix of both: set far in the future, where ‘magic’ has become a real thing) I just don’t think it’s aged brilliantly: the women get a very poor deal, and the ‘heroes’ are very hard to warm to.

Tales From Dying Earth is actually a collection of four works, each of which is made up of several linked shorter stories and novelettes.

We start with Turjan – to be honest, these tales left me a little lost, and I didn’t feel they actually went anywhere. They were, however, a vaguely interesting introduction to the world, which I felt could have been followed up well – but alas, it was not to be!

Books 2 and 3 follow the misadventures of Cugel, and like Rhialto in the final instalment, he’s a barely tolerable ‘rascal’ in my opinion. He interacts with the world as if it owes him something, grumbling bitterly if anyone treats him the way he treats others. How this is supposed to be even slightly sympathetic I have no idea – I just wanted to slap the selfish, shallow idiot and his banal aims into the dying, red sun!

I dunno, maybe I’m just missing the point – certainly, the denizens of GoodReads seem to rate the book highly. But, while I’m glad to tick another of the Fantasy Masterworks off the list, I remain thoroughly under awed with work.

Paperback: 741 pages / omnibus of 4 books
First published: 1950-1984
Series: Dying Earth books 1-4 / Sci-Fi Masterworks
Read from 18th September – 5th December 2015 (with long pauses between ‘books’)

My rating: 4/10

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