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Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance Hardcover – July 31, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 600 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean; First edition (July 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596062134
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596062139
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,335,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: Sixty years ago, in The Dying Earth, Jack Vance introduced his own version of the distant future, where the sun has become a red giant, powerful wizards fight over the scraps of ruined civilizations, and a handful of colorful and eccentric characters insist on having a few adventures before oblivion descends. In Songs of the Dying Earth, 22 sci-fi and fantasy writers, from newcomers like Liz Williams and Byron Tetrick to established names like Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin, each offer their own snippets of Vance's Dying Earth. In one story, an apprentice architect stumbles into a duel between two powerful mages, for example, while in another a poet-philosopher tries (and fails) to forget the coming apocalypse in a drunken haze. Some stories capture Vance's style and inventiveness, while others recreate his perfect combination of black humor and creeping dread. Songs of the Dying Earth is both a respectful homage to a sci-fi master and a whirlwind tour of a world that readers will want to revisit. --Darryl Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This stellar anthology features 22 original stories set in the far future of Grand Master Jack Vance's 1950 classic The Dying Earth, wherein sorcerers, rogues and demons squabble for power beneath the waning light of a bloated red sun. Some of the field's most talented writers successfully adopt Vance's convoluted style, ironic dialogue and amoral protagonists, as in Dan Simmons's epic novella The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderoz, which relates the desperate quest of Shrue the diabolist to find a dead wizard's Ultimate Library, and Liz Williams's excellent Caulk the Witch-chaser, concerning a minor wizard forced to ally himself with his quarry. Exquisitely illustrated by Tom Kidd, these are tales to savor and a fitting tribute to one of the field's finest authors. (Oct.)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Herb Mallette on March 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I appear to have been far less taken with this collection than most of the other reviewers here. For my money, about half the stories could have been left out, to the ultimate improvement of those remaining. A 300-page volume consisting of the best half of this one would have made for a worthy tribute to Vance's oevre, because it would have been more uniformly in the same league as the original. On the plus side, by giving us quantity over quality, the editors certainly proved that no one else is Jack Vance. I do have to wonder where the Michael Shea story is, or more exactly, why it is in a different anthology than this one.

Robert Silverberg: The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale -- This would have been an excellent Jack Vance story, because Vance would have written it in 8 to 10 pages instead of meandering on for more than 20. Perplexingly, Silverberg makes the classic mistake of the novice Vance emulator, which is to assume from Vance's high-flown vocabulary that he is a verbose writer. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, Vance's defining quality is his ability to use unusual words in order to achieve a ruthless economy in his plotting and pacing -- an economy sadly missing from this story and quite a few of its fellows in the anthology.

Matthew Hughes: Grolion of Almery -- Hughes has a better handle on the Vancean style than the great majority of writers here. He also understands how Vance builds characters and situations, and how Vance wrings the most entertainment value out of his revelations, in some cases by leaving them completely implicit.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitehead on July 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Millions of years hence, the Sun has grown old, bloated and red and is about to go out. In these dying days humanity, now capable of great feats of magic, shares the much-changed Earth with hostile races such as the deodands and pelgranes. This is the vivid setting of Jack Vance's Dying Earth series, four books (now usually published in one volume) which now stand as one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy.

Songs of the Dying Earth is an all-star 'tribute album' by some of the biggest names in modern SF and Fantasy, featuring twenty-three stories set in the Dying Earth setting. Some of the authors employ existing characters (Cugel makes several appearances and is central in Kage Baker's The Green Bird, whilst Rhialto plays a strong supporting role in Glen Cook's The Good Magician), whilst most create their own characters to explore various stories and ideas. Robert Silverberg's entry deals with a peculiar form of maudlin depression brought about by the imminent end of eternity, whilst Matthew Hughes' Grolion of Almery is a crazy mash-up of the Dying Earth and Cthulu with a bit of Little Shop of Horrors chucked in for good measure. Some of the stories are extremely funny, others are tragic or very dark in tone.

One thing that stands out about the collection is its very high quality. The weakest stories in the collection are the ones where the writer tries to evoke Vance's language and fails - `Caulk the Witch-Chaser' by Liz Williams and Jeff VanderMeer's `Final Quest of the Wizard Sarnod' are notable examples - but even they successfully capture some of the setting's tone and feel.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Friedli on August 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Songs of the Dying Earth is a magnificent anthology of 22 tales authored by established writers in expressed tribute to Jack Vance's remote future Dying Earth ("DE"). To acquire credibility the stories must use the precepts of DE and whatever locations, characters, entities and implements are chosen with all full faithfulness, and new creations must remain consistent. With small exceptions the contributing authors succeed quite well. Similarly, for an homage to seem Vancesque it takes discriminating focus on rich, precise language, the plots should be direct, the pacing nimble, it does not hurt for the outcome to be ironic, and it is helpful that the tone convey a slight detachment and offer a subtle wryness, all hallmarks of Jack Vance. But as a special caveat about style, Jack Vance is widely lauded as the rare writer's writer, and his unique style reaches near inimitability, so its replication is a very tall order indeed. To be able to write Vancian is no sole criterion for evaluating an homage, though if an obvious attempt is made to "sound" like Vance it is fair game to be assessed. Some authors stick to their own voice, thus their tribute to Vance's DE must be adjudged on other factors mentioned.

Seven entries are absolutely outstanding and alone make this book worth buying, so that among all 22 entries, 7 are BEST, 11 are quite GOOD, 3 are MIXED, and 1 is WEAK. Reviews given below describe these BEST, sequenced solely by chapter order, followed by brief comments on selected GOOD, followed last by the 3 MIXED & 1 WEAK and reasons thereof.

Story 3 by Terry Dowling. Wins "Most Faithful" Award for conscientious employment of many DE allusions, all lending to the story's DE ambiance and authenticity.
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