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Tales of the Dying Earth Paperback – December 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


“Vance is the greatest living SF writer. His work continues to exhibit imagination, originality, and style, three things sadly lacking in 95% of the SF being published nowadays.” ―George R. R. Martin

“You can't possibly pass up any book by Jack Vance . . . He has perfected the trick of creating new worlds so deceptively real that after a while your own home seems imaginary.” ―Jerry Pournelle

“There is a flavor to [Vance's] work that you can't find elsewhere, an underlying current of good humor and quick-wittedness that makes you reluctant to turn that last page and return to a far less interesting reality.” ―Science Fiction Chronicle

“Vance has virtually no peer when it comes to creating sophisticated yet decadent worlds.” ―Starlog

“Vance demonstrates his talent for creating exotic and sometimes bizarre cultures that offer ironic commentary on the excesses and foibles of human society. The author's arch prose and dry humor have won him an avid following.” ―Library Journal

“The works of Jack Vance have boasted an ardent following for the past four decades, and his newest should be cause for rejoicing among the faithful. The remarkable high consistency of Vance's poetic writing, coupled with his extraordinary visions of exotic planets, is one of the treasures of speculative fiction.” ―Washington Post Book World

About the Author

Jack Vance is one of the greats of science fiction. He has been writing for more than 60 years, and in 1997 was honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. He is the author of dozens of science fiction and fantasy novels, including the World Fantasy Award winning Lyonnesse series, and the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning The Last Castle. He lives in Oakland, California.


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Product Details

  • Series: Dying Earth
  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; 1st edition (December 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312874561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312874568
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Ryle Shermatz on February 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'll try to be short, but I cannot resist this opportunity to bang the gong for one of our greatest American authors, the immortal JACK VANCE (b. 1917), and what will likely be his most enduring work, "The Dying Earth."

Folks, it's all here--drama, heroics, adventure, atmosphere, a keen understanding of human nature, all liberally garnished with one of the dryest senses of humor ever. I first encountered the lead-off short story of the opening collection "The Dying Earth" back in 1969 in a paperback short story collection, and it grabbed me by the throat even at age 12. I found a used paperback of "Dying Earth" just a few years later and discovered to my continuing delight that the promise of that anthologized tale, "Mazirian the Magician" was more than born out by the rest of the book.

Other critics have classified Vance as science fiction's "premier stylist" and I tend to agree. Characters in the end-of-time world Vance creates here speak in almost Shakesperian dialogue, with outlandish flourishes of verbosity. I can certainly understand if more literal minded readers are put off by what appears to be a pretentious or effete manner of writing. BUT if you can get on Jack's wavelength--and it isn't difficult--you are in for one of the most unique and imaginative collection of page-turners ever written.

I'll leave to new readers the pleasure of discovering for themselves Mazirian, T'sais & T'sain, Liane the Wayfarer, Chun the Unavoidable, and of course Cugel the Clever--not to ignore the redoubtable Rhialto the Marvellous. Fictional characters definitely, but also vehicles for Vance to express his sharply perceptive take on the human condition in all its extremes of exaltation and debasement, hilarity and wickedness.
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79 of 84 people found the following review helpful By M. Dalton on June 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
There is something unusual about Jack Vance which reminds me of two of my other favorite writers, Philip K Dick and Stanislaw Lem. That is the conceit of hiding subtle, and nuanced social commentary beneath a veneer of light escapism. Lem, writing from behind the iron curtain, wrote brilliantly clever Robot fairy tales with sly underlying critiques of power and human folly. Those who know Philip K Dick's work also know how much biting wit he hid behind what seem superficially goofy sci fi tales.
I'm starting to realise Vance was doing much the same thing. The first time I read the Dying Earth (the original anthology of short stories) was when I found it on a bookshelf as a young teenager. I found the stories entertaining at the time, with hints of genius, but ultimately they seemed like nothing more or less than escapism, of the kind of fantasy found in the dungeons and dragons games I was into back then (no coincidence, Vance was a key inspiration for that game, for better or worse), albiet perhaps the best possible example of the genre I had encountered.
As I ran into the other Dying Earth novels over the years, and read them again and again, I think I originally had the same reaction many other people did. I was a little put off at first by the grandiose words and odd use of language (I had to read the books with a dictoinary by my side) the flowery dialogue, the 'thin' unlikely plot. But early on I recognized something about it that was unique.
Over the years, as I vorcaciously absorbed basically everything written in the Fantasy and Sci Fi Genres, it was Vance and one or two others that stuck with me. Returning again and again to the Dying Earth books in particular, it was the small things about them which increasingly struck me as more than merely clever and amusing...
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Greg Hughes on July 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Tales of the Dying Earth" is a great series of books by Jack Vance. Set in a time so distant from ours, the sun is a dull red ball in a dark sky, futuristic cities are half-buried mounds of ancient rubble, and magic is as natural as walking.
These four books are generally regarded as fantasy, but it has elements of science fiction as well. The magic that characters perform is really just advanced science, but it's so sophisticated it looks like magic to us. (If a caveman could see how we live in the 21st century he would think everything we did was magic too.) The future in these books is so remote, there is a religous sect who won't walk on the ground because it would seem like desecration to the aeons of dead people in the soil.
The first book in the collection, "The Dying Earth", involves a range of colourful characters. They each go on a mini-quest of some sort, facing many exotic dangers. The next two books, "The Eyes of the Overworld" and "Cugel's Saga", follow the adventures of Cugel the Clever, an amoral, likeable rogue who lives on his wits. Most of the time it's his own greed that gets him into trouble. The last book is "Rhialto the Marvellous".
This series is quite an achievement. I read "The Book of the New Sun" a couple of years ago, knowing it was inspired by Jack Vance's work. I find that Vance's style of writing is easier to comprehend, it's less cryptic and less ornate. There is always something to keep the reader interested.
Anyone who likes fantasy or science fiction should read these.
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