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Viriconium Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 25, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; Reprint edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553383159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553383157
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Viriconium gathers Harrison's stories about the great city Viriconium, the empire that rose after the fall of the Afternoon Cultures, and the struggles that surround them, their art and legends, and their connection to our world. The collection starts with "The Pastel City," in which two queens, Methvet Nian and Canna Moidart, battle for control of the empire; Lord tegeus-Cromis and the last survivors of his order fight for Methvet Nian against the rapacious Northerners and the terrifying geteit chemosit, remnants of the late Afternoon Empires. In "A Storm of Wings," the great airman Benedict Paucemanly returns from the moon, bearing with him an invasion of locustlike creatures who come from the stars and threaten to destroy the human world. The final story connects Viriconium to our world through mirrors and strange stories of those who traveled into great Viriconium and returned forever changed. Harrison creates an epic history of a captivating and strange metropolis full of bravos and dancers, intrigue and romance. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"The world that Harrison depicts is intricate and authentic, peopled with a multitude of strange yet lifelike characters—a combination which serves to make his richly imagined empire of Viriconium feel very real indeed.... This omnibus collection from the author of Light is canon-reading for those who wish to know the genre's roots, as well as the heights, to which it can aspire."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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The same could likely be said for many who read it.
Loren Eaton
Harrison also has remarkable skills with the English language, with surreal and moving prose that is a joy to read in itself.
doomsdayer520
The characters and the plot, which feel like they are there only to support the role of the city, don't make up for this.
Kat Hooper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Walker on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a long review because it is a review of four distinct long books, The Viriconium Cycle. And there is a marked and progressive set of changes as the reader moves through the four.

The first, The Pastel City, can be taken as an extraordinarily well-wrought specimen of that class of bittersweet science-fiction tales about what Harrison here calls "the Evening Cultures" of humankind--those that come late in the history of the world and the race, when both are old, confused, tired . . . The bitter derives from the pervasive atmosphere in such tales of ending, of the morning and afternoon of life as but memories, of the same rue and futility as those of the old who feel their lives underlived yet slipping away as they watch; the sweet comes from the fact of actual living, of the reality of those human lives whose owners' appetites and deeds participate meagerly if at all in the race's larger melancholy. In this first venture at Viriconium, Harrison gives us an adequate but not striking plot and a well-wrought but not unique setting; but he also gives us rich characterizations and, above all, superb, jewel-perfect prose. He captures elegantly the late-autumn mood of the world he imagines. His protagonists do the needful things, some surprises occur, the book comes to an end; this one comes to what might be called a conventional, almost a traditional "happy" ending, in that, for all the pain and losses, those who survive have hopes, and futures that may contain those hopes.

By the second book--though it seems to proceed directly from the first, saving only a lapse of some decades--we have already a different form of book, one grown geometrically in many ways. The Pastel City, though almost poetic in tone, seems grounded in a readily discernible reality.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Schtinky VINE VOICE on November 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beginning in 1971 with The Pastel City and culminating in 1985 with Viriconium Nights, M. John Harrison created a mystical world that is literally weighted down with the relics of ancient civilizations, one empire on top of another. Now, Harrison's three major works, The Pastel City, A Storm Of Wings, and In Viriconium are brought together in one book, along with the 1985 collection Viriconium Nights.

In The Pastel City, the background of the Afternoon Cultures of Viriconium is laid down, and we are brought into the Evening Cultures beginning with the hero Methven Nian. Sensing a Dark Age, Methven put together the Order of Methven to fight against the wild Northern Tribes. Methven's brother, Methvel, married a northern princess and had a daughter named Canna Moidart. Methven himself had a daughter named Methvet, otherwise known as Queen Jane. When Methvel and Methven die, Moidart and Jane are pitted against each other in the War of Two Queens. Jane recruits the help of the remaining Order of Methven, including Tomb The Dwarf, Birkin Grif, and swordsman teagus-Cromis (my favorite character). Using resurrected machines and magicks from the Afternoon Cultures that were dug up from the Rust Desert and revitalized, Tomb and Cellur the Bird Lord find a way to resurrect warriors from the Afternoon Cultures called The Reborn. The Pastel City is the most lucid of the stories in Viriconium.

A Storm Of Wings introduces Galen Hornwrack, a dispossessed lordling who has long lived as an assassin and thief in the Low City. The Sign Of The Locust clouds Viriconium, so Queen Jane accepts the help of Tomb The Dwarf, Galen Hornwrack, Cellur, and Alstath Fulthor, Lord of The Reborn.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on July 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
M. John Harrison is surely one of the lost masters of the fantasy genre, and this compendium will help bring his works to the fans who may not be aware of his important influence on the field. This book collects the three Viriconium mini-novels of the 1970s and 80s, plus a selection of short stories, all of which are interconnected and explore the wonders of the titular city. Harrison's true influential breakthrough was his dark surrealism and incredibly well-constructed backgrounds and settings, and anyone who has read today's masters of dark fantasy and baroque speculation, especially China Mieville, will notice the influence of Harrison immediately. Harrison also has remarkable skills with the English language, with surreal and moving prose that is a joy to read in itself. He obviously puts the utmost care into every sentence for maximum visceral effect and reader appreciation. As just two examples among thousands - "as the sun bled to death," or how the haunted city in the distance appeared as "a black dot on the vast featureless map of the end of the world."

Harrison's works are especially difficult to wrap one's mind around, but this may not always be the fault of the reader. While you are continually amazed by the depth and richness of the prose, the stories and characters seem remote and detached. The only installment that is truly accessible is the first Viriconium novel, "The Pastel City," which is deeper and more compelling than the standard fantasy quest that it appears to be on the surface. Unfortunately, the plots and characters fade into abstraction in the oppressively non-linear "A Storm of Wings" and the distractingly talky "In Viriconium.
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