Jack Vance - The Dying Earth series

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#1
The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance


Wiki quote:
Dying Earth is a fantasy series by the American author Jack Vance, comprising four books originally published from 1950 to 1984. Some have been called picaresque. They vary from short story collection to fix-up (novel created from older short stories) perhaps all the way to novel.
The stories of the Dying Earth series are set in the distant future, at a point when the sun is almost exhausted and magic has reasserted itself as a dominant force. The Moon has disappeared and the Sun is in danger of burning out at any time, often flickering as if about to go out, before shining again. The various civilizations of Earth have collapsed for the most part into decadence and its inhabitants overcome with a fatalistic outlook. The Earth is mostly barren and cold, and has become infested with various predatory monsters (possibly created by a magician in a former age).

The series comprises four books by Vance:
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#2
Well here it is boys and girls a Jack Vance's The Dying Earth series book club thread. If you wanna join in or leave a comment that would be awesome.
I'm reading the first book The Dying Earth right now and it's going well. The setting is very reminiscent of Tales of Zothique by CAS, dead earth, lost and new continents...a world populated by few people and demons. Magic is very real and present in abundance. The characters are mostly bad guys, not anti-heroes, with occasional good guy. The stories are loosely connected, each one featuring a character that was mentioned in the previous one.
I started reading this and thinking this is a copy of Clark Ashton Smith works, but now I'm enjoying it more. I especially liked the third story "T'sais".
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#3
Sounds awesome. I'll be looking forward to starting this on Monday.
 

Sir Arthur

Journeyed there and back again
#4
I've had an omnibus of this series on my for later shelves at the library for some time now. I should join in although I'd have to return a couple other book unread. I've read two Jack Vance series this year, and loved them both( Lyonesse and Tschai).
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#5
Well I've finished it. What can I say...1950s fantasy is weird, but not bad. I enjoyed later half of the book more than the first (last 3 stories).
I'm slightly confused by the 3rd and 4th story and the role of Liane the Wayfarer.
Jack Vance pulled a South Park Kenny move and killed Liane twice! In the 3rd story T'sais puts a rapier through him and in the 4th story he's killed again by Chun the Unavoidable. What's up with that?
 

Griffin

Journeyed there and back again
#8
I've read the first two stories/chapters. The prose and plot are dated, but it's interesting to read something outside the comfort zone. The stories and characters remind me of the first two Discworld novels. Weird wizards and creatures doing weird stuff basically.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#9
I just read the first story Turjan of Miir. I thought it was okay, not as good as CAS so far. I can clearly see the CAS influence but still very different from Zothique. The Dying Earth seems very original and I can see why it was so inspirational. In Hyperion in the Poet's Tale Dan Simmons included some direct references to the Dying Earth when the Poet wrote a series of Epic Poetry titled the Dying Earth, which of course was named after a series of the same name written a long time ago. And if I remember correctly old Earth has already died in Hyperion, as I do recall there being a number of references to old earth. Then George Martin has also cited Jack Vance as being an influence on his writing. Right within the first 3 pages I could clearly see that the roleplaying game Dungeons&Dragons was heavily influence by the Dying Earth. In Dungeons&Dragons wizard's memorize spells from spellbooks and they can only memorize so many spells at once before they have to memorize and rememorize spells again.

@Alucard I can kind of seem what you mean when you said you thought Jack Vance must have been on shrooms when he wrote this. I particularly enjoyed that passage about all of the colors.

Most strange, however, was the sky, a mesh of vast ripples and cross-ripples, and these refracted a thousand shafts of colored light, rays which in mid-air wove wondrous laces, rainbow nets, in all the jewel hues. So as Turjan watched, there swept over him beams of claret, topaz, rich violet, radiant green. He now perceived that the colors of the of the flowers and the trees were but fleeting functions of the sky, for now the flowers were of salman tint, and the trees a dreaming purple. The flowers deepened to copper, then with suffusion of crimson, warmed through maroon to scarlet, and the trees had become sea-blue.

CAS also wrote passages a lot like this and I think I've even written passages similar in my writings. So I don't think he was on shrooms when he wrote this but he could have been....
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#10
Hey.... oh..... where is everybody?

I just read the 3rd story T'sais, which I really liked. Her journey to find beauty was quite poignant. So I'm hoping the other stories will be better than the first two. The plot and prose might supposedly be dated (not a bad thing at all but actually a good thing) but his descriptions are incredibly imaginative, not as imaginative as Clark Ashton Smith but still very, very imaginative and also it looks he's created a really, really big well detailed world.
 

Sir Arthur

Journeyed there and back again
#11
Hey.... oh..... where is everybody?
Hey, @moonspawn.

I'll be starting as soon as I finish Tower Lord. I think " dated prose" is a silly phrase. Vance's prose is head and tails above the majority of highly touted authors we talk about these days. His strength seems to be creating interesting and original worlds, and providing a cast of eccentric characters to be your tour guide. If you like this at all, I'd suggest Lyonesse. I thought it was brilliant!
 

blitzburns4

Owns a Ring of Power
#12
Finally, a book discussion I can meaningfully contribute to.

Tales of a Dying Earth is...fascinating. Most interesting about it is that its four books (three books, really) are different from each other.

The first book is a collection of loosely-connected tales which is probably what most readers would enjoy most. Each story is very unique, and will usually leave some kind of emotional impression on the reader. Jack Vance employs a fascinating concept for this first book: spiderweb storytelling. This is a term I made up because I haven't really seen this concept employed before. Each story is a "sequel" to the last, and follows a character that appeared in a previous story. "Handing the Torch", if you will. In any case the first book is great and I highly recommend everyone read it even if they don't read any of the others.

The 2nd and 3rd books follow Cugel who is, for all intents and purposes, an amoral bastard who happens to be extremely clever. These two books construct a majority of the omnibus. It follows Cugel as he goes on adventure after adventure until finally extracting revenge on someone with whom he wronged in the first place. Despite the revenge premise- the tone is witty and comedic. The writing style is identical to the first story, but the tone is something akin to Alice in Wonderland. Sort of random, vividly detailed, but never that serious either. While many people do enjoy the first novel; many also hate these two middle ones. Myself? I enjoyed it and do recommend it.

The 4th book is more or less similar to the 1st book, but is in dreadful need of an expansion. It only follows one character, Rhialto, over (I think?) three adventures. Now, what's there happens to be satisfying- but it does leave one wishing there was more.
 
Last edited:

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#13
Today I read the story "Ulan Dhor" by Jack Vance, and I loved it. The whole thing with the grays and the greens not being able to see each other reminded me a lot of "City and the City," where the inhabitants of the two overlapping cities were for the most part unable to see inhabitants from the other. The two concepts are similar but yet very different at the same time and you know China Mieville is familiar with Jack Vance.

Hey, @moonspawn.

I'll be starting as soon as I finish Tower Lord. I think " dated prose" is a silly phrase. Vance's prose is head and tails above the majority of highly touted authors we talk about these days. His strength seems to be creating interesting and original worlds, and providing a cast of eccentric characters to be your tour guide. If you like this at all, I'd suggest Lyonesse. I thought it was brilliant!
I agree "dated prose" is a silly phrase because it implies irrelevancy to modern times. In fact its a phrase I'm quite offended by. It is true though that many authors from lets say.... the early 20th century, you could maybe call their prose "dated," or "archaic," but to do so sounds almost derogatory. No, instead of demeaning the works of the past we need to honor them and bestow upon them lavish praises, as long as they are deserving. I think the word "antique" works far, far better. There are all kinds of people - both loony and not - who collect antiques and honor them with placement on their shelves or perhaps sell them to the highest bidder for hundreds of dollars on eBay (if it is an especially rare and unique gem) and then the next person who receives does with it as they will or maybe not. The point here - which I seem to have lost somewhere - is that despite the fact that antiques are old people still appreciate them for their magnificence and their beauty and the historical worth they have in contemporary times. People who have a real appreciation of the finest delicacies of literature are the same way, not that different from an antique collector. Anyway's I've read a lot of early 20th century authors recently so I definitely wouldn't call Jack Vance's writing antique, as it actually is quite modern in reality, but I could perhaps call one of his predecessor's, Clark Ashton Smith's writing "antique."

I'll keep in mind your recommendation of Lyonesse the. I've read reviews of it and it sounds good.
 

Griffin

Journeyed there and back again
#14
My review from Goodreads:
"This book contains loosely-connected stories about wizards on a dying earth where magic is waning. The characters are driven to fulfill quests dear to them. It gives the story a sort of D&D-feel. Vance writes flourishingly. His style is not mine, nor is his way to handle the story (or lack thereof). It was nonetheless an interesting read."

I have to add I liked the fourth and fifth stories best. The whole business with the Greys and Greens was intriguing and very well done.
 

Fantam

Journeyed there and back again
#15
Also just finished the 5th story with Ulan Dhor.

I have noticed that all of the short stories so far seem to have been very descriptive, and have occasionally had to pull my dictionary out ! I have also seen that all of the stories seem to involve wizards in some manner, and that their endings often seem to have some moral point like a fable. In addition, I think that every story so far has contained some pretty violent scenes too !

My favourite moment, which made me laugh was in the 3rd story "Tsais".
when some kind of monster (a Deodand) knocked on a hut door to ask the owner to open it, so that he could eat the girl who had fled from it inside. Such a polite monster, hey ? :D

Anyway, as already mentioned, I can see that the stories introduced a number of concepts such as memorising spells, which has since been used in many games, and I imagine that Vance may have helped to give later fantasy and sf authors other ideas for their writing too.

Overall, I am enjoying the 1st book's stories and am interested to see how they will progress.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#16
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread, because I have learned a lot, not just about Dying Earth, but you got me to learn about Clark Ashton Smith, and that's a very interesting story. I've read Vance's Lyonesse trilogy and loved it, and also his Planet Adventure which was just great, and the Princes stories, which also were great sci-fi. But Dying Earth hasn't taken after a couple tries, but I always intended to try again, and armed with the background offered here, I bet I'm successful this time. Thanks again everyone.
 

Nuomer1

Journeyed there and back again
#17
Tales of a Dying Earth is...fascinating.
Years since I read any Vance - so I looked for this on Kindle . . . NOT THERE!
When are copyright holders going to get their acts together? Paperbacks from Amazon only make sense if you buy enough at one time to cut into the postage costs - and if most of your purchases are ebooks, that doesn't happen often. Market problem here!
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member

Nuomer1

Journeyed there and back again
#19
@Nuomer1
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WTJMMSS/ref=series_rw_dp_labf

But to me this one was the most economic buy (for a new book) which is what I got
www.bookdepository.com/Tales-Dying-Earth-Jack-Vance/9781857989946?selectCurrency=USD

You get a book for 4.4$ (x4 ofc and it's an omnibus)
Thanks - but we have major problem here - Amazon.com won't talk to me because I am a UK resident.
I will take a look at the bookdepository system, but I expect to run into the same problem.
Copyright laws are more than a little behind the times!
 

Nuomer1

Journeyed there and back again
#20
Aaaahrgh . . . changing URLs from dot.com to dot.co.uk and tweaking it a bit eventually finds Dying Earth on Kindle . . . whereas searching for Dying Earth on Amazon.co.uk denies the existence of a Kindle version! Bloody Amazon!
Anyway, I just bought it!