Recent Arrivals: Jack Vance’s Dying Earth

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

The Dying Earth and its sequels comprise one of the most powerful fantasy/science-fiction concepts in the history of the genre. They are packed with adventure but also with ideas, and the vision of uncounted human civilizations stacked one atop another like layers in a phyllo pastry thrills even as it induces a sense of awe [at] … the fragility and transience of all things, the nobility of humanity’s struggle against the certainty of an entropic resolution.” — Dean Koontz

“Cugel the Clever [is] a rogue so venal and unscrupulous that that he makes Harry Flashman look like Dudley Do-Right. How could you not love a guy like that? …. Judging from the number of times that Cugel has come back … you can’t keep a bad man down.” — George R.R. Martin

Fantasy Audiobook - The Dying Earth by Jack VanceThe Dying Earth
By Jack Vance; Read by Arthur Morey
7 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

The stories included in The Dying Earth introduce dozens of seekers of wisdom and beauty, lovely lost women, wizards of every shade of eccentricity with their runic amulets and spells. We meet the melancholy deodands, who feed on human flesh and the twk-men, who ride dragonflies and trade information for salt. There are monsters and demons. Each being is morally ambiguous: The evil are charming, the good are dangerous. All are at home in Vance’s lyrically described fantastic landscapes like Embelyon where, “The sky [was] 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….”

The dying Earth itself is otherworldly: “A dark blue sky, an ancient sun…. Nothing of Earth was raw or harsh—the ground, the trees, the rock ledge protruding from the meadow; all these had been worked upon, smoothed, aged, mellowed. The light from the sun, though dim, was rich and invested every object of the land … with a sense of lore and ancient recollection.” Welcome.
 
 
Fantasy Audiobook - The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack VanceThe Eyes of the Overworld
By Jack Vance; Read by Arthur Morey
8 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

The Eyes of the Overworld is the first of Vance’s picaresque novels about the scoundrel Cugel. Here he is sent by a magician he has wronged to a distant unknown country to retrieve magical lenses that reveal the Overworld. Conniving to steal the lenses, he escapes and, goaded by a homesick monster magically attached to his liver, starts to find his way home to Almery. The journey takes him across trackless mountains, wastelands, and seas. Through cunning and dumb luck, the relentless Cugel survives one catastrophe after another, fighting off bandits, ghosts, and ghouls—stealing, lying, and cheating without insight or remorse leaving only wreckage behind. Betrayed and betraying, he joins a cult group on a pilgrimage, crosses the Silver Desert as his comrades die one by one and, escaping the Rat People, obtains a spell that returns him home. There, thanks to incompetence and arrogance he misspeaks the words of a purloined spell and transports himself back to the same dismal place he began his journey.
 
 
Fantasy Audiobook - Cugel's Saga by Jack VanceCugel’s Saga
By Jack Vance; Read by Arthur Morey
13 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

“Vance sees himself in the tradition of popular fantasy writers, but his classic writing style is also comparagle to Homer’s Odyssey, and Cervante’s Don Quixote. Though the Cugel tales may lack the scope and pathos of the greatest adventure yarns, in the twenty-first century, they may be as close as one gets to the celebration of epic human perseverance.” — editor, Brilliance Audio

Cugel’s Saga, published 17 years after Eyes of the Overworld, is the second novel that features the scoundrel and trickster, Cugel. Again, Cugel tests wits with Iucounu and acquires rudimentary powers himself.
 
 
Fantasy Audiobook - Rhialto the Marvellous by Jack VanceRhialto the Marvellous
By Jack Vance; Read by Arthur Morey
8 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

Rhialto the Marvellous takes up the personal and political conflicts among a conclave of two dozen magicians of Ascolais and Almery in the 21st Aeon. The shocking appearance of the Llorio the Murtha, a powerful female force from an earlier aeon threatens to unbalance nature by “ensqualming” or feminizing the magicians. This triggers a tremendous struggle for power and the other mages turn against Rhialto.

Hoping to reestablish his rightful place, Rhialto travels to other aeons to restore the missing Perciplex which projects the Mostrament, the constitution of the association. In his final adventure, Rhialto must, ultimately, travel to the very ends of time and space to confront an old adversary whom he had wronged and must commit further misdeeds to restore order.

Out of this welter of exotic politics, values systems, personal eccentricity, and magic, the figure of Rhialto slowly comes into focus and takes on dimension. He is a vain, apparently superficial man, not ashamed to demonstrate his melancholy to enhance his reputation. But he is courteous, patient, and subtle, even kind. He is self-aware and introspective as Cugel never could be—the wisest and most sympathetic of all of Vance’s wizards.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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Scott D.

Reviews Editor, SFFaudio

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