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“If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumbered here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream…”


(William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream/ Richard Dadd, Titania Sleeping 1841)

A newly appointed knight from the realm of Frein on his way to his quest.

He is a man of the capital, son of a great commander of the realm who died in a great battle for his country.

The young man nammed Rob is looking to follow his father’s steps and becoming a rightful knight.

Diligent, humble but somehow naive, he is always here to help.

On his way to realize the quest the king gives to him, he will discover the world, face powerful foes and try to be worthy as much as his father.

Hope you like it ;D!
Rob belongs to me

Day 1049, Books 279-282

So about three weeks ago I’ve begun reading this post-apocalyptic science fantasy anthology of four books titled Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance who, as far as I can tell now, is probably one of the most influential and least known authors who ever stumbled into the disgusting mess known as fantasy. He’s so influential actually that the whole “Dying Earth” subgenre was named after his novels and numerous later great writers credited his works as a main source of inspiration like Michael Moorcock, M. John Harrison, China Miéville, Mark Lawrence or N. K. Jemisin. Now that I hopefully managed to hopelessly overload the reader’s mind with lots of names, let’s break down this 1041 pages long doorstop into something more digestible.

The first short stories in the series were written by Vance in his spare time during World War II while serving in the US Navy and were published as a single volume called The Dying Earth in 1950… “But Dr. Bré, you foul-mouthed yet dazzling intellectual!” I hear you exclaim. “How is that even possible if everyone knows that fantasy wasn’t a thing until like four years later when Tolkien bitch slapped us with The Lord of the Rings and science fantasy was even more not a thing until the literary fever dream which is The Book of the New Sun entered the public consciousness in 1980?!” But okay, tongue-between-asscheeks bullshittery aside I just want to say that this thing is well, quite old. 

The setting, which is basically the stories’ main appeal, is actually quite remarkable, at least as far as the variance of ideas go: the undefined far future of Earth, when the sun is nearing the end of its life, the landscape dotted with ancient ruins and other fragments of now-decayed civilizations, members of the shrinking human population living mostly as scavengers amongst the detritus, making use of technology and magic which was in previous eras, but which they can no longer understand or even tell apart. This kind of “just before the end of the world” scenario with Clarke’s Third Law in full kick, although isn’t wholly Vance’s idea, was first introduced into the mainstream here thanks to him and later became the basis of series like The Dancers at the End of Time, Viriconium, The Broken Earth, Broken Empire, Bas-Lag, etc.

Considering all this it’s pretty disappointing that there is little to none of the melancholy atmosphere or the apocalypse-induced philosophising which one could expect from such a premise (and which are practically the trademarks of all of the above mentioned later works). Sure, the life of your average person is quite hard and often rather short, genetically engineered monsters, marauding cannibal tribes and psychotic warrior-wizards are out to get you at each turn and there is a lot of talk about the sun kicking the bucket any minute but really it’s mainly just an - admittedly quite striking - aesthetic surrounding dozens of stories featuring a cast of rapidly changing (and dying) characters going on adventures all over the world in a style best described as a kind of trash-horror-softporn-wackiness.

Indeed, at first it mostly reminded me of the wild pulp style of Howard and Leiber, found in their Conan and Lankhmar stories with the purposefully overdone, though sometimes surprisingly beautiful prose, the plot of the loosely connected stories jumping from place to place and event to event with jovial abandon, the cast full of greedy and/or amoral bastards hyperfixated on gold and adventuring and the rather, let’s say, interesting treatment of the members of the population sporting a vagina. Later, after tackling the first book and getting to the the second one (The Eyes of the Overworld) I started to see a pattern suggesting a more subtle undercurrent but the true epiphany only came about halfway through the third (Cugel’s Saga) when the eponymous Cugel (author pet character, con artist and outlaw), after getting through a nearly endless series of mind numbing adventures, finally, on his third attempt, succeeded in his vendetta against this evil wizard who kept making his life hell - this shit is actually a kind of Fairy Tales mashup! This clarified some things for me: the characters weren’t meant to be realistic psychological studies, but instead unchanging and borderline-retarded, that is to say, as my former Lit teacher would probably insist to death, archetypical - foolishly and heedlessly stumbling from one peril to the next and then back out again. I mean this of course won’t excuse the all over the place pacing or the shallowness of most characters, but it’s still something.

Also worth noting that this series had probably the largest influence on Gary Gygax when he designed the original Dungeons & Dragons, beside of course Moorcock’s Elric stories (originally featuring the Chaotic-Lawful dichotomy that later evolved into the nine-point alignment chart) and the The Lord of the Rings. From the nonsensical dungeons where our heroes might face a gigantic demon head, some dark-skinned subhumans, a Mayan vampire and an Evil Chest in rapid succession, to the endless legions of megalomaniac wizards vying for power on every corner and the system of having to memorize your spells again and again from your magic books which you unavoidably forget after casting them, Dying Earth has it all (not to mention the Ioun Stones, featured in the fourth and last book, Rhialto the Marvellous).

All in all it’s always interesting to trace back the roots of shit you love to their origin (with the added benefit of by reading the things your favourite authors read maybe someday you’ll also have a chance at writing something on par with them), and while I can’t say that Vance’s style here struck me as particularly refined, there was surely an original voice and vision to his Dying Earth stories that is certainly worthy of a fresh ‘n’ crisp Mediocre rating. Let’s just hope that his other fantasy series Lyonesse, should I read it one day, will fare a bit better.

Now get out of my fucking clinic, you cumdog punks.