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Michael Barnes
August 18, 2022
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Godtear Beats the Odds - Review

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thegiantbrain
August 18, 2022
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August 11, 2022
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WadeMonnig
August 10, 2022
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August 09, 2022
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thegiantbrain
August 04, 2022
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August 01, 2022
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Scout Board Game Review

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oliverkinne
July 29, 2022
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July 28, 2022
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July 27, 2022
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July 26, 2022
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July 25, 2022
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The Split - Review

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thegiantbrain
July 21, 2022
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The Dying Earth and other Jack Vance reads

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22 Aug 2014 08:05 #185660 by Erik Twice
I've wanted to check out some of the writings of Jack Vance for a while now as I was told he had a pretty important influence on the fantasy genre and gaming, most notably the magical system of D&D. And yesterday, being bored I pick up The Dying Earth and started reading.

The first thing I noticed is how the book portrayed the idea of whizards. They are a middle point between the biblical Gandalf and the newer, simpler "Magic user" portrayals. They are unnaturally old men, they are mean and nasty and create unnatural life. They trick each other like devils like when one whizard puts another into a miniature maze with a baby dragon. They don't seem characters, that is, they are defined by their use of magic by what magic is instead of how they act or feel.

They remind me of the evil doctor of The Bride of Frankenstein, showing his satirical creations and grinning with his long, satanic face. It's a powerful portrayal.

And yet, I have to admit the writing is stiff and dry, lacking humanity and often reveling a bit in its pompousness. I feel there are too many adjectives, too many complex words to make the writing compelling.

But it's growing on me because it's not simply bad writing. Every word has a function to acomplish and they do build this supernatural ambiance. It's simply difficult to accept "The Excellent Prismatic Spray" as normal writing.

So yeah, what do you think? Have you read it? What other Jack Vance books would you recommend?

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22 Aug 2014 09:20 #185670 by Shellhead
Believe it or not, other writers have great admiration for Jack Vance's style. It takes some time to get used to it, but then it's like you are under a spell. I highly recommend the other Dying Earth books: The Eyes of the Overworld, Rhialto the Magician, and Cugel's Saga. Cugel is a clever but unwise rogue who crosses the wrong mage. Rhialto is an extremely powerful wizard, so his adventures have a somewhat different tone. Vance also wrote science-fiction, but his style is better-suited to fantasy.

George R.R. Martin is a talented editor as well as a writer, and he edited an amazing collection of stories by various writers titled Songs of the Dying Earth. Each story comes with a page or two of that writer describing how he became a fan of Vance. Nearly every single story does a great job of capturing both Vance's style and the feel of the Dying Earth setting.

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22 Aug 2014 13:17 #185704 by DukeofChutney
The Eyes of the Overworld is awesome. A really great fantasy novel. I liked Dyeing earth but found some of the stories to be far more interesting than others. I think the main draw with Vance is the sheer originally and fluidity of his imagination.

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22 Aug 2014 13:52 #185712 by mutagen
The Lyonesse series of books is pretty decent, and probably not quite as dry than Dying Earth. I enjoy Vance's portrayal of magicians, and aliens in general, as forces of nature -- impetuous, often impenetrable, and generally pernicious. Definitely one of my favorite authors of fantasy, but his style can be somewhat fatiguing in his longer works.

I've got Songs of the Dying Earth somewhere on my reading queue, but haven't got to it yet. Good to hear that it doesn't disappoint.

Mathew Hughes has a similar style, particularly his Henghis Hapthorn series.

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23 Aug 2014 14:06 - 23 Aug 2014 14:07 #185778 by engineer Al
Love, love, love me some Jack Vance. I find his writng style to be exquisite. As opposed to many other authors, I feel he becomes a better writer as he ages. The Dying Earth is written over a few decades, so the final books are the best. I agree with the recommendation for the Lyonesse series. His final Fantasy series and it is quite engaging.
Last edit: 23 Aug 2014 14:07 by engineer Al.

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23 Aug 2014 14:10 #185779 by Gary Sax
I need to get around to reading Lyonesse, I bought a lovely compilation of all the Conan the barbarian and they accidentally sent me a great looking compilation of that instead. Haven't touched it, though, didn't know if it was any good.

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23 Aug 2014 14:20 #185780 by engineer Al
Dive in Gary, you won't regret it!
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26 Aug 2014 09:18 #185926 by Erik Twice
I just finished the book and I admit it has grown on my, partly because the later stories are much more involved than the first ones. I particularly liked the last one in which a curious guy tries to find an old museum to gain knowledge and keeps dodging danger like a character in a roleplaying game would which is amusing because the book was an important influence to Gygax.

I admit, though, that the book leaves me a bit confused sometimes because Vance often writes tales that are plot-wise fairy tales but aren't written like fairy tales so I don't know if they are supposed to be symbolic or if he just likes the narrative. For example, in one of the stories the end, which takes barely a page, has the main characters deciding to find a genie and ask him for his power. The good guys get cured, the evil sorceress becomes a grotesque-looking monster and then the book ends. It comes out of nowhere and feels shallow to me.

Still, I liked it so I'm going to get the omnibus and check out the sequels.

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26 Aug 2014 10:22 #185931 by Shellhead
Vance originally wrote these stories for magazines long before they were collected as The Dying Earth. Editors may have given specific feedback on certain stories, such as extending or reducing the page length, or even inserting an abrupt happy ending. Or maybe Vance just wrote them that way, as he clearly had a whimsical imagination.
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