Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Dying Earth

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, 1950/1977, Pocket Books

Another cheap book fair grab, I figured I had to give this book a try as I had heard that the magic system in the Dungeons & Dragons RPG was ripped off from Jack Vance's stories. After reading this book, I can say that they ripped off more than just the magic system. I can also say that this book is fairly odd.

The basic premise is that the Sun is dying. The stories are set so far in teh future that the Sun has become a red giant, and will go out soon, leaving the world to freeze in darkness. At some point in the millenia since the present time, other intelligent creatures have appeared, and magic has also (re-)appeared on the Earth. The book contains six separate stories. The first three somewhat tie together, but the rest do not. The only real theme is the age old theme of "boy meets girl," which usually ends with the couple getting together, but in one notable case does not. Granted, that guy was an ass and deserved his fate.

Overall, the plots generally deal with someone trying to get knowledge, either magical, mundane, or metaphysical. There is a quest to some strange place, and the overcoming of obstacles to obtain said knowledge. The way this is done is different in every story, though, so that the stories didn't really feel repetitive. What makes them odd is the fact that the setting seems to be completely a throwaway contraption that doesn't matter. You could set these stories in any generic fantasy setting and they would fit just fine, with the possible exception of "Mazirian the Magician." The writing style is also strange to me, and it seems clipped, like the author is forcing things along swiftly. Maybe I am just used to the 800 page monstrosities that most companies publish these days, with page after endless page of description (which you in no way get here), such that the relative paucity of description is very noticeable. Not bad, just not what I am used to. Still, for $0.50, it was a good buy.

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