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Viriconium (Viriconium omnibus)

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,138 ratings  ·  108 reviews
This landmark collection gathers four groundbreaking fantasy classics from the acclaimed author of Light. Set in the imagined city of Viriconium, here are the masterworks that revolutionized a genre and enthralled a generation of readers; The Pastel City, A Storm of Wings, In Viriconium, and Viriconium Night.
Paperback, 462 pages
Published October 25th 2005 by Spectra (first published 1980)
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This opening salvo in the Viriconium series benefits from Harrison's icily fertile imagination and innate writing chops—but the latter was still at a raw, developing stage back in 1971 when The Pastel City was originally published, and there really isn't that much to distinguish it from other rote fantasy from the same period. A decrepit, grim, and feral atmosphere—reminiscent of Moorcock, or even Glen Cook's The Black Company in its earlier incarnations—helps, but it cannot fu...more
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Viriconium sits on the ruins of an ancient civilization that nobody remembers. The society that was technologically advanced enough to create crystal airships and lethal energy weapons is dead. These Afternoon Cultures depleted the world’s metal ores, leaving mounds of inscrutable rusted infrastructure with only a few odds and ends that still work. The current citizens of Viriconium are baffled by what they’ve dug up, but they have no idea what any of it i...more

Have you ever gotten something you yearned for -- an oft-delayed vacation, a new car or a fine, aged wine -- only to discover it doesn’t live up to your longing? If so, you may understand my response to M. John Harrison’s Viriconium. Consistently praised in the speculative-fiction community, it is a compendium spanning three novels and seven short stories, all of which center on a city of the same name. Sounds simple, yet describing what Viriconium is and what...more
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Joseph Michael Owens
Read my full review at InDigest Magazine!

...Viriconium richly rewards those who put in the time to soak up its sentences from each and every page. I did call Viriconium; I believe it is. I challenge readers to give this book a whirl for themselves. Some will inevitably not like it, but that's OK because even those readers would be hard-pressed to deny Viriconium's originality.

Beware the geteit chemosit…”
Apr 23, 2008 Belarius rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The Autumn Cultures
Viriconium is, nominally, a series of short stories and novellas set in (or related to) a city of the same name. In practice, the author is trying to more than that, and unfortunately the result is that the collection is somewhat the lesser for it.

The first novella, entitled The Pastel City, is an entertaining adventure in a land far past its prime. The standard hero tropes are in play, albeit set against a more dark backdrop (reminiscent of Jack Vance's Dying Earth), and the story does a good j...more
Bryan Alexander
It's hard to write about Viriconium without being infected by its style.

This is a collection of three short novels and some short stories about Harrison's imagined city of Viriconium.

The first two novels, Pastel City and Storm of Wings, are recognizable as fantasies. They offer heroes, monsters, queens, epic battles. Pastel City might be the most tradition, with an Elric vibe. The third novel, In Viriconium, changes course, presenting the lives of artists and criminals without much fantastic o...more
Jun 06, 2007 Lura rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers into fantasy and postmodernism
It's 3 novels and bunch of short stories in one, and each is pretty distinct. The first novel is formulaic fantasy, not bad, but nothing special, and absolutely not worth the effort of learning silly names and made up history/geography. The second really creates an interesting, almost despairing atmosphere of loss and emptiness that haunts the rest of the series. Nice, twisting plot. Third novel also has a great concept, but most of the plot is tedious. The short stories vary, some bored me, but...more
Zachary Jernigan
I recently wrote this review of Gene Wolfe:

It could also apply pretty well to VIRICONIUM. I like what Harrison does in his fiction more, however, despite putting down this book. I really liked LIGHT, for instance.

Anyway, whatever.
Dan Schwent
I was on a dark fantasy kick for a few weeks. I like the first story in this one a lot.
Harrisonin ehkä parasta antia on tämä erilaisia fantasia-genrejä mallikkaasti dekonstruoiva ja uudistava synkkä, pynchonmainen latautuneiden tunnelmien ja kummittelevien tilanteiden kertomuskokoelma (novelleja ja pienoisromaaneja, jotka on kirjoitettu eri aikoina). Viriconium käytännössä keksii nykyään steampunk/new weird-genressä niin suositun kaupunkimetaforan (Mievillen Perdido Street Station, VanDerMeerin Ambergris etc.). Viriconium on kaupunki, joka on ja ei ole sama halki ajan lopussa häil...more
Edward Rathke
A pretty uneven collection of novels and stories, but, I think, ultimately brilliant. I did individual reviews of each of the books that make up the cycle elsewhere, except for the short stories which follow the novels. Like the novels, they're a mix in quality, but always interesting, always linguistically awesome. I find that this is the kind of genre fiction I love. The kind that redefines its genre and world as it progresses. Like Le Guin's Earthsea or Delany's Neveryon, Viriconium is set in...more
This book was like reading a dream; I can't really say I enjoyed reading it (in fact, I had to force myself to keep reading at times), and yet I was constantly stunned by Harrison's brilliant prose and convoluted, illogical world. Almost more of a writing exercise and deconstruction of the fantasy genre than a collection of short-stories, this book starts from a simple fantasy setting and then slowly unwinds itself into near meaninglessness. If you have the fortitude to follow the thread to its...more
I was drawn into Viriconium by an old paperback copy of The Pastel City, which I thought was a fantastic read.

Little did I know that Harrison had other ideas for the others in the series. He subverts the tropes of a Tolkien-style fantasy by refusing to construct a consistent world; each story must be read by itself, and is an ever-fading echo of the original telling, more baroque and ornate each repetition. The scale shrinks from a world-traveling conflict to intimate character pieces in an almo...more

Did not like because of harrison's overly descriptive passages; thus, I had trouble following the story. Gave up halfway through A Storm of Wings (the second storyline).
…Immediately he experienced a shocking moment of blankness, a lapse like the premature tumble into sleep of an overtired brain. It was accompanied by something which resembled an intense flash of light. He heard himself say, quite inexplicably: “There are no longer any walls.” Shadows rushed out of the Californium corners an...more
Simon Mcleish
Bought this partly because SF fans I knew in the 1980s raved about how good the Viriconium stories were, and partly because I really liked Harrison's Light. But now they seem to me to be mainly pale imitations of Michael Moorcock - not too surprising, as they originated from stories published in New Worlds. There is obvious satiricial content, being fantasy about a decaying world living for past glories (a fairly clear parallel to attitudes in Britain to the legacy of empire in the sixties and s...more
Justin Hickey
Harrison reaffirms that in his city Time is “gutted and broken.” The events in The Pastel City, a mix of linear fantasy and verbal psychedelia, have little bearing on what happens next in A Storm of Wings. Likewise, happenings, characters and themes in the second book continue, on a downbeat, into The Floating Gods as murky refractions. But the trilogy never dissolves into druggy piffle, merely festooned with swordplay, dark wizardry, and an enchanting queen. Harrison’s arrangement of these genr...more
A series of short novels capped off by a collection of short stories. I had read the first novel a decade or so ago, and I was shocked at how short it was on rereading - Harrison did an excellent job of writing a big adventure without detailing a big adventure. It's not Harrison's best writing (e.g. I lost track of how many times the sun "bled" in the first two novels), but it is good and improves throughout the collection. Most interesting is how the collection evolves. Virconium is largely a j...more
May 15, 2013 Horza marked it as to-read
Shelves: unforsaken
Hello and welcome to the will-one-day-finish shelf.
I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of this novel, but I blame myself.

I came expecting sci-fi; yet this books’ mixture of feudalism and blasters has been overdone way too much…even back a decade when this was first written. So to break through the triteness of this sub-genre, you gotta bring something special.

Harrison’s writing is excellent. (I’m a fan of previous novels.) But in this case, it’s not his technique which pushes me away, but the story itself. The grizzled armored warrior in...more
Three novels and a short story collection.

The Pastel City is probably the most straightforward of the set, though that does not mean it is typical. It occupies a space between science fiction and fantasy (at least in terms of setting), where the real drama plays out not in the quest of the main characters, but in their attempts to decipher the world in which they live.

This drama forms the basis of the second novel, A Storm of Wings. The prose becomes dense and highly ornamented, the plot is dif...more
Julie Bozza
If this type of book is your thing, then you'll love it. It's not really my thing, or not any more - but there is much in here to admire, and the thought and imagination that's gone to make it is self-evident in the depth of the masterfully created world.

This is a collection of the author's short novels and stories that relate to the imagined city of Viriconium. I remember the novel The Pastel City from my youth and the great impact it had on me then - leastwise, I particularly remember the char...more
Jan 05, 2013 Paweł marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Nie będę oceniał, ponieważ nie dokończyłem lektury. Przeczytałem 234 strony. "Pastelowe Miasto", o dziwo, bardzo mi się podobało. Lubię po prostu historie o podróży i odkrywaniu nieznanego, dlatego spodobał mi się wątek geteit chemosit oraz metalowy ptak - nawet bardziej niż bohaterowie chciałem się dowiedzieć skąd wzięły się te twory i to powodowało, że parłem dzielnie do przodu przez kolejne strony książki, mimo lekko nieprzystępnej formy. Inne drobne opowiadania były w miarę ciekawe, chociaż...more
To call ‘Viriconium’ a fantasy series hardly seems right. It starts out that way, but almost immediately turns its back on everything that makes a ‘series’, or even’ fantasy’: switching styles abruptly, forgoing internal consistency. Harrison’s city of Viriconium, like Moorcock’s ‘eternal champion’, is always different, always the same. Reading the series as a series is like watching the main character slowly disappear before your eyes.

The ‘series’ begins with ‘The Pastel City’, a gentle parody...more
Adam Wescott
How much you enjoy Viriconium will most likely depend on why you read fantasy. Actually, scratch that: how much you enjoy Viriconium relies on what you expect out of your reading, period.

If you see books as comfort food, you are probably going to hate Viriconium because this collection is the stark opposite of that. If you read fantastic literature for complex plots, strong character development and clear, lucid writing, then you are also probably going to hate Viriconium. Not because the novel...more
A collection of novels / novellas and short stories centering around the city of Viriconium. A city so old that the fabric of it's reality is constantly tearing itself apart, re-inventing itself and repeating itself. I think this quote sums it up the best: “The world is so old that the substance of reality no longer quite knows what it ought to be. The original template is hopelessly blurred. History repeats over and again this one city and a few frightful events – not rigidly, but in a shadowy,...more
I didn't finish this book, it wasn't worth perservering with. I read the first two stories, the first very short, the second a bit over a hundred pages. I would like to rate it lower (perhaps two or three out of ten) but I'm loathe to give anything the lowest possible rating, and this book could have been worse.

There were traces of originality here and there, but far too few. The style of this book was very much like so many other poor-quality fantasy novels, where you get the sense the author i...more
The Pastel City (Very Cool monsters and Tomb rocked!!! So did the old man. For some reason I like the old technology in this one.)
A Storm of Wings (Very cool plot and big ideas, long parts of surreal gibberish made me want to give up. Overall not bad.)
In Viriconium (Absurdist, but I wasn't expecting it to be. No big plots here just very strange occurrences and characters.)
The Lamia and Lord Cromis (Not bad, like the idea of a monster that must be killed by each son in a line of succession lik...more
Written in a florid style common to fantasy stories of that period, this book collects all the stories written by the author set in the city of Viriconium into one volume.

And therein lies the problem.

With all the stories in one volume, it is immediately clear that the author re-used characters from earlier tales but without taking any account of continuity. The result is that a character identified as a contemporary of another subsequently appears in another story as a contemporary of some other...more
I am officially tapping out. I made it through 3/4 of the way to the end of the 2nd story. There are some promising features and some that turn me away. I am not ready to totally write this one off, but the stories are not engaging. I will admit that I have personal challenges with liking and reading short story volumes in general (compounded by the fact there are tons of books I want to start reading.) I think I expect them to feel coherent and related, but it is not necessarily. So I will not...more
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Sword & Sorce...: [Series] The Viriconium sequence 2 14 Jun 29, 2013 05:37PM  
  • Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • The Green Pearl and Madouc (Lyonesse, #2-3)
  • Voice of Our Shadow
  • The Well of the Unicorn
  • Mistress of Mistresses
  • The Etched City
  • The Emperor of Dreams
  • Gloriana
  • The Iron Dragon's Daughter
  • Peace
  • The First Book of Lankhmar
  • The New Weird
  • Darker Than You Think
  • Veniss Underground
  • The Mabinogion Tetralogy
  • The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle(The Conan Chronicles, #1)
  • Time and the Gods
aka Gabriel King (with Jane Johnson)

Michael John Harrison was born in Rugby, Warwickshire in 1945 and now lives in London.
Harrison is stylistically an Imagist and his early work relies heavily on the use of strange juxtapositions characteristic of absurdism.

More about M. John Harrison...
Light Nova Swing The Centauri Device The Pastel City Empty Space

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“Instead, as the crystal splinters entered Hornwrack's brain, he experienced two curious dreams of the Low City, coming so quickly one after the other that they seemed simultaneous. In the first, long shadows moved across the ceiling frescoes of the Bistro Californium, beneath which Lord Mooncarrot's clique awaited his return to make a fourth at dice. Footsteps sounded on the threshold. The women hooded their eyes and smiled, or else stifled a yawn, raising dove-grey gloves to their blue, phthisic lips. Viriconium, with all her narcissistic intimacies and equivocal invitations welcomed him again. He had hated that city, yet now it was his past and it was he had to regret...The second of these visions was of the Rue Sepile. It was dawn, in summer. Horse-chestnut flowers bobbed like white wax candles above the deserted pavements. An oblique light struck into the street - so that its long and normally profitless perspective seemed to lead straight into the heart of a younger, more ingenuous city - and fell across the fronts of the houses where he had once lived, warming up the rotten brick and imparting to it a not unpleasant pinkish colour. Up at the second-floor casement window a boy was busy with the bright red geraniums arranged along the outer still in lumpen terra-cotta pots. He looked down at Hornwrack and smiled. Before Hornwrack could speak he drew down the lower casement and turned away. The glass which no separated them reflected the morning sunlight in a silent explosion; and Hornwrack, dazzled mistaking the light for the smile, suddenly imagined an incandescence which would melt all those old streets!

Rue Sepile; the Avenue of Children; Margery Fry Court: all melted down! All the shabby dependencies of the Plaza of Unrealized Time! All slumped, sank into themselves, eroded away until nothing was left in his field of vision but an unbearable white sky above and the bright clustered points of the chestnut leaves below - and then only a depthless opacity, behind which he could detect the beat of his own blood, the vitreous humour of the eye. He imagined the old encrusted brick flowing, the glass cracking and melting from its frames even as they shrivelled awake, the sheds of paints flaring green and gold, the geraniums toppling in flames to nothing, not even white ash, under this weight of light! All had winked away like reflections in a jar of water glass, and only the medium remained, bright, viscid, vacant. He had a sense of the intolerable briefness of matter, its desperate signalling and touching, its fall; and simultaneously one of its unendurable durability

He thought, Something lies behind all the realities of the universe and is replacing them here, something less solid and more permanent. Then the world stopped haunting him forever.”
“Gdy to koty miały definiować świat, ważne miejsce zajmowałyby w nim pożerane dla zabawy muchy” 1 likes
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