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The Dying Earth (The Dying Earth #1)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  4,451 ratings  ·  253 reviews
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: ...more
Paperback, 159 pages
Published 1981 by Granada Books (first published 1950)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Algernon

I lived beside the ocean — in a white villa among poplar trees. Across Tenebrosa Bay the Cape of Sad Remembrance reached into the ocean, and when sunset made the sky red and the mountains black, the cape seemed to sleep on the water like one of the ancient earth-gods ... All my life I spent here, and was as content as one may be while dying Earth spins out its last few courses.

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Two bright stars on the science-fiction / fantasy firmament have gone to sleep: Jack Vance and Iain M. Banks. I know o
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Nataliya
There is some strange depressing morbid fascination in imagining the world - our Earth - an uncountable number of millennia in the future as an unrecognizably changed tired, dying ancient world orbiting the tired, dying ancient red Sun. It's the world in its last breaths, with the knowledge that eventually the life will stop with the Sun.
"Soon, when the sun goes out, men will stare into the eternal night, and all will die, and Earth will bear its history, its ruins, the mountains worn to knoll
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Forrest
Let's do some quick math. Jack Vance's The Dying Earth was originally published in 1950. I was born in 1969. I first started playing Dungeons and Dragons, in earnest, in 1979. It is now 2014. On second thought, screw the math. You can plainly see that my reading of The Dying Earth is tardy, given that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson cited Vance's work as influences on the development of the Dungeons and Dragons game.

And how.

More than an influencer, The Dying Earth is a wholesale supplier of D&D
...more
J.G. Keely
Strange to think that this was the series that inspired Martin and Wolfe in their fantasy endeavors. Going from their gritty, mirthless rehashes of standard fantasy badassery to Vance's wild, ironic, flowery style was jarring--going directly from Anderson's grim, tragic Broken Sword to this was tonal whiplash.

At first I didn't know what to make of it: the lurid, purple prose, the silly characters, the story which jumped from idea to idea with abandon. I mistook it at once for the unbridled pulp
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Bill  Kerwin

I did not like this book much the first time I read it, but after reading it a second time while visualizing its characters as puppets, I found I liked it much more.

This book—particularly the first three stories—irritated me. I found its wizards to be contemptible creatures, morally inferior products of a degenerate age, capable only of memorizing a few detailed spells and casting them by rote (“Vancian Magic,” which later became a key element of “Dungeons and Dragons”). I was also appalled by t
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seak
I've known for quite a while that George RR Martin thinks highly of Jack Vance and The Dying Earth and last year I had the opportunity to read his anthology, Songs of the Dying Earth, where a number of authors wrote short stories set in The Dying Earth.

I loved it. It remains, and easily so, the best anthology I've ever read. And that only meant one thing, I had to read the original tales.

I'm also very glad I read the anthology, even though one of the stories in The Dying Earth was spoiled a bit
...more
Shelly
This was AMAZING. I fell in love with Jack Vance reading this novel and I can not for the life of me understand why I never read any Jack Vance before. I blame myself and the entire world for this oversight and I intend to correct the problem immediately. What an amazing combination of condensed writing and huge amounts of story. I can't believe this is only 156 pages long and yet Vance left no stone unturned as far as telling a complete story. I am off to read more Vance.
Stephen
6.0 stars. One of my "All Time Favorite" novels. Jack Vance is one of the "undisputed" masters of the golden age of science ficiton and this may be his greatest work (though I have not yet read them all). The world Vance creates in this collection of linked stories is as good as it gets and the characters who inhabit it are all fun and original. I was absolutely blown away by it.

HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

Nominee: Hugo (Retro) Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
Stuart
There isn’t any other book is SF/Fantasy quite like Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, published as a cheap 25 cent paperback back in 1950 by Hillman Publications. I wish it had been picked up by Ballantine Books and published along with some other early classics of the early 1950s like The Space Merchants, Childhood’s End, More Than Human, Fahrenheit 451, Bring the Jubilee, etc.

Despite this, the book has had an enormous influence on writers ranging from Gene Wolfe and George R.R. Martin to Gary Gyg
...more
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Dying Earth is the first of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth and contains six somewhat overlapping stories all set in the future when the sun is red and dim, much technology has been lost, and most of humanity has died out. Our planet is so unrecognizable that it might as well be another world, and evil has been "distilled" so that it's concentrated in Earth's remaining inhabitants.

But it's easy to forget that a failing planet is the setting for t
...more
Will M.
So this consists of 6 Sci-Fi short stories, and they are interconnected in some way. After reading this, all I can conclude is that I'm not fond of anthologies. Some stories are good, but some are also bad, and that makes the over-all rating low.

I liked the first 2 stories of The Dying Earth. Both were very interesting and I read them very quickly. The third one, started to falter off. The 4th and 5th were mildly interesting, but the last one was completely unbearable. The plot of the last one
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Petertpc
Unbelievable. I read Jack Vance's '"The Star King" and thought I had hit gold. Now I read this and find it even better. This novel is so much fun, I can't stand it. Terrific writing and as imaginative as I think it is possible to get. My only complaint is that it was so short that I was left wanting much more. Completely amazing.
Steve
Jul 16, 2011 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Steve by: Aerin
First off, I strongly recommend Aerin's review, since it's her review that lead me to the book. For me, briefly, I pretty much knew, within about 50 pages or so, that Dying Earth was special. You can read oceans of speculative fiction, enjoying a great deal of it, but it's only on occasion that you run across something that strikes you as Original, that exists beyond the time in which it was written. (I would probably liken this reading experience (espicially so with Vance's use of "high languag ...more
Apatt
Meh, what on earth?

I went into the book expecting to like it, and it is nice and short, but after a good start it just went downhill for me. The first couple of stories about a wizard and two identical girls created by magic are great, but the subsequent stories just bored me. The prose is nice and elegant but sometime the extreme eloquence just leave me floundering. Also, in this cynical day and age the Abracadabra! (not to be confused with the more lethal Avada Kedavra) kind of unsystematic ma
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Ben Babcock
I had never heard of Jack Vance until Subterranean Press announced it would be publishing a tribute anthology containing stories from some of my favourite authors. Apparently Vance is a master fantasist, on par with Tolkien, and his Dying Earth series inspired all of those authors, and many more, in the latter half of the twentieth century. So I ordered the massive volume from Subterranean Press, and then I set about finding a copy of the original book that started it all. Since then, Vance has ...more
S.E. Lindberg
Vance's Prismatic Charm of Beautiful, Untiring Adventure

Review Summary: The Dying Earth, is beautiful, pulpy adventure. It is a series of six connected short tales (chapters), each being a mix of (Sword & Sorcery) and (Sword and Planet)...so consider it (Sword & Sorcery & Planet). And, it is an important classic, first published in 1950; Jack Vance's codification of magic items & spells proved influential in RPG-game design.

Dying Earth Series: Tales of the Dying Earth: The Dying
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Mike (the Paladin)
Under the deep red sun of a far, far future wizards and sorcerers, sorceresses and creatures, blends of animal and plants, creatures un-thought of wander across an Earth in ruins where pockets of people still live, awaiting the end when the sun goes out.

Sounds dramatic doesn't it? This is considered a classic of it's kind and has been built on since. I found it mildly interesting over all but to be honest by the end I really didn't care much anymore. The blush was off the rose so to speak. From
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Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Dying Earth is the first of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth and contains six somewhat overlapping stories all set in the future when the sun is red and dim, much technology has been lost, and most of humanity has died out. Our planet is so unrecognizable that it might as well be another world, and evil has been "distilled" so that it's concentrated in Earth's remaining inhabitants.

But it's easy to forget that a failing planet is the setting for t
...more
David
This collection of short stories set in Vance's Dying Earth is old school fantasy and may suffer from the phenomenon of seeming to be derivative by virtue of being the thing that everyone else has been imitating. It's swords and sorcery mixed with hints of lost technology in a far future age when Earth's sun is going out and magic has replaced science, or perhaps they have simply merged to become the same thing. The red sun, the lands and peoples whose names bear no resemblance to that of our wo ...more
fromcouchtomoon
Gingerbread fantasy meets genepunk weirdness. Fun to read despite the lack of cohesion and agency-deficient women who "might or might not" be witches. And the writing is godawful.
Jim
I've read a short story in this series & it was OK. I think it was in one of the early "Flashing Swords" anthologies. I don't care for the style of writing. The world is certainly imaginative, but too chaotic & there is no real characterization. Also there are too many weird names to keep track of in the bits & pieces I listen to. Nope, just not going to work for a whole book. Moving on.
Kirt
I read the original Dying Earth novel by Jack Vance, which is less a novel and more a set of short stories set in the same universe. The universe? The last days of Earth, with a red Sun, where sorcerers are the most powerful thing around, and most people live in an oddly amoral, low-tech way.

There's a certain formality of speech and informality of morals that makes the book utterly charming despite some of the terrible things that happen to people, admittedly in most cases through their own wick
...more
Joseph
It's kind of shocking to realize that while this wasn't Vance's first published work, it was one of the first pieces (if not the first) that he composed.

Mazirian the Magician (a.k.a. The Dying Earth) is a series of ever-so-slightly linked short stories that take place on our world, but in the impossibly far future -- the sun hangs red in a dark blue sky; the ruins of a million cities are themselves built upon the ruins of a million cities; and the last dregs of humanity live out their days in th
...more
Molly Ison
This is a small collection of mostly interrelated stories set in the same world. The stories got progressively more involved, more clever, and in my opinion, better, further into the book. To a large extent, you need to be enjoying Vance's writing style to enjoy the stories, as the characters are mostly not easy to relate to - they have a fairy-tale-like distant amorality - and the endings are often resolved by magic. The language is often beautiful. The one thing that I feel I didn't quite "get ...more
Jim
A fun little collection that I can't help but compare to greater works by Vance himself and to superior works that have taken heavy inspiration from these stories (namely: Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series).

Here Vance has crafted a fantastical version of a far-future Earth, near the end of the sun's lifespan. Human civilization has waxed and long ago waned, people living in the ruins of once-great cities and uses faint vestiges of apex technology in limited capacities that come across as
...more
kaśyap
Set far into the future where the sun is dim red and dying. The great civilizations on Earth have decayed. The human population is thin and scattered.
“There is evil on Earth now, evil distilled by time.”

There are six slightly interconnected stories in this work. We see wizards and sorcerer’s searching for knowledge. Humans grown in vats. Small green men called twk-men riding dragonflies and trading information for salt.

I loved these strange, fantastic stories with dark undertones. I loved the lu
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Tim
This 1950's tale of a far-future Earth in which the Sun is old and dying is really a straight-up picaresque fantasy of unlikely creatures and unconnected events. The state of the Sun is irrelevant to the lives of the characters and the events of the story. In fact, the state of everything is largely irrelevant from one chapter to the next, as the tale skips between characters and events.

I have to say that I really didn't get this. The characters were all unpleasant, any trace of plot absent, an
...more
Griffin Vanderschaeghe
This book contains loosely-connected stories about wizards on a dying earth where magic is waning. The characters are driven to fulfill quests dear to them. It gives the story a sort of D&D-feel. Vance writes flourishingly. His style is not mine, nor is his way to handle the story (or lack thereof). It was nonetheless an interesting read.
Luke Burrage
That was quick! I thought I'd read this before, but it must have been another Dying Earth book.

Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #273.
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  • Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honour of Jack Vance
  • The Broken Sword
  • The Pastel City
  • The Emperor of Dreams
  • Jirel of Joiry
  • Swords and Deviltry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #1)
  • The Citadel of the Autarch
  • Nifft the Lean
  • Jack of Shadows
5376
Aka John Holbrooke Vance, Peter Held, John Holbrook, Ellery Queen, John van See, Alan Wade.

The author was born in 1916 and educated at the University of California, first as a mining engineer, then majoring in physics and finally in journalism. During the 1940s and 1950s, he contributed widely to science fiction and fantasy magazines. His first novel, 'The Dying Earth', was published in 1950 to gr
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More about Jack Vance...

Other Books in the Series

The Dying Earth (5 books)
  • The Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth, #2)
  • Cugel's Saga (The Dying Earth, #3)
  • Rhialto the Marvellous (The Dying Earth, #4)
  • Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery
Tales of the Dying Earth Suldrun's Garden (Lyonesse, #1) The Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth, #2) The Green Pearl (Lyonesse, #2) Madouc (Lyonesse, #3)

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