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Tales of the Dying Earth

(The Dying Earth #1-4)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  5,000 ratings  ·  388 reviews
Travel into the future: to an earth with a dwindling red sun that meekly fills a dark blue sky; and earth that is on the brink of dying out; and earth where science and magic mean the same thing; an earth populated with vibrant, interesting people and creatures that are unaware of the fate their planet has in store for them. Jack Vance is one of the most remarkable talents ...more
Paperback, 741 pages
Published November 2000 by Orb (first published December 1998)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  5,000 ratings  ·  388 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Aug 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Earth is on its last leg. The sun is a red giant, the moon has vanished, and magic has returned.

This omnibus includes the following four books:
The Dying Earth: The Dying Earth is a collection of linked short stories. And here they are:
Turjan of Miir: Turjan, a wizard, seeks the help of Pandelume, another wizard, in creating artificial life. Turjuan is a good intro to the Dying Earth. The basics of the setting are covered and it sets the tone for the rest of the short stories. The story itself is
Christopher Paolini
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I debated putting the Book of the New Sun series by Wolfe here, but Vance has the advantage of brevity. In fact, that might be the key to his success. He was, in a single paragraph, able to sketch the most incredible cultures and societies. With a throwaway line, he’d outline a world as interesting as all of Dune. And he did it again and again and again. His approach didn’t lend itself to constructing large, self-sustaining epics, but that’s okay. The gleaming spots of brilliance dotted througho ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tales of The Dying Earth: A perfect introduction to Jack Vance’s work
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
There aren’t any other books is SF/Fantasy quite like Jack Vance’s Tales of The Dying Earth. They have had an enormous influence on writers ranging from Gene Wolfe and George R.R. Martin to Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons & Dragons. These stories highlight Jack Vance’s amazing imagination, precise yet baroque writing style, and somewhat archaic dialogue that disguises an incredibly dry
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing! I've never read anything quite like Vance's Dying Earth stories, and that's a good thing. I'm not a huge fantasy fan, but this is generically classified as fantasy.

Jack Vance has a knack for language. He uses words that aren't well known but add a different type of depth to the story. The dialogue is unique. It's very formal yet at the same time very witty and full of sarcasm. Other reviews condemn the stories for the florid and formal dialogue, mostly because it's not conve
6.0 STARS. See my reviews of each individual book for my thoughts on that book. As a series, all I can say is that this is one of the best series EVER WRITTEN and the world created by Jack Vance is as good as anything I have ever read. I plan on reading Songs of the Dying Earth Stories in Honor of Jack Vance in the near future and can't wait to see what some of the genre's best writers do with this setting. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!! ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Beautiful poetic writing: check.
Wondrous fantasy and magical creatures and magicians: check.
Too clever for their own good, but yet fun anti-heroes: check.

Five stars, right?

Except: in every story every women character is either too ugly to enslave or rape, or she is beautiful and is kidnapped, enslaved and raped - after which our various heroes being sated with the sexual abuse of their beautiful female captive, they then rob and cheat her of all of her jewelry and money before either killing her
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sometime in my teen years I all but stopped reading fantasy, and this was because I was only familiar with the dozens of modern purveyors, all of whom I felt were just trying to ape Tolkien in the most awkward and pandering way. I hadn't yet realised that Tolkien had many contemporaries who had their own voices, styles and abilities, who could have taken the genre in wholly different directions had they been as well known. One day, I happened upon the first volume of the Dying Earth tales, and, ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I feel like I just read the beating heart, the source, of a strain of speculative fiction I have known since I was a kid. This is it, I realized as I read, this is the original. Where has Jack Vance been all my life? Why did no one tell me about him? The feeling is uncanny. I just read these books for the first time, and I feel like I have returned to a place I have always known.

The first book, The Dying Earth, is surreal and melancholy. It follows several characters, mostly wizards and the cre
Olivier Delaye
Dec 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
QUESTION: what is a writer to do when he can write neither characters nor plot?

ANSWER: he writes a plotless/misogynistic/paper-thin-character-driven (driven, AH! Dragged, is more like it!) “succession of boring sentences” (sorry, guys, can’t bring myself to write “stories” here) weighed down by stilted dialogue and never-ending description of mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, grass, people, etc., all this using as many pompous and pretentious words as possible so that us, innocent readers that we
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tales of the Dying Earth is fantastic. It is divided into four parts: The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga and Rhialto The Marvellous.

All of the tales take place in a far-off future Earth in which the sun is dying, and in which the earth's population has dwindled. Magic is the rule of the day.

The Dying Earth is a series of tales which are interconnected, following the exploits of a few people (and some very odd creatures & even a demon or two).

My favorite section of the book
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, owned-books
What can one possibly say about a book that almost singlehandedly defined an entire sub-genre of SF and fantasy? Jack Vance is a legendary author who needs no introduction, and this is his most quintessential work. Even though I prefer some of his other books more (e.g., Lyonesse or Planet of Adventure), the Dying Earth quartet is doubtless a masterpiece. It's whimsical, opulent and darkly magical, much like the world at the end of time in which these stories take place. People who don't have an ...more
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of quality literature of any kind
The finest fantasy collection i have read along with Lord Dunsany's early fantasy collections.

Dying Earth stories and Cugel are a master-work of the field.

Made me a huge Jack Vance fan and it has a place in my affections like no other literature I have read.
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Nutshell: assorted losers use the always already imminent destruction of the Earth as an excuse for grave breaches of sense & decency; sadly, the destruction of this Earth is not presented herein.

Though the volume designates a metonym by which the setting stands for a particular subgenre, the setting here is incidental rather than intrinsic to the narratives; the setting predominates conceptually for readers, but is really mere window-dressing for the actual stories. By contrast, the dying of th
"I wish you pleasant travels and success in all future endeavors."

"The sentiment is naturally valued," said Cugel with some bitterness. "You might however have rendered a more meaningful service by extending a share of your noon meal."

Pharesm's placid benevolence was as before. "This would have been an act of mistaken altruism. Too fulsome a generosity corrupts the recipient and stultifies his resource."

Cugel gave a bitter laugh. "I am a man of iron principle, and I will not complain, even thoug
Chris Gager
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Yay! My JV special order inter-library loan finally arrived. I'll start tonight. Seems safe give it a sight-unseen rating of 4* right off the bat. I mean, this is classic Jack Vance ...

And we're off ... the first two stories are fine examples of Vance the fantasy conjurer. Great prose. However ... this is so far not that far from Roger Zelazny's "Amber" series, which is decidedly just sort of OK-ish. Vance was first, and I assume that RZ must have read this stuff and probably used it as inspirat
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
This collection delivered one of the more pleasant surprises I have ever had borrowing a book: I took this on the advice of a friend, expecting a decent series of old style science-fiction with that corny Xanxxar from Planet Zorkon feel; what was delivered instead was an entertaining, hilarious and wildly creative series of tales set in the far future, when the long-suffering sun is in her final days, feebly emitting barely enough red light to keep things on Earth functioning. The first of the f ...more
Scott A. Nicholson
Oct 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommended and lent to me by a friend under the false pretense of science-fiction, Dying Earth summed up everything that I dislike about sword and sorcery fantasy. Admittedly, I only read the first three of this four novel collection and cannot bring myself to read the first.

The first novel is a number of short stories centered around the premise of an Earth so far into the future that the world seems to have completely abandonned modern civilization and now relies on a sort of medievil fuedal
Adam Calhoun
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I got this book a year ago, partly because I kept hearing how this 'Vance' character was a master fantasy writer that I had somehow missed, and partly because it followed one of my rules for purchasing books (if it has a wizard or a spaceship on the cover, buy it!). The moment I started reading the first novel in this book, I knew Jack Vance was something special. It took me a year to read it because the writing was so good, I wanted to stretch out how long I could read it for the first time. Of ...more
Nov 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
The first and fourth books in this collection are ok. However, the second and third were terrible. I hated the main character and really just wanted him to fail and die. The only reason I continued reading was because I have this crazy idea that I can't put a book down without finishing it. Who knows, it might get better, right? This one did not. If you pick up this book, don't bother reading the 2nd and 3rd books. They are crap. ...more
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Awesome. Especially the volumes that tell of Cugel and his exploits. Compare him to Tom Jones or Barry Lyndon, but in a surreal fantasy setting on our own world, surrounded by crumbled civilizations and overlooked by a sun that could blink out any any moment.
Miloš Petrik
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having only read fragments of the work previously, I have to say the entire corpus of the Dying Earth series is a tragic and melancholy epic. Set in a world close to its end, Vance's heroes embark on weird adventures featuring lost magics, ancient technology, and remarkably verbose characters.

A distinct reticence to take human life, especially in the later sections of this collection is evident, and oddly in sync with the decadent world basking in the last of sunlight. Vance's adventurers more
Tim Hicks
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Well, gosh, this is just so intelligent and effortlessly written and dryly funny and a joy to read. Such a change from the dreck coming out of the tetralogy factories in 600-page volumes. (Yes, a very few of these are actually good - but few.)

When I criticize books here, it's because they show so badly when compared to the work of a true professional like Vance.

You might not care for his dry, low-key sense of humour. Others have mentioned that everyone in a Vance story is out to swindle every
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love the classic sword and sorcery writers. This is truly a fantastic read. I would recommend all those who love heroic fantasy get this one on your list.
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: high-fantasy
This is possibly one of the best fantasy series ever written.

It is a genre-trespassing epic from the hand of the very master world builder: Mr John Holbrook Vance himself.

In this series he creates a gloomy decaying world in the extremely distant future including traits from science fiction (some technically advanced cities appear in some chapters), high fantasy but also from classical fantasy, so that it is indeed somewhat difficult to place into a specific sub genre.

The stories where original
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
All of the dying earth stories in one volume!

I love Jack Vance for many, many reasons-- his influence on Dungeons and Dragons, the detached, awesomely witty, elegant, and matter of fact conversations that his characters engage in, that his writing is probably one of the reasons that I received such high verbal scores on the various standardized tests that I have had to take over the years...

What I found interesting about re-reading the dying earth stories was that I liked Cugel a lot more than
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
SO....After having this on my wishlist for over a year and thinking i'm getting it in the mail... I receive a book today that's from the person whose supposed to be sending it to me and i open the package up and...the moron sent me the wrong book!! Instead of Tales of the Dying Earth, i receive My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler!! WTF! How dif. are those two books... i mean come on people, get with it. The sad thing is, this is the 4th time this has happened ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dying-earth
Cugel's Saga was the slowest, followed by Eyes of the Overworld, though this was likely because of my intense dislike of Cugel as a character: a man seemingly detached from all responsibility for his actions.

The Dying Earth remains my all-time favorite book of all time.
Graeme Rodaughan
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, the-best
This is Jack Vance's masterwork of fantasy novellas and novelettes.

Read once, read twice, read again. A powerful imagination in top form.

This book is one of the main reasons that I love the fantasy genre.
Muhammad Rasheed
May 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: influences, re-read
Jack Vance is my favorite writer, and my number one biggest creative influence. It's hard to name a favorite character of his that stands out. There's a bunch of characters of his that are absolutely wonderful to me. There are types of characters that he created that influenced almost everything I write.

His magicians... are awesome. He doesn't make them in the Gandalf type. Jack's magicians are like eccentric artist, adventurer swordsmen, scientists. Their power levels have a wide range, from th
Chris Youngblood
I guess Jack Vance thinks everyone in the far, far future is a sociopath. :)

If the protagonists (please note I don't use the phrase 'good guys') aren't abandoning their party mates at the drop of a hat, bargaining for their lives with the lives of others, killing or abandoning weaker or vulnerable individuals to survive, or otherwise acting entirely in their own interests, they're probably asleep, and dreaming of ways to act entirely within their own interests.

That being said, I have to give poi
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Aka John Holbrook 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 g

Other books in the series

The Dying Earth (4 books)
  • The Dying Earth (The Dying Earth #1)
  • The Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth #2)
  • Cugel Saga (The Dying Earth #3)
  • Rhialto the Marvellous (The Dying Earth #4)

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