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The Compleat Traveller in Black

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  552 ratings  ·  43 reviews
This is a collection of stories of the Traveller in Black. It is set in a world where chaos rules. One man - the man with many names, but one nature - is charged with creating order out of the warring forces of nature.

Imprint of Chaos (1960)
Break the Door of Hell (1966)
The Wager Lost by Winning (1970)
The Things That Are Gods (1979)
Dread Empire (1971)
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 1st 1986 by Bluejay Books (first published 1971)
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3.84  · 
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mark monday
the Traveler in Black travels throughout a strange world, one balanced between Chaos and Order. the Traveler has one nature: to extract Chaos. the human kind should fear any being with only one nature. as the Traveler travels, tipping the balance towards logic and away from magic, those cities that follow his path disappear, and so enter the rational world. the magic slowly fades away...

Brunner writes in the Vancean vein for this effort, and he does it well. spare but evocative prose with not a
Dan Schwent
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
"As you wish. So be it." The traveller in black utters these words countless times on his journeys.

The Traveller in Black is the agent of the One Who, a man with many names but one nature, tasked with making order from chaos, primarily by granting people's wishes in a literal sense. He gives a god to a nation without one; he unites a girl with her lost love by making her join him as a slave.

The writing is definitely denser than I thought it would be, reminding me of Gene Wolfe at times and Micha
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one kind of threw me, since the writing can be dense and hard to follow. I was expecting something a bit more pulpy. That said, The Traveller in Black is serious, highbrow fantasy. Literature. In some ways, with its archaic language and rich descriptions, The Traveller in Black resembles Jack Vance's Dying Earth tales, though it's not as fun, as it gets increasingly serious as the traveller makes his stops along the way. In fact, these stories (a series of novellas) can be quite horrific, w ...more
Simon Mcleish
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in July 2001.

The five tales in this collection, which as it says is the complete set of stories about the traveller in black, were written over about a twenty year period and were revised for inclusion in this volume. The stories all have the same plot, each describing a tour made by the traveller around the cities in his domain, reducing chaos and promoting law; he makes this journey whenever a particular configuration of stars is seen in the sky. He is desc
Paul Weimer
Sep 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Although I've read some of Brunner's SF, I had not heard of this book until I started playing the White Wolf RPG game Exalted. That book lists The Compleat Traveller in Black as an inspiration, and so, even though it is out of print, I was inspired to eventually find a copy of this book and read it.

It feels very much like some of Moorcock's Melnibonean work. The world is young, and still in many ways in the grip of the elder era of Chaos. The laws of science, logic and reason are still not in fu
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found this one in one of my local bookstore for just a buck!! I have been looking for a copy for years and I couldn't leave it behind, lol. The premise and artwork on the cover drew me in, even though I am unfamiliar with the author. The stories begin strong, but my interest waned with the Traveler's redundancy. "As you wish, so be it." Simplistic, but profound with the power those words convey. Aside from this I really enjoyed it and thought that it read a lot like Gene Wolfe. I recommend it.
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
review of
John Brunner's The Traveler in Black
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 20, 2014

I have a paper bag full of John Brunner bks on the floor of my bedroom, where I do most of my reading. When I need a break from whatever more challenging bks I'm reading (it's been William Gaddis's The Recognitions + others for quite some time now) I dip into the bag & pull one out. Two dips ago I pulled out Now Then, a collection of 3 novellas that include his earliest published story + a bit called
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Normally, when I hear or read the phrase, “As you wish,” I think of Wesley and Buttercup. In John Brunner’s The Traveler in Black, the phrase has quite a different meaning. Consisting of four previously published pieces of short fiction revised to craft a coherent story arch, The Traveler in Black is the individual with many names, but one nature. He is the epitome of order in a battle between Chaos and Order proportional to Dorian Hawkmoon’s quest for balance as told by Michael Moorcock. Howeve ...more
Gottfried Neuner
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Somehow I expected a bit more of this one. It was enjoyable, yes, and the setting was something not seen too often (King later used a similar setting for his Dark Tower series), but all in all it was a bit too flowery in its' prose and too skimpy on actual plot.
Well, technically it is a collection of short stories, although the way they are presented makes them appear more like an actual novel. There is a sense of continuity between different stories. One element from one story will for sure ap
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book recently on my 'books I've read' pile, but I couldn't remember anything about it so decided to give it a re-read. It didn't take too long before I realised I had never read this book before. There is absolutely no way I would ever have forgotten the Traveller, the man with many names but only one nature. And there is no way I would ever have forgotten the phrase, "as you wish, so be it". I am so glad I found this little gem of a book, and rescued it from mis-shelving.

Zantaeus Glom
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
My! My! John Brunner is yet another majestic wordsmith that I will have to start becoming much more familiar with; especially on the strength of these extraordinarily cogent, erudite, and downright philosophical parables, about the errant nature of man, and the Traveler in Black's witty, trans-formative adventures within a land beset with misfortune and magical malfeasance.

These are beautifully written tales, whereby the enigmatic titular character, in his own inimitable way, strives, unambiguo
Isabel (kittiwake)
The traveller in black has many names but a single nature, and carries a staff of curdled light. Whenever four planets are in a certain conjunction he is bound to walk the lands on the borders of order and chaos. The task that has been entrusted to him is to working towards banishing chaos, so that the cities of the borderlands can move from the land of chaos and eternity into the real world of order and time. As well as being able to bind elementals and limit their powers, one of the other ways ...more
Keith Davis
Nov 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A nameless traveler with great powers is tasked with removing magic from the world. He does this by granting wishes which inevitably backfire by destroying the remaining vestiges of wonder and magic. At the start the Traveler laughs at the people whose foolish wishes he grants, but by the end he is deeply melancholy about the loss of magic in the world. These stories are drawn from various stages of Brunner's career and they reflect his evolution as a writer. He was clearly drawn to return to th ...more
Ryan Broughman
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inventive. Provoking. I like this fellow of many names and the consequences of his one nature as portrayed within this book. These consequences and scenarios allow for some reflection and my thoughts wandered a number of times. I haven't jumped into a book with enchanters and riddles in a long while and it took a few chapters for me to transition, but, I was soon riding along the prose and was captivated by it. It's refreshingly non-reliant on Tolkien mythology.
Nov 25, 2014 rated it liked it
The Brunner variations on a theme of order and chaos. The Traveller in Black is a force of order in a chaotic world of men, gods and demi-gods. Brunner is inventive in his vignettes of man's foibles and we are often led to conclude: "be careful what you wish for."
Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book that blew me away when I first read it as a young man.

It took sci-fi/fantasy somewhere I hadn't seen before. A real eye-opener, and exquisitely written.

About time I re-read it...
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I should really re-read this.
Leona Wisoker
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely adore the stories in this setting I have read; these are probably the ones that got me started on loving fantasy fiction, in fact. I want to get my hands on this book!!
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Wonderful collection of 5 fantasy stories quite unlike the usual stuff. The Traveler wanders the world gradually converting chaos to reason by granting wishes unknown to the wisher. Dense and literate but compelling writing. I don't know how I missed this one in my heavy fantasy reading days other than Brunner was not generally a fantasy writer. Not for the lover of elves and faery, but a terrific book if you're willing to try something a bit different.
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book was not on my list of things to read this year, but I picked it up on a lark and did not regret it. The writing was filled with all sorts of delightfully archaic terms. I've never been more prepared to come across 'welkin' in the middle of a scene.
The book was also paced quite nicely. Overall, definitely an enjoyable read.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my most favourite and read books in my collection. I had the original version without the additional story since childhood, then I found THIS version. It goes with me on every trip (and there are many) and is one of my collection of books in my bedroom library. If there was such a thing as a "therapy book" to get me through rough times and to make my good times better, this would be it.
110319: fun. short collection named 4 stories of traveler. comic, concise, fantastic, fast. i do not know if this should be pomo but it seems at least as self-aware as pkd, which is my standard for pomo sff...
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful journey from start to finish, though it doesn't truly begin. In every bit of the stories contained in this tome, you will find greed, stupidity, arrogance, and you will find every bit of them conquered with logic, skill, and thought.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many names... But only one nature :).
Eric Heiden
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended by James Stoddard, my favorite living author, John Brunner’s The Compleat Traveller in Black is a Fantasy short-story collection. In broad terms, these five tales are about the adventures of the title character: an enigmatic little man who wears a black cloak and wields a staff made of light, a man who is tasked by an even more enigmatic master to travel the world and battle against the forces of magic and chaos, all in order to usher in an era of stability and reason.

How does he go
Invadozer Misothorax Circular-thallus Popewaffensquat
This is a 'jesus the genii' type story where a guy
with a staff walks around Vance's Dying Earth type world and
restores it's form from chaos. It's got some fine moments
in it, it really pales to Dying Earth, or Vance's
follow up to DE, RHIALTO THE MARVELOUS. The writing
style in here too is pretty subtle, maybe I was half
asleep and moody when I read most of it around 3-6 am. I
just couldn't tell all the time if people were being
killed off unless I reread some certain parts. His
wordage was a little to
Dave Wagner
Oct 16, 2014 added it
Shelves: gave-up-on
This is, without question, the most pungent, steaming pile of dreck I've ever tried to read. I haven't seen self-impressed tripe like this since I waded through "The Darkness that Comes Before". I'm tempted to keep reading it, just to marvel at the sheer jarring spectacle of it all. This might be the worst thing I've read from a major author - and I've read Terry Goodkind! Normally I would suggest avoiding this like the plague... but I may simply recommend it if you're intrigued by literary ship ...more
Tim Franklin
Very reminiscent of Moorcock, in both the ongoing Law / Chaos struggle fundamental to the universe, and in the very matter-of-fact tone of writing about strange and bizarre things. (I'm not aware of the timelines enough to know if one influenced the other, or if they both came out of a similar background). Quite fun, and good in small chunks, but nothing spectacular.
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
A series of interconnected tales about a being of many names, but a single nature. A little bit of fantasy meets a little bit of the Twilight Zone as the Traveller in Black, with his staff of congealed light, grants desires wherever he goes. But as the adage goes, be careful what you wish for.
Michael Kucharski
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wow, I haven’t read Traveler in Black since 1970 when I purchased the book. Boy, is it a product of the era of the pulp magazines. It’s four major chapters originally having been published as short stories or novellas. Of all the people, getting this update, I whole-heartedly recommend it.
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Goodreads Librari...: Amusing but wrong book cover 4 21 Mar 05, 2017 12:40AM  

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John Brunner was born in Preston Crowmarsh, near Wallingford in Oxfordshire, and went to school at St Andrew's Prep School, Pangbourne, then to Cheltenham College. He wrote his first novel, Galactic Storm, at 17, and published it under the pen-name Gill Hunt, but he did not start writing full-time until 1958. He served as an officer in the Royal Air Force from 1953 to 1955, and married Marjorie Ro ...more
“Man has one name, and many more than two natures. But the essential two are these: that he shall strive to impose order on chaos, and that he shall strive to take advantage of chaos… A third element of man’s nature is this: that he shall not understand what he is doing.” 8 likes
“He had many names, but one nature, and this unique nature made him subject to certain laws not binding upon ordinary persons. In a compensatory fashion, he was also free from certain other laws more commonly in force.” 1 likes
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