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The Traveler in Black

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  610 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The time was the unguessably remote past - or perhaps the distant future. Thoughout the Universe, Chaos reigned. Scientific laws of cause and effect held no force; men could not know from one day to the next what to expect from their labors, and even hope seemed foolish.

In this Universe was one man to whom had been entrusted the task of bringing reason and order out of Cha
ID: #82210, 222 pages
Published January 1971 by Ace Books
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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mark monday
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Mark Lawrence
I know I've read (& used to own this book).

I was reminded of it today but recall nothing of it.

This is a note to me to see if I can find it on my shelves.
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  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 "Imp
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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
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. ...more
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...
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." ...more
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I should really re-read this.
Walt Boyes
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful to see this back in print

The Traveler in Black is one of the iconic fantasy novels of John Brunner, a great writer who is mostly forgotten today. His reputation as a visionary writer is ascendant once again as books like “The Sheep Look Up” and “Shockwave Rider” are once again is “The Complete Traveller in Black.” Brunner was a sharp critic of society, and prescient in his commentary. This book is one of his best, a social commentary masquerading as fantasy. Great book.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange combination of fantasy novel and book of parables

An odd but fascinating story of a magical traveller whose task, it seems, is to reduce chaos and increase justice by granting wishes, even when the speakers do not understand they are making g a true wish. In a sense, This could be looked at as a book which contains 100 brief stories, connected with 5 longer ones. A completely unique book.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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. ...more
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...
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clever and stylish fantasy/parable/satire, though too indebted to Jack Vance's Dying Earth - it's a good, but pale imitation. Very different than Brunner's social sci-fi, of which I'm a huge fan, but quite entertaining. ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many names... But only one nature :).
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. This book reads like a myth or fable. Weird, but good reading.
Eric Heiden
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
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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

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“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
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