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(Viriconium #1-4)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,190 ratings  ·  191 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 Nights.
Paperback, 563 pages
Published 2000 by Gollancz
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alexandra feldman yes there is. lots of weird sensual stuff. i would call it graphic, but definitely not pornographic - it's intended to be somewhat repulsive, not…moreyes there is. lots of weird sensual stuff. i would call it graphic, but definitely not pornographic - it's intended to be somewhat repulsive, not titillating (less)

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Glenn Russell

Viriconium - a series of four books (three novels; one short story collection) set in a far-far-future world at the point where science fiction morphs into fantasy, that is, a world of futuristic airships, robots and computerized eagles but also a world where knights in armor ride horses into battle under a queen's banner.

T. John Harrison is breathtaking. I haven't read such world building, imagination firing fantasy since I paid a visit to J. R .R. Tolkien's Middle Earth forty years ago.
Kat  Hooper
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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 worlds 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 theyve dug up, but they have no idea what any of it is
Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This opening salvo in the Viriconium series benefits from Harrison's icily fertile imagination and innate writing chopsbut 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 atmospherereminiscent of Moorcock, or even Glen Cook's The Black Company in its earlier incarnationshelps, but it cannot
Viriconium: A baroque, decaying, phantasmagoric dream city
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
This is one of those compendiums that really isnt a traditional sequence at all. Instead, its more like four disparate, elusive, and impressionistic paintings that try to capture the essence of an ineffable dream in the form of a city sometimes called Viriconium. The books and stories contained in VIRICONIUM were written over a number of years by the eclectic British writer M. John Harrison.
He has
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
Bryan Alexander
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic, sf, new-weird
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 traditional, with an Elric vibe. The third novel, In Viriconium, changes course, presenting the lives of artists and criminals without much fantastic
Keith Deininger
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How have I not read this collection of short novels and stories sooner? M. John Harrison is a writer who plays right into my personal tastes. These stories are imaginative, literary and dark. My favorite is A STORM OF WINGS, the second novel in the series, filled with warped perceptions and evocative imagery. It is outlandish and sometimes difficult to follow, but worth the effort. I'll admit, I'm a sucker for challenging and imaginative reads, and enjoyed this collection immensely, but if ...more
Benjamin Ettinger
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A world trying to remember itself

Phthisic. Muculent. Gelid.

M. John Harrison marshals an arsenal of arcane vocabulary to describe the fetid desuetude of the world of his mythical city of Viriconium. In a handful of stories written over the span of more than a decade, starting in 1971, he traces the fractured, half-remembered rise and fall of the eponymous imagined future city, founded many millennia after the demise of our own civilization. Or was it?

Harrison's unparalleled way with words is
May 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Have you ever gotten something you yearned for -- an oft-delayed vacation, a new car or a fine, aged wine -- only to discover it doesnt live up to your longing? If so, you may understand my response to M. John Harrisons 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
Jul 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm going to review this now, even though I haven't quite got to the end because, quite frankly, I don't know if I ever will.

This is an omnibus that includes three novels and one short story collection. The stories are arranged in what I can only assume is some sort of chronological order. The first novel "The Pastel City" was published in 1971 and then there is a nine year break after which the two remaining novels and finally the short story collection were published throughout the early
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dying-earth
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
Dan Schwent
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-weird
I was on a dark fantasy kick for a few weeks. I like the first story in this one a lot.
Steve Cooper
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
The idea to chart the final decay of civilisation from multiple realities each more entropic than the last was a premise full of possibility, and it set high expectations. The books intelligent, flamboyant style was, at times, quite beautiful. But as Lou Reed once sang: Between thought and expression there lies a lifetime. And its in this space that I found the cycle as a whole disappointing especially in the final third.

The narrative arc was lacking, and it felt like an impressionistic
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
Each sentient species perceives the thin evidence of this state in a different way, generating out of this perception its physical and metaphysical Umwelt: its little bubble or envelope of reality. These perceptual systems are hermetic and admit of no alternative. They are the product of a particular set of sense organs, evolutionary beginnings, and planetary origins. If the cat were to define the world, he would exclude the world of the housefly in his mouth. Each species has its fiction, and ...more
Ken Mueller
M. John Harrison's VIRICONIUM cycle:

As stated in a previous post, what led me to Harrison's science/fantasy omnibus was a quote that it was: "inspired by Jack Vance's Dying Earth series and Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, although the works are also influenced in their imagery by the poems of T.S. Eliot." The introduction by Neil Gaiman didn't hurt the book's chances either. And then the blurbs (which by nature are alway burbling blurbs) were mostly filled with what can only be described as awe and
I read "The Pastel City" and "A Storm of Wings". I won't be continuing the series because, altough it is interesting at times, it doesn't hold my interes.

Both novels are set in phantasmagorical, post-apocalyptical world. The nature is strange and warped, and creatures are not much different. "The Pastel City" concerns a war between 2 queens, and "A Storm of Wings" deals with an alien force intruding on a weakened world after the battle(s). At times it all reminded me of Gormenghast, but one
Simon Mcleish
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
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 ...more
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
Added because in the acknowledgements of Perdido Street Station, M John Harrison is one of only two authors credited (the other being the wonderful Mervyn Peake).

And then Forrest recommended this specific one (see comments under my copy of light:
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"... a city of worn-out enthusiasms" " thin and transparent as a baby's ear."
Dylan Horrocks
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-sf
Breathtaking. This single-volume collection consists of three (reasonably short) novels, plus a number of short stories arranged between them - all written between 1970 and 1988. As Harrison puts it on his blog, the whole forms a "metafictional critique of epic fantasy" - one I'll be mulling over for years to come. It's also beautiful, sad, feverish, disconcerting. My personal highlights are the last novel 'In Viriconium,' and the short stories 'The Dancer from the Dance,' 'Strange Great Sins,' ...more
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, your favorite authors love a book, tell you how wonderful it is, how masterful, how pivotal the work is. So you buy it, and put it on your shelf, peruse it periodically, and wait until it's just the right moment, the right time, the moon and the stars are just right and you look at it and decide that now, now is the time to read Viriconium.

It doesn't click, but you keep reading. Sometimes books just need time. You need to let your mind shift, click in with the author, see the beauty
May 06, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Edward Rathke
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started out slow. It was hard to get into. Once I realized it was different stories and short stories then I really started to enjoy it. I ended up really liking this book and the strange and interesting world of Viriconium.
Guido Eekhaut
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the genre's most accomplished fantasists at his best.
Michael Battaglia
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Do you like your fantasies with detailed histories, sumptuous maps detailing farflung lands and exciting tales where the aims are clear and the morality is never in doubt? Do you like to read fantasy because it allows you to imagine other cool places to live? Is the answer yes to all of that? If that's true then you might want to steer clear of this series, which comes across as someone who took all the standard high fantasy texts and lit them on fire and then tried to publish the smoke that's ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
I read M. John Harrison's Light and liked it enough to pick this book off my metaphorical ebookshelf. I regret almost everything. Viriconium is three novels and seven short stories set in and around a fantastic city of the same name. It's firmly of the dying earth sub-genre (see Vance, Jack and Wolfe, Gene), where the diminished inhabitants of a high-tech civilization try to make sense of their lives in the wondrous and deadly ruins of the past.

The first story, The Pastel City is a solid and
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Sword & Sorcery: ...: [Series] The Viriconium sequence 2 24 Jun 29, 2013 05:37PM  

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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.

Other books in the series

Viriconium (4 books)
  • The Pastel City
  • A Storm of Wings
  • The Floating Gods
  • Viriconium Nights

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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.”
“As they moved from exhibit to exhibit like reluctant tourists in some artist's studio, Buffin sat on a stool with his limbs tense. He was like an exhibit himself in the direct odd light filtering through the whitish panes, legs wound tensely round one another, his face like an apologetic bag.” 4 likes
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