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The Eyes of the Overworld

(The Dying Earth #2)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,866 ratings  ·  254 reviews
Scoundrel Cugel is sent far away, by a magician he has wronged, to retrieve magical lenses that reveal the Overworld. Goaded by a homesick monster magically attached to his liver, he journeys across wastelands home to Almery. With a cult group on a pilgrimage, he crosses the Silver Desert, and meets more danger and betrayal as he betrays others.
Paperback, 190 pages
Published February 2nd 1977 by Pocket (first published 1966)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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Bill Kerwin
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it

Underneath the fading sun, Cugel--a hero--emerges. Well, sort of a hero, but more of a trickster. Less Hector, more Ulysses; less Samson, more Jacob; less Tom, and a lot more Huck. Cugel, however, is less likable than any of the these. Selfish, exploitative, and filled with unlimited self-regard, he continually overestimates his own considerable intelligence and fails where a lesser man might have succeeded.

Paradoxically, it is Cugel's flaws and failures that keep us on his side during his picar
Apr 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Tales of a trickster god.

Like stories about Anansi, Coyote and Loki Jack Vance describes the misadventures of Cugel the Clever in picaresque fashion. Set in Vance’s far, far future world of the The Dying Earth, in his inimitable style blending elements of science fiction and fantasy, this 1966 publication is at times hilarious but always entertaining.

While reading I smiled frequently and laughed out loud at least a couple of times and Vance made me think about the irascible nature of loveable ro
Vit Babenco
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In this treasure island of a book Jack Vance had hidden two treasure troves: his wild imagination and his flowery language. And it is pure delight to find them both.
Cugel was a man of many capabilities, with a disposition at once flexible and pertinacious. He was long of leg, deft of hand, light of finger, soft of tongue. His hair was the blackest of black fur, growing low down his forehead, coving sharply back above his eyebrows. His darting eye, long inquisitive nose and droll mouth gave his s
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I have already gushed enthusiastic about the opening volume in the Dying Earth epic. It seems I should have kept some of the hyperbole in reserve for later books, as the appeal of the setting and of the characters show no sign of slacking with this second book. It's also interesting to note that the saga of Cugel the Clever is not simply an iteration of a success formula. In many ways it is an improvement over the experiments in style from the first book.

For one thing, the book is better structu
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Whereas Vance's previous volume in the The Dying Earth series was composed of several short stories, each featuring a different character, The Eyes of the Overworld focuses on one character, Cugel the Clever. Though the book is episodic in nature (each story was published separately over the course of a couple of years before being compiled in this volume), the character is consistent. And while the characters in The Dying Earth were capably presented in their individual stories, Cugel the Cleve ...more
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oddly enough, I think I enjoyed this second book of Vance's Dying Earth much better than the first. It's not only smoother but it also tickles most of my funny bones.

Cugel is one hell of a damned rogue! Very flexible of morals, quick of wit, and easily a loveable/hateable anti-hero. In most respects, I felt like I was reading a high-fantasy version of Gulliver's Travels, always skirting the edge of high satire and always roving knee-deep in extremely lucky circumstance, tragic reversals, and yet
5.0 stars. Jack Vance deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robery Heinlein. He is a master story teller and, unlike the aforementioned authors, Vance's books do not seem dated and can be read today with the same sense of wonder as when they were first written. The Dying Earth books are special, timeless classics that should be read and enjoyed by all fans of Science fiction. Superb world-building, amazing characters, like Cugel the Clever, and top not ...more
Kat  Hooper
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

I’ve already said, numerous times, how much I love Jack Vance, so I’ll skip all that this time. You can read other reviews on this page if you missed that.

The Eyes of the Overworld is the second part of Tales of the Dying Earth and the main character is one of my favorite Vance characters: the self-titled Cugel the Clever. Cugel is not the kind of guy you want to have dealings with — he’s clever, sneaky, completely selfish and remorseless. He is always try
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Eyes of the Overworld is the second novel in Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth. I think I liked this installment even better than the first (which I loved). The story is about the adventures and misadventures of a Cugel the "clever," who is a pretty thorough rogue. I suppose he is clever at times, but he can also be stupid. Fortunately for Cugel, he does have some luck (good and bad -- though the bad is of the non-killing sort). I know this is Fantasy, but if you like the historical fict ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Eyes of the Overworld is a great book, but I'm going to take a contrarian stance and say that I actually preferred The Dying Earth. Yes, I can admit that I wasn't totally smitten by the amoral, not-so-clever misadventures of Cugel the Clever after he crosses Iucounu the Laughing Magician. Yes, this book contained all the same sly, tongue-in-cheek humor, the strong imagery of a decaying and run-down world, and the wonderfully-stilted high language used by all the humans and other creatures of ...more
RJ - Slayer of Trolls
Vance's writing style is more refined in the second volume in the Dying Earth series (this story can be read without reading the first volume) which makes for a smoother and more interesting read. Vance packs in a number of interesting locations and ideas along with his usual assortment of chaotic-evil characters whose back-stabbing antics are a never-ending source of amusement. The Vancian magic system was an inspiration to Dungeons & Dragons and the fantasy genre in general. ...more
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I am officially in love with Jack Vance's writing and now I want to add Cugel the Clever among my list of favorite characters. Book 2 of the Dying Earth series follows Cugel as he lies, cheats and steals his way across the Dying Earth in order to find a rare artifact for conniving wizard. Vance's prose is so much fun to read and he has a real talent for writing. I can't believe it took me so long to find him. ...more
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Eyes of the Overworld is the second volume in Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth" series. It is the story of Cugel the Clever, an unscrupulous and opportunistic rogue making his way in an unscrupulous and opportunistic world. This book is not a sequel to the eponymous volume one, though it does share a setting, and serves as a perfect companion. Unlike the first volume, all of the short stories in The Eyes of the Overworld feature the same protagonist, Cugel, and his adventures as he seeks to obt ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, fantasy
An absolute masterpiece of literature. Every word is sublimely exquisite, and reading this book is a sheer pleasure for those who appreciate language. Deft turns of phrase, arcane vocabulary, and humorous (yet adultly gruesome) situations abound in this classic. A simply magnificent and wondrous book - definitely one that should not be missed.

Do NOT delay - get this book and immerse yourself into the most sumptuous writings you'll encounter. But don't read this book when your mind is cluttered -
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book taught me the meaning of the word "picaresque".

adjective pi·ca·resque \ˌpi-kə-ˈresk, ˌpē-\
: telling a story about the adventures of a usually playful and dishonest character

Cugel the Clever (who sometimes seems like he should be called Cugel the "Clever") allows himself to be persuaded to visit the manse of Iocounu the Laughing Magician while Iocounu is otherwise occupied. Needless to say, it doesn't end well, and Cugel finds himself on a rocky northern shore facing the prospect of a l
Cugel the Clever, what a giant A-hole. He is likely to be one of the most despicable characters I have ever read about, selfish, often cowardly, and incapable of remorse or empathy, nothing seems to be below him, burglary, perjury, murder, you name it. His one decent act in the entire book was in reality motivated by spite, if it was; maybe he simply saw profit in it.

I wonder what his alignment would be in a D&D game… I guess it would be chaotic neutral, at least from his own point of view. It
Love of Hopeless Causes
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Love of Hopeless Causes by: Gary Gygax, Joseph Goodman
Vance enjoys forcing a dollar word into a nickel slot. While one can usually puzzle it out, putting your vocabulary processor into overdrive produces a Lorax-like swept-away-by-the-pants effect. Combine this with radical jumps across space and time, and you have the recipe for something better read than listened to.


The audiobook's sound is poor, while the reader is below average. This makes a plethora of creatures sound similar. The reader's Cugel Voice is harder for him to manage than his cri
Mattia Ravasi
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wild, brutal ride through the wondrous palaces and dark forest of imaginative fantasy. Follows a despicable protagonist through a series of unlikely misadventures, and it is more cohesive and engaging than the series' first volume. ...more
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And so, continuing on with the "Dying Earth" series, this time following in the footsteps of Cugel (the "clever"), a conniving and amoral rogue as he attempts to fulfil a quest he is unwillingly enrolled on by a wizard.

Cugel is an interesting character, an anti-hero and unusual protagonist for a fantasy novel. He is not especially well endowed with any particular skills or abilities (he's not even particularly clever). He is opportunistic and cowardly, quite willing to sacrifice his friends and
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Vance's preferred title, Cugel the Clever, best fits this wandering yarn about a selfish vagabond whose arrogance never falters, no matter how often he is outwitted. A classic anti-hero: You'll laugh when he abandons his damsels to distress; you'll cheer when he finally gets laid. ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cugel the Clever is the original Dirty Rotten Scoundrel!
"This is well enough," he said. "We are safe now, and there is much that lies between us."

The girl shrank to her end of the boat. Cugel stepped astern and joined her. "Here I am, your spouse! Are you not overjoyed that finally we are alone? My chamber at the inn was far more comfortable, but this boat will suffice."

"No," she whimpered. "Do not touch me! The ceremony was meaningless, a trick to persuade you to serve as Watchmen."

"For three-score years perhaps, until I rang the gong from utter des
James West
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Proper weird fantasy.
Kat  Hooper
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Eyes of the Overworld is the second part of Tales of the Dying Earth and the main character is one of my favorite Vance characters: the self-titled Cugel the Clever. Cugel is not the kind of guy you want to have dealings with — he’s clever, sneaky, completely selfish and remorseless. He is always trying to figure out how he can take advantage of other people in order to make his own circumstances better.

In The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel decides to bu
Dec 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-horror, humor
This was my reading choice to commemorate the upcoming end of the world on Friday, December 21, 2012, the so-called end of the Mayan calendar according to conspiracy theorists and gullible fools. What better choice than one of jack Vance's The Dying Earth series of stories, in this case the second volume of the series, The Eyes of the Overworld. The series is set in a time when our sun is a red giant and could blink out at any time: Our civilization and most of the civilizations that followed it ...more
Juho Pohjalainen
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
The second volume of Dying Earth mostly pulls off the good bits of the first, with the wondrous and grim landscape of a planet breathing its last, great narrative style and prose, and plotlines where shit often gets all too real. Where it stumbles, where the last one did not, is the characters.

The main hero Cugel is an asshole. Slimy, self-centered, vindictive, easily angered, and unrepentant sociopath. He never learns a thing and usually gets away with whatever he does, with far less injury and
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, 2014
If your experience with Fantasy is that it is tediously long, badly written, and always involves some morally-beige quest of good conquering evil, then I urge you to read Jack Vance, and in particular the Dying Earth series (collected in "Tales of the Dying Earth"). His immaculate prose and vast command of the English language creates wonderful conversations between characters and a fascinating glimpse into an old version of Earth, basking in the last rays of the sun. Here we have a few last inh ...more
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Unlike "The Dying Earth", which was an interesting but somewhat awkward collection of interlinked stories set in a fantastical far-future earth, "The Eyes of the Overworld", which follows the adventures of 'Cugel the Clever' through magical landscapes and eras, was a much more coherent and enjoyable story.

Either that, or maybe it just took me some time to get used to Vance's outlandish prose and baroque vocabulary, which I found myself enjoying much more in this book.
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First and second time in Brilliance audio.
Third time in Vance Integral Edition.
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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)
  • Cugel Saga (The Dying Earth #3)
  • Rhialto the Marvellous (The Dying Earth #4)

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“The dead man's companions at the counter started to their feet, but halted as Voynod with great aplomb turned to face them. "Take care, you dunghill cocks! Notice the fate of your fellow! He died by the power of my magic blade, which is of inexorable metal and cuts rock and steel like butter. Behold!" And Voynod struck out at a pillar. The blade, striking an iron bracket, broke into a dozen pieces. Voynod stood non-plussed, but the bravo's companions surged forward.

"What then of your magic blade? Our blades are ordinary steel but bite deep!" And in a moment Voynod was cut to bits. The bravos now turned upon Cugel. "What of you? Do you wish to share the fate of your comrade?"
"By no means!" stated Cugel. "This man was but my servant, carrying my pouch. I am a magician; observe this tube! I will project blue concentrate at the first man to threaten me!" The bravos shrugged and turned away. Cugel secured Voynod's pouch, then gestured to the landlord. "Be so good as to remove these corpses; then bring a further mug of spiced wine.”
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