Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Dying Earth (The Dying Earth #1)” as Want to Read:
The Dying Earth (The Dying Earth #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Dying Earth

(The Dying Earth #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  7,588 ratings  ·  532 reviews
Seekers of wisdom and beauty include lovely lost women, eccentric wizards and man-eating melancholy deodands. Twk-men ride dragonflies and trade information for salt. There are monsters and demons. Each being is morally ambiguous: the evil are charming, the good are dangerous.
Paperback, 156 pages
Published March 1977 by Pocket Books (first published 1950)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Dying Earth, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
George Miler What with the geological changes assumed to happen on Earth -- this was before the acceptance of plate tectonics -- and the mention of at least one co…moreWhat with the geological changes assumed to happen on Earth -- this was before the acceptance of plate tectonics -- and the mention of at least one continent sinking, I think the features on the Dying Earth would be unrecognizable to us.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,588 ratings  ·  532 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Dying Earth (The Dying Earth #1)
Bill Kerwin
Oct 17, 2014 rated it really liked it

I did not like this book much the first time I read it, but after reading it a second time while visualizing its characters as puppets, I found I liked it much more.

This book—particularly the first three stories—irritated me. I found its wizards to be contemptible creatures, morally inferior products of a degenerate age, capable only of memorizing a few detailed spells and casting them by rote (“Vancian Magic,” which later became a key element of “Dungeons and Dragons”). I was also appalled by t
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jack Vance’s genre defining, fundamentally influential 1950 fantasy novel about swords, sorcery and ancient technology while the red glow of a dying sun spins over a far future earth is a SF/F gem.

A collection of related short stories, Vance’s mastery of the language and his ability to weave a tale has never been better. Imaginative and uniquely original, Vance sets the table for decades of speculative writers since.

The heart of this work is Vance’s characterization. Introducing characters like
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013

I lived beside the ocean — in a white villa among poplar trees. Across Tenebrosa Bay the Cape of Sad Remembrance reached into the ocean, and when sunset made the sky red and the mountains black, the cape seemed to sleep on the water like one of the ancient earth-gods ... All my life I spent here, and was as content as one may be while dying Earth spins out its last few courses.


Two bright stars on the science-fiction / fantasy firmament have gone to sleep: Jack Vance and Iain M. Banks. I know o
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it
There is some strange depressing morbid fascination in imagining the world - our Earth - an uncountable number of millennia in the future as an unrecognizably changed tired, dying ancient world orbiting the tired, dying ancient red Sun. It's the world in its last breaths, with the knowledge that eventually the life will stop with the Sun.
"Soon, when the sun goes out, men will stare into the eternal night, and all will die, and Earth will bear its history, its ruins, the mountains worn to kno
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's do some quick math. Jack Vance's The Dying Earth was originally published in 1950. I was born in 1969. I first started playing Dungeons and Dragons, in earnest, in 1979. It is now 2014. On second thought, screw the math. You can plainly see that my reading of The Dying Earth is tardy, given that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson cited Vance's work as influences on the development of the Dungeons and Dragons game.

And how.

More than an influencer, The Dying Earth is a wholesale supplier of D&D ware
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, fantasy
1950, a time of transition from swashbuckling square-jawed heroes with huge brains and spaceships falling headlong into a deep future world where everyone is surrounded by death, old tech indistinguishable from magic, and to make things worse, the sun is dying. This is the last hurrah of Earth and it seems that everyone is trying to make the most out of it, grognak the barbarian style.

What? Isn't this SF? Sure! But it's still pretty much entirely classic Sword and Sorcery. We've got curses and t
J.G. Keely
Jun 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Strange to think that this was the series that inspired Martin and Wolfe in their fantasy endeavors. Going from their gritty, mirthless rehashes of standard fantasy badassery to Vance's wild, ironic, flowery style was jarring--going directly from Anderson's grim, tragic Broken Sword to this was tonal whiplash.

At first I didn't know what to make of it: the lurid, purple prose, the silly characters, the story which jumped from idea to idea with abandon. I mistook it at once for the unbridled pulp
Vit Babenco
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
To read The Dying Earth by Jack Vance is like to find oneself inside the fabulous canvas painted by some artist exiled to the end of the fatigued time… Or in the garden of paranoia…
Deep in thought, Mazirian the Magician walked his garden. Trees fruited with many intoxications overhung his path, and flowers bowed obsequiously as he passed. An inch above the ground, dull as agates, the eyes of mandrakes followed the tread of his black-slippered feet. Such was Mazirian's garden—three terraces growi
Dec 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This was AMAZING. I fell in love with Jack Vance reading this novel and I can not for the life of me understand why I never read any Jack Vance before. I blame myself and the entire world for this oversight and I intend to correct the problem immediately. What an amazing combination of condensed writing and huge amounts of story. I can't believe this is only 156 pages long and yet Vance left no stone unturned as far as telling a complete story. I am off to read more Vance.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Earth,” mused Pandelume. “A dim place, ancient beyond knowledge. Once it was a tall world of cloudy mountains and bright rivers, and the sun was a white blazing ball. Ages of rain and wind have beaten and rounded the granite, and the sun is feeble and red. The continents have sunk and risen. A million cities have lifted towers, have fallen to dust. In place of the old peoples a few thousand strange souls live. There is evil on Earth, evil distilled by time…Earth is dying and in its twilight…”
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There isn’t any other book is SF/Fantasy quite like Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, published as a cheap 25 cent paperback back in 1950 by Hillman Publications. I wish it had been picked up by Ballantine Books and published along with some other early classics of the early 1950s like The Space Merchants, Childhood’s End, More Than Human, Fahrenheit 451, Bring the Jubilee, etc.

Despite this, the book has had an enormous influence on writers ranging from Gene Wolfe and George R.R. Martin to Gary Gyg
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2012
I've known for quite a while that George RR Martin thinks highly of Jack Vance and The Dying Earth and last year I had the opportunity to read his anthology, Songs of the Dying Earth, where a number of authors wrote short stories set in The Dying Earth.

I loved it. It remains, and easily so, the best anthology I've ever read. And that only meant one thing, I had to read the original tales.

I'm also very glad I read the anthology, even though one of the stories in The Dying Earth was spoiled a bit
6.0 stars. One of my "All Time Favorite" novels. Jack Vance is one of the "undisputed" masters of the golden age of science ficiton and this may be his greatest work (though I have not yet read them all). The world Vance creates in this collection of linked stories is as good as it gets and the characters who inhabit it are all fun and original. I was absolutely blown away by it.


Nominee: Hugo (Retro) Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
Kat  Hooper
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Dying Earth is the first of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth and contains six somewhat overlapping stories all set in the future when the sun is red and dim, much technology has been lost, and most of humanity has died out. Our planet is so unrecognizable that it might as well be another world, and evil has been "distilled" so that it's concentrated in Earth's remaining inhabitants.

But it's easy to forget that a failing planet is the setting for t
Will M.
Nov 01, 2014 rated it liked it
So this consists of 6 Sci-Fi short stories, and they are interconnected in some way. After reading this, all I can conclude is that I'm not fond of anthologies. Some stories are good, but some are also bad, and that makes the over-all rating low.

I liked the first 2 stories of The Dying Earth. Both were very interesting and I read them very quickly. The third one, started to falter off. The 4th and 5th were mildly interesting, but the last one was completely unbearable. The plot of the last one
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Steve by: Aerin
First off, I strongly recommend Aerin's review, since it's her review that lead me to the book. For me, briefly, I pretty much knew, within about 50 pages or so, that Dying Earth was special. You can read oceans of speculative fiction, enjoying a great deal of it, but it's only on occasion that you run across something that strikes you as Original, that exists beyond the time in which it was written. (I would probably liken this reading experience (espicially so with Vance's use of "high languag ...more
Sep 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Meh, what on earth?

I went into the book expecting to like it, and it is nice and short, but after a good start it just went downhill for me. The first couple of stories about a wizard and two identical girls created by magic are great, but the subsequent stories just bored me. The prose is nice and elegant but sometime the extreme eloquence just leave me floundering. Also, in this cynical day and age the Abracadabra! (not to be confused with the more lethal Avada Kedavra) kind of unsystematic ma
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Unbelievable. I read Jack Vance's '"The Star King" and thought I had hit gold. Now I read this and find it even better. This novel is so much fun, I can't stand it. Terrific writing and as imaginative as I think it is possible to get. My only complaint is that it was so short that I was left wanting much more. Completely amazing.
Kara Babcock
I had never heard of Jack Vance until Subterranean Press announced it would be publishing a tribute anthology containing stories from some of my favourite authors. Apparently Vance is a master fantasist, on par with Tolkien, and his Dying Earth series inspired all of those authors, and many more, in the latter half of the twentieth century. So I ordered the massive volume from Subterranean Press, and then I set about finding a copy of the original book that started it all. Since then, Vance has ...more
She rode deep in thought, and overhead the sky rippled and cross-rippled, like a vast expanse of windy water, in tremendous shadows from horizon to horizon. Light from above, worked and refracted, flooded the land with a thousand colors, and thus, as T'sais rode, first a green beam flashed on her, then ultramarine, and topaz and ruby red, and the landscape changed in similar tintings and subtlety.

T'sais closed her eyes to the shifting lights. They rasped her nerves, confused her vision. The red
S.E. Lindberg
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Vance's Prismatic Charm of Beautiful, Untiring Adventure

Review Summary: The Dying Earth, is beautiful, pulpy adventure. It is a series of six connected short tales (chapters), each being a mix of (Sword & Sorcery) and (Sword and Planet) consider it (Sword & Sorcery & Planet). And, it is an important classic, first published in 1950; Jack Vance's codification of magic items & spells proved influential in RPG-game design.

Dying Earth Series: Tales of the Dying Earth: The Dying Earth/The Eyes o
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: updated-reviews
The Dying Earth is the first volume in Jack Vance's eponymous fantasy series. It is a series of loosely connected adult fairy tales, set in a far-future vision of earth.

The setting for The Dying Earth features our sun, Sol, in its red giant phase. I have read that our sun will become a red giant in 5 billion years, so I'm using that as a timetable since a better one is not mentioned in the book. Perhaps the people of future Earth have more advanced science and magic, but my understanding is that
Juho Pohjalainen
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Dying Earth is one of the staples of the Appendix N, and if you know what that means then you'll be able to guess why it's been on my to-read list for many years now, decades even. Now I finally got around to tracking it down for a read. It turns out to consist of a series of short stories, taking place in a world that has long since squeezed out everything of worth, well beyond the New Sun and perhaps even Pastel City, until only a few faint shreds of technology, magic, ruins, and a bunch of as ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Under the deep red sun of a far, far future wizards and sorcerers, sorceresses and creatures, blends of animal and plants, creatures un-thought of wander across an Earth in ruins where pockets of people still live, awaiting the end when the sun goes out.

Sounds dramatic doesn't it? This is considered a classic of it's kind and has been built on since. I found it mildly interesting over all but to be honest by the end I really didn't care much anymore. The blush was off the rose so to speak. From
This collection of short stories set in Vance's Dying Earth is old school fantasy and may suffer from the phenomenon of seeming to be derivative by virtue of being the thing that everyone else has been imitating. It's swords and sorcery mixed with hints of lost technology in a far future age when Earth's sun is going out and magic has replaced science, or perhaps they have simply merged to become the same thing. The red sun, the lands and peoples whose names bear no resemblance to that of our wo ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a short story in this series & it was OK. I think it was in one of the early "Flashing Swords" anthologies. I don't care for the style of writing. The world is certainly imaginative, but too chaotic & there is no real characterization. Also there are too many weird names to keep track of in the bits & pieces I listen to. Nope, just not going to work for a whole book. Moving on. ...more
Kat  Hooper
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Dying Earth is the first of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth and contains six somewhat overlapping stories all set in the future when the sun is red and dim, much technology has been lost, and most of humanity has died out. Our planet is so unrecognizable that it might as well be another world, and evil has been "distilled" so that it's concentrated in Earth's remaining inhabitants.

But it's easy to forget that a failing planet is the setting for t
Valyssia Leigh
I really hate it when I'm told over-and-over what a 'classic' this book or that book is, only to pick it up and find that the man who wrote it used his penis as much as his pen in it's composition. This volume of short stories could serve as a classic example of that.

And yes, I understand that it was written in the 1950s when women were viewed exactly as this author staged them, but there's a line between simple disregard and misogyny, and Vance crossed it in the very first story where a wizard
RJ from the LBC
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
The six stories that comprise The Dying Earth (titled in later editions as Mazirian the Magician) are some of Jack Vance's earliest work, published in 1950 but written during WWII while Vance served in the merchant marines. Reading the stories in order, Vance's writing skills visibly evolve and mature. The first three stories - the weakest in the collection - involve many of the same characters and in the third story we are introduced to the setting of Earth near the end of its days, thousands o ...more
Luke Burrage
Second read/listen in under a year as I never got round to reviewing it last time.

Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #301.

That was quick! I thought I'd read this before, but it must have been another Dying Earth book.

Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #273.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honour of Jack Vance
  • The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun, #1)
  • The Pastel City
  • Swords Against Death (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #2)
  • The World of Ptavvs (Known Space)
  • The Sword of the Lictor (The Book of the New Sun, #3)
  • The Citadel of the Autarch (The Book of the New Sun, #4)
  • The Claw of the Conciliator (The Book of the New Sun, #2)
  • Zothique
  • The Urth of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun, #5)
  • Swords in the Mist
  • Three Hearts and Three Lions
  • Elric of Melniboné (The Elric Saga, #1)
  • Soldier of the Mist (Latro #1)
  • David Starr, Space Ranger (Lucky Starr, #1)
  • The Fifth Head of Cerberus
  • Swords Against Wizardry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #4)
  • Swords and Deviltry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #1)
See similar books…
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 Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth #2)
  • Cugel's Saga (The Dying Earth #3)
  • Rhialto the Marvellous (The Dying Earth #4)

Related Articles

If you love the fantasy genre, this is the season for you! Some of the biggest books out this fall promise to be epics full of magic, adventure,...
186 likes · 48 comments
“Living creatures, if nothing else, have the right to life. It is their only truly precious possession, and the stealing of life is a wicked theft” 7 likes
“But even in my life I saw the leaching of spirit. A surfeit of honey cloys the tongue; a surfeit of wine addles the brain; so a surfeit of ease guts a man of strength. Light, warmth, food, water, were free to all men, and gained by a minimum of effort. So the people of Ampridatvir, released from toil, gave increasing attention to faddishness, perversity, and the occult.” 5 likes
More quotes…