72 internautes sur 74 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I appear to have been far less taken with this collection than most of the other reviewers here. For my money, about half the stories could have been left out, to the ultimate improvement of those remaining. A 300-page volume consisting of the best half of this one would have made for a worthy tribute to Vance's oevre, because it would have been more uniformly in the same league as the original. On the plus side, by giving us quantity over quality, the editors certainly proved that no one else is Jack Vance. I do have to wonder where the Michael Shea story is, or more exactly, why it is in a different anthology than this one.
Robert Silverberg: The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale -- This would have been an excellent Jack Vance story, because Vance would have written it in 8 to 10 pages instead of meandering on for more than 20. Perplexingly, Silverberg makes the classic mistake of the novice Vance emulator, which is to assume from Vance's high-flown vocabulary that he is a verbose writer. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, Vance's defining quality is his ability to use unusual words in order to achieve a ruthless economy in his plotting and pacing -- an economy sadly missing from this story and quite a few of its fellows in the anthology.
Matthew Hughes: Grolion of Almery -- Hughes has a better handle on the Vancean style than the great majority of writers here. He also understands how Vance builds characters and situations, and how Vance wrings the most entertainment value out of his revelations, in some cases by leaving them completely implicit.
Terry Dowling: The Copsy Door -- At almost 30 pages long, this story bears an unhappy resemblance to the sun of the Dying Earth: pale and over-expanded and only occasionally letting loose a gleam of warming illumination. Dowling does a great job creating a Vancean protagonist who suffers from a Vancean curse, but the duel of wizardry that results is indulgent and at times dull, and its excessive length gives one plenty of time to see the "twist" at the end coming.
Liz Williams: Caulk the Witch-chaser -- A passingly good tale, once the protagonist navigates the overlong introductory action. Toward the end, it rushes into an odd bit of character evolution, but I'm ambivalent as to whether that's a good thing or a bad one. Bizarrely, the editors saw fit to telegraph the ending in their introduction to the story, so be sure to skip the intro until after you've read it.
Mike Resnick: Inescapable -- Resnick makes no attempt whatsoever to imitate Vance's style in this story (or if he does, then his own style must be the epitome of stripped-bare prose; I've not previously read him). That's not necessarily unforgivable, as the middle portion of the story does a good job capturing the Vancean trope of the man whose obsession strips him of all conscience. The beginning and ending left me flat, though.
Walter Jon Williams: Abrizonde -- More or less successful as a Vance pastiche, this story is like most of its companions in that it demonstrates a facility at certain Vancean techniques and falls short on others. Williams didn't seem to know how to end it; the last several pages seemed rather tacked-on, and almost made me wonder if the editors put a minimum length on submissions, with only Howard Waldrop being allowed an exception.
Paula Volsky: The Traditions of Karzh -- One of the better in the book, this story gives us a callow young Vancean protagonist brimming with the sort of indolence and nonchalance that Vance himself always uses to such good effect. The main character's quandary develops briskly, his responses are clever and engaging, and everything comes to a rousing climax, with cunningly planted devices used to propel the plot along throughout.
Jeff Vandermeer: The Final Quest of the Wizard Sarnod -- An interesting tale featuring two or three protagonists, this one will suit you if you're a big fan of Vance's fascination with the ambiguous. I found it a bit diffuse, with a tendency to introduce its magical devices just at the moment they are needed and then move on, whereas Vance himself usually plants his enchantments early on and then draws them from the arsenal when they will be most surprising and apt.
Kage Baker: The Green Bird -- All but perfect. Anything I might say against this story would mark me for a quibbling pedant. Baker has crafted a work that would fit directly in with anything in The Eyes of the Overworld or Cugel's Saga, both in drollery and cunning.
Phyllis Eisenstein: The Last Golden Thread -- Even better than "The Green Bird." It's a shame Neil Gaiman wrote the story that he did, because this one would have made for a much superior finale.
Elizabeth Moon: An Incident in Uskvesk -- Oddly grubby, given the paramount characteristic of the Dying Earth: that virtually everyone there is outwardly polite. In Vance's world, threats are kept implicit, insults veiled, propositions oblique. But most everyone in this story shows a straightforward callousness that borders on crass. Beyond that, the plot is contrived and there are multiple references to wormigers that remind us how inventive Vance is with fantastical animal husbandry, whereas this story offers us giant insects.
Lucius Shepard: Sylgarmo's Proclamation -- In the midst of an impeccably crafted story, Shepard wins the Best-Distilled Essence of the Vancean Style Award for the following sentence (which you shouldn't read until you've read the story itself; as with the best of Vance's sentences, it suffers when removed from context): "The absence of all kinetic value bred a sense of foreboding in Thiago." Shepard also gets points for using footnotes.
Tad Williams: The Lamentably Comical Tragedy (or the Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Lixal Laqavee -- After getting off to a ponderous start, this one musters some reasonable entertainment value out of a forced partnership of the kind Vance so often constructs. The effect is less sure-footed than in most of Vance's examples, and reaches a muddled conclusion that makes me suspect the whole story was written seat-of-the-pants rather than plotted in advance.
John C. Wright: Guyal the Curator -- Wright shows a nimble understanding of Vance's style, in prose, concepts, and themes alike. His characterizations are somewhat aloof; the motives of Dying Earth characters are often more transparent than we see here, so that the protagonist's actions struck me at times as authorial caprice, though they're ultimately revealed to be in keeping with the story's overall thrust. In short, a good story, but one in which I as a reader failed to become fully lost.
Glen Cook: The Good Magician -- At times, too oblique; at others, too direct.
Elizabeth Hand: The Return of the Fire Witch -- Extremely solid from start to finish. Hand is apparently a King Crimson fan in addition to a Jack Vance enthusiast, and her work here manifests a kinship between the two that I hadn't previously realized existed.
Byron Tetrick: The Collegeum of Mauge -- Tetrick succeeds in creating characters who are at once sympathetic, appealing, and plausible within the setting of The Dying Earth. He places them in a situation that sparks both interest and curiosity. Then he resolves it all with an arbitrary plot featuring cameos by Vance's characters that fail to either convince or satisfy.
Tanith Lee: Evillo the Uncunning -- The hero of this tale is a hapless innocent, yet Lee treats him as Vance treats his own scurrilous rogues. The result is not as morally satisfying as some of the other tales in this volume, but the style and the conceits are appropriate, and the pacing is good.
Dan Simmons: The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz -- Some ruthless editing would have improved this one considerably, but after a very slow start it maneuvers along engagingly to a suitable if unspectacular end. Had it not been by the guy who wrote Hyperion, I think I would have been more impressed. Unfortunately, Simmons set his own bar very high back in the day.
Howard Waldrop: Frogskin Cap -- Odd.
George R.R. Martin: A Night at the Tarn House -- Martin has written better Vancean tales (Sandkings comes notably to mind), but this one will do in a pinch, though it's neither as comedic nor as resonant as I might have hoped for.
Neil Gaiman: An Invocation of Incuriosity -- This one starts off with a bit of, "I'm Neil Gaiman, so the rules do not apply to me," then settles into a relatively satisfying Dying Earth tale, then wraps up with a bit of almost-convincing "Here's why I broke the rules." Because he is Neil Gaiman, it works. But it also makes me wish that he'd avoided his coy, "Jack Vance is not imitable" pose and simply done what we all know he could have done, which would have been to write the best, most authentic story in the entire collection.
To sum up: My advice for Vance enthusiasts would be to buy this volume and read the stories by Hughes, Liz Williams, WJ Williams, Volsky, Baker, Eisenstein, Shepard, Wright, Hand, Lee, Simmons, Martin and Gaiman. Save the stories by Baker and Eisenstein for last. Then reread all of your copies of the Dying Earth books themselves, along with all of Michael Shea's Vancean books. Then, if you're still starving for more, go back through this book in its entirety.
28 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Michael S. Friedli
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Songs of the Dying Earth is a magnificent anthology of 22 tales authored by established writers in expressed tribute to Jack Vance's remote future Dying Earth ("DE"). To acquire credibility the stories must use the precepts of DE and whatever locations, characters, entities and implements are chosen with all full faithfulness, and new creations must remain consistent. With small exceptions the contributing authors succeed quite well. Similarly, for an homage to seem Vancesque it takes discriminating focus on rich, precise language, the plots should be direct, the pacing nimble, it does not hurt for the outcome to be ironic, and it is helpful that the tone convey a slight detachment and offer a subtle wryness, all hallmarks of Jack Vance. But as a special caveat about style, Jack Vance is widely lauded as the rare writer's writer, and his unique style reaches near inimitability, so its replication is a very tall order indeed. To be able to write Vancian is no sole criterion for evaluating an homage, though if an obvious attempt is made to "sound" like Vance it is fair game to be assessed. Some authors stick to their own voice, thus their tribute to Vance's DE must be adjudged on other factors mentioned.
Seven entries are absolutely outstanding and alone make this book worth buying, so that among all 22 entries, 7 are BEST, 11 are quite GOOD, 3 are MIXED, and 1 is WEAK. Reviews given below describe these BEST, sequenced solely by chapter order, followed by brief comments on selected GOOD, followed last by the 3 MIXED & 1 WEAK and reasons thereof.
Story 3 by Terry Dowling. Wins "Most Faithful" Award for conscientious employment of many DE allusions, all lending to the story's DE ambiance and authenticity. It offers wonderful Vance-like names (Eunepheos, Sarimance), and hosts a fantastical spell competition that is marvelously visualized. The ending is suitably ironic.
Story 6 by Walter Jon Williams. The writing is stylistically quite Vancian. Great sounding neologisms, a hard-to-imitate talent Vance was renown for. Delightful throw-away digressions, something again Vance's prolific imagination was famed for. Colorful Vancian characters, all with creative Vancesque names (even Twest the donkey). Dialogue echoes the Vance quality of urbane, archaic politeness. The protagonist is a young man who wins the day against impossible odds - a quintessential Vancian scheme. The story contains many a wry note. Nicely integrates elements (memrils, sandestins) from Rhilato. Makes advancement to madlings of DE (story's caricaturizing Hegadil).
Story 9 by Kage Baker. It is a great risk to undertake a new Cugel story without it devolving into a presumptuous hack job, but this story succeeds most decisively. A near seamless Vance-emulation, capturing style, voice, plot-pacing, characters (Dickens-like), names and neologisms, tone and nuance, and that ineffable Vance "presence". The story even includes that frequent Vance device of arriving at a solution but hiding specifics from readers until it unfolds in the story. For any Vance-fan pining for more on Cugel, this is the story. A most remarkable homage.
Story 14 by John C. Wright. Aside from having the best Afterword, this story is a most worthy capstone sequel to Guyal of Sfere. Poetically written passages. Occasional wry notes. Names sound authentically Vancesque. The story is a treasure trove of DE allusions (Magnatz, IOUN stones, Archveult, forest-gleft, oast), but furthermore provides tribute nods outside of DE, as Ska (Lyonesse), ahulph and Anomus [Anome] (Durdane), Sacerdotes from Aerlith (Dragon Masters), Pnumekin (Tschai), and even Effectuator. Presents a most imaginative futurian "mechanics" of the Curator's magical staff/baton. This story (as others) may send readers to the dictionary, but it finds a place for one of Jack's evident favorite unusual word: nuncupatory. A tremendous tribute story.
Story 16 by Elizabeth Hand. An elegant and jeweled prose befitting of DE but clearly in the author's own voice. It is a female-centric revenge tale of witches, even hosting a Twk-woman. While bountifully offering throw-away digressions of exotic things (as Vance), the tale showcases wonderful creations such as the sentient prism ship "like a rainbow bubble" that unfolds petals to fly. Contains many delightful neologisms (gysart, tusked maskelons, sleepy gorgosaurs), as well as uncommon words ("ustulating spell"). Contributes advancement of DE's basilisks.
Story 17 by Bryon Tetrick. A praiseworthy intermezzo toward a further Saga that will involve Iucounu the Laughing Magician. This school tale concludes with provocatively brilliant potential. True to his Afterword that words in Vancian writing are so important, he proffers wonderful names (The Mombac Ambit), neologisms ("dymphny and telanxis"), and unusual words (smaragdine, pruritus). He liberally alludes to Vance's lexical creations (deobado, poincture, pervulsion, pandalects, fermine [fermin], audarium [audiarium]).
Story 21 by George R. R. Martin. The darkness of this ingenious tale, where nothing is what it seems to be, is quite in keeping with DE. The story's multiple viewpoints evoke Vance's Lyonesse fantasy. The intriguing colorful characters are credibly Vance-like, and given wonderful DE names & sobriquets (Molloqos the Melancholy, Lirianne, Rocallo the Redoubtable). The Cloak of Fearful Mien is amusingly novel, as is the useful Cazoul's Indenture. Makes interesting advancement about Twk-men. The last sentence of this story is a sharp ironic riot.
Some highlights about the GOOD stories: Story 7 by Paula Volsky has an entertaining storyline that advances comical insights about pelgranes. Story 10 by Phyllis Eisenstein takes the novel approach of the domestication of Turjan and T'sain (now with daughter Rianna), with a flowing plot-line and wonderful contributions about Twk-men. Story 12 by Lucius Shepard adds fun footnotes conveying a Vancesque feel, though the violence is slightly more graphic than one finds with Vance, and Cugel appears a shade more evil. Advances an imaginative contribution about DE's fearsome gids. Story 13 by Tad Williams is the best-titled, and also provides best contribution about deodands. The cleverly wrought dilemma the protagonists lands into could truly have been devised by Vance, and the ending is amusingly just. "Rhinocratic Oath" is a jocular homage to Vance's Spell of the Macroid Toe. Story 18 by Tanith Lee is nicely reminiscent of a child's fable, albeit replete now with DE allusions. Its ending is packed with surprises. Some names sound gauche (Slannt, Cleensz, Plodge, Glak) whereas others are superb (the demon Cardamoq, the Palace of Phurn). Likewise, "ultra-mage" and "Unputdownable Tome" sound horrid, but creative "Locative Sulfulsion" is elegantly evocative of DE.
Story 4 by Liz Williams is a mix of good and weak aspects. One might argue her use (and overuse) of the word "pervulsion" -- a word coined by Vance-- is in an incorrect context. "Falling Water" in homage to Vance's famously intriguing Land of the Falling Wall (cited in praise by Lyn Carter) is laughably lame, sounding more like an old Indian name for a water-fall. But she contrives interesting witch creatures believably of the DE, and ends the story on a worthy plot twist.
Story 8 by Jeff Vandermeer is another mix of good and weak. This surreal story is more an homage to H. P. Lovecraft, particularly his dreamland fantasy The Dream-Quest for Unknown Kadath. The plot is plodding. The story wins the "Lame Spell Name" Award for "Flying Travel", "Forgetting the Past for a Time", "Fascination of Detail", his clumsy rendition "Revolving Until Force Destroys" in place of DE's Phandaal's Gyrator, and (at one final point) the co-opting of Excellent Prismatic Spray into "Prismatic Spring" (yet through it's description the same spell). Placename "Place of Mushrooms and Silence" helps nothing, and subworld "Underhind" seems too close to Vance's demon Underherd.
Story 19 by Dan Simmons is also a mix of good and weak. It is one thing to pay homage by alluding to Vance's creations, but it is another to grab everything Vance ever created in DE, one crammed upon the other. It is showoffy. Nor is it credible (or faithful) that deodands and pelgranes ever spontaneously work in concert with Man. The narrative is his own style of mundane prose, but dialogue attempts unevenly a Vancian sound, and when tried is stilted, or when not is either bland or crassly vernacular. Better that he invent his own character than morph Derwe Coreme into an Amazon ("Myrmazon") war maven. Yet his character Mauz Meriwolt (snout whiskered, tailed, 3-fingered hands) is almost ludicrously Disneyesque, (its squeaky-voice sister is named Mindriwolt, no less). (Perhaps at story's end there is a farcical allusion to Fantasia? Thus most inappropriate.) All secondary characters are rendered flat. Names can be daft (Tinkler, a past great-mage) or annoyingly exotic (KirdriK, with the artificial crutch of two capital "K"). Plot development occurs with all too much convenience, and clunky conversations explain things unjustified to know. His use of ideas from DE seems especially utilitarian. (Incidentally, the rainbow has six colors; Sir Newton's "perceived" indigo is in modern science non-existent.) The ending, given the novella length of this longest tale, is disappointing. Yet he writes the second best Afterword, especially in addressing Vance's style.
Story 20 by Howard Waldrop. The Abyss Award. It is objectionable not to stay faithful to the DE conception of magic, but instead impose that old saw of antipodes: "science and [technology]" versus "magics and superstitions". The brilliance of DE is to supersede that dichotomy. Vance, in his DE, conceives the inconceivable. The vastly hyper-uber-super-ultra-science (enough prefixes?) of the remote future is exactly this magic of those far distant aeons. DE's genius of magic is to subsume science, (even Vance's later evolved sandestin-assisted concept). Indeed, the story's tale-tell reference to "Irishman of old", a ridiculous allusion that would be so far in the past that even all the land-masses would have shifted not once but many times, reveals Waldrop has not fully conceived how remote in the far future the DE is meant to be. The described paltry contents in the Museum of Man are unimaginative and mere stock SciFi. Naming a character "Rogol Domedonfors Jr."(!) seems lazily derivative. Mention of commonplace "corn" is uninspired. His simile "The darkened Sun rose lumpy as a cracked egg" sounds hacky, (contrast with the opening paragraph of Dan Simmons, story 19). The tone of the story has an aspect of an elitist, and a cynic. To put it in Waldrop's words, "an idiot screamed and belly-flopped" and "another moron dashed himself into the mud-pit." On the positive side, the story is short.