SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Duzois (Ed)
Jack Vance wrote the Tales of the Dying Earth series over a period of 34 years from 1950-1984. It is still regarded as one of the most distinctive and influential creations in the fantasy genre and the Cugel volumes in particular are still as fresh and entertaining as ever. Set in the far far future, Vance imagines an Earth populated by humans capable of both powerful magic and impressive technology. Yet this advanced society lives with the inescapable knowledge that our Sun is in rapid decline and will soon die, dooming all life on Earth with it.
Songs of the Dying Earth is a tribute to this extraordinary series; a collection of 23 short stories from some of the today’s greatest fantasy authors including Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Robert Silverberg, Kage Baker, Dan Simmons, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Moon and many more.
This is a high class performance from a list of very talented authors, all of whom obviously felt a strong personal connection and love for the Dying Earth series. There are a couple of missed notes (Jeff VanderMeer’s contribution didn’t quite work) but overwhelmingly the collection moves from one great story to the next. Abrizonde by Walter John Williams, The Lamentably Comical Tragedy (or The Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Lixal Laqavee by Tad Williams, The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz by Dan Simmons and the concluding story by Neil Gaiman, An Invocation of Incuriousity, were the highlights in a bunch of stories that managed to capture much of the whimsical humour, tragic poignancy and vivid descriptions that so characterised this unique work of fiction.
The editors have ordered the stories beautifully, achieving a natural progression through Vance’s original timeline and culminating in the inevitable conclusion, provided by the masterful pen of Neil Gaiman: a vision of those final moments as the dying red Sun sputters its last.
This is an absolute must read for all Dying Earth fans but also a great starting point for readers yet to be introduced to Vance’s distinctive vision of our planet’s twilight years.