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The Dying Earth

The Dying Earth - Jack Vance This, the first part of the "Tales of Dying Earth" saga, is Vance in his early days as a writer and it shows. It lacks the well-roundedness and maturity that he was to develop later on in his career but it is still most definitely him, his unique writing style and humour plainly evident, even at this early stage.

Unconcerned and unconstrained by the burdens of world building and character development, his imagination is given free reign to express itself. Completely at odds with the fantasy writer's rule book as it exists today, the people and places feel like they pop into (and out of) existence as and when the necessities of the plot demand it. We, the readers, do not feel that the world of the Dying Earth does has a life of it's own, that it continues to go on even when we are not looking at it. It is fully subservient to the story rather than the other way around which is often the case these days. The characters have no depth, no development, but are still intriguing because of what they say and do.

Of course, Vance was well capable of great world building and deep characterisation (which is evident in later work such as the Lyonesse trilogy) but Vance's bold disregard for such things, his brevity and elegence are refreshing to behold and it makes one wish that more modern fantasy writers would tale a leaf out of this book occaisionally.

Like I said, Vance did improve later on but this is still quality stuff and well worth reading.