04 July, 2011

Review - Songs of the Dying Earth Edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Part 1 of 3)

Songs of the Dying Earth [US] [UK] kind of popped up at my door one day and to be honest I never really had any interest. I adore (and yes, adore is a most fitting word) George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I can't say I was at all positive about this anthology. It's pretty much just fan fiction right? Why would anyone pay good money for this?

Not only that, but it's a tribute to an author I've never read. Yes, I have debated picking up Tales of the Dying Earth at one point or another. Yes, I realize I'm criminally under-read if I haven't read Jack Vance. But then again, I have plenty on my plate, why start with a tribute to an author I've never read?

Well, for some reason, and against all better judgment, I found myself picking Songs of the Dying Earth up. One short story won't hurt right? Plus, there are some pretty dang good authors attached to this endeavor.

One story turned to another, and now I'm well on my way to completing this tribute to Jack Vance...one more time...an author I've never read.


Songs of the Dying Earth is easily the best anthology I've ever read and I'm not even done yet. That's how excited I am about this anthology - I'm posting this review at a little over the halfway point.

I almost decided to wait until I read Vance's original work before starting Songs, but I decided I wanted to give a clear perspective from someone who's not already a fan. I'm so glad I haven't waited.

The True Vintage of Erzuine Thale by Robert Silverberg (5/5) - A character who reminded me a lot of Kruppe from the Malazan Book of the Fallen owns a rare wine that is being saved for a very special occasion. Today might be that day, but not for the original reasons. Silverberg starts this anthology off with a bang. What a great story that also introduces some of the surprises this world holds.

Grolion of Almery by Matthew Hughes (5/5) - I thought this was even better than the first story even though both were amazing. This story broadens the implications of the world of the Dying Earth and I've become that much more addicted to it. An unwary traveller is trapped with only one option of escape, cooperation.

The Copsy Door by Terry Dowling (5/5) A contest of wizards ensues involving Amberlin the Lesser whose spells don't quite go as planned.

Caulk the Witch-Chaser by Liz Williams (3/5) Not bad, but doesn't have the same charm as the former three. It lacks those witty/odd characters and descriptions that I've already grown to expect.

Inescapable by Mike Resnik (4.5/5) An enjoyable story, yet again reminding us that not everything is always as it seems in the Dying Earth.

Abrizonde by Walter Jon Williams (5/5) I really loved this story about a man who gets caught in a war of nations, none of which he belongs to, and decides to get involved. Given the indifference the leaders have to his predicament, getting involved is a good idea.

The Traditions of Karzh by Paula Volsky (5/5) The heir to Karzh has never really had the need to apply himself...until he is poisoned (by his uncle) and forced to unlock the cure or die. The ending was very surprising and also quite satisfying.

The Final Quest of the Wizard Sarnod by Jeff Vandermeer (4/5) I really enjoyed the characters in this one, but didn't love the ending. It also lacked, somewhat, that charm I mentioned earlier.

Why Read Songs of the Dying Earth?

Whether you've read Jack Vance or not, this anthology is well worth your time. It reminds me a lot of Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen minus all the non-eccentric characters and non-eccentric situations. Simply put, it's genius.

Long story short, do whatever you must to obtain a copy of Songs of the Dying Earth. Buy, borrow, steel, even if you have to run afoul a slayer's statute (Terrible law school joke, sorry! We just studied these). Read Immediately!

5 out of 5 Stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher