In the interlocking Tales of the Dying Earth Vance explores the world at the end of time when sun is guttering. Light itself is different and Vance’s landscapes —described in language that is lyrical, seductive, and partly self-invented —are wild and surreal, full of opportunity and danger. On the Dying Earth, the rules of physics as we know them have been amended and replaced by magic. The laws of evolution have spun out creatures that are humanoid, hybrid, and often terrifying. The interpenetrating world of ghosts is equally fantastic. Religion and philosophy are diversified and rewoven into myriad theories, creeds, and dogmas. Human culture is archaic, vaguely medieval European or feudal Japanese. There is nothing quaint or allegorical about the Dying Earth stories. We’re not in Oz anymore, nor Narnia either. Voldemar is a harmless grouch compared to Chun the Unavoidable. Yet, at the same time, these works are as weirdly funny as the poetry and journals of Edward Lear or the fantastic yarns of Dr. Seuss.
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