Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Dying Earth.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume in this series, I won't however be reviewing it but rather the second book 'Eyes of the overworld'. Having now read it, it fills in some gaps in my understanding of where the current trend of seemingly sociopathic characters in fantasy originated.

Having enjoyed the first volume in the series, I decided to press on into volume two. I'm sorry I did now as the main character for this volume, alternatively titled 'Cugel the clever'. Sometimes described as "ambiguously appealing", I found he was perhaps the most aggravating character I've had the misfortune to see a story from the P.O.V. of since Steerpike in 'Titus Groan'.

As described by the author, Cugel is "a man of many capabilities, with a disposition at once flexible and pertinacious. He was long of leg, deft of hand, light of finger, soft of tongue ... His darting eye, long inquisitive nose and droll mouth gave his somewhat lean and bony face an expression of vivacity, candor, and affability. He had known many vicissitudes, gaining therefrom a suppleness, a fine discretion, a mastery of both bravado and stealth."

Once you translate that from bullcrap however, it reads as "Liar, Cheat, Thief, Murderer, Rapist, who shows no remorse for his actions whatsoever". In other words.. he has no redeeming qualities, and as such this book has no redeeming qualities except one. And that one is the only reason I didn't chuck it promptly into the Trade-A-Book pile. It is marvelously well written with truly evocative scenery and atmosphere. It's simply a shame that Jack Vance didn't construct a less obnoxious character to inhabit it.

This series was apparently very influential also in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.. but if a player ever ran a character like Cugel in a game in which I was the Dungeon Master.. he'd find his character making a short drop and a sudden stop in the first town he passed through.

The Influence of this book's main character can definitely be felt today in the works of authors like Joe Abercrombie, Sam Sykes and the rest of the Grim n' Gritty brigade. So Perhaps since I don't like its imitators.. its no surprise I don't really care for the original either. It's truly a shame that such a character pollutes the landscape in such a way as to sometimes be distracting, this was Peake's major flaw as well. He redeemed this by having Steerpike get his comeuppance, Somehow I doubt Cugel will ever face a situation he can't weasel his way out of.

I'm not sure now if I will bother to read Cugel's Saga or simply skip it in favor of reading "Rhialto the Marvelous" instead... I certainly won't be seeking out Micheal Shea's Cugel Pastiche 'A Quest for Simbilis'.

No comments: