Read The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance Online


Scoundrel Cugel is sent far away, by a magician he has wronged, to retrieve magical lenses that reveal the Overworld. Goaded by a homesick monster magically attached to his liver, he journeys across wastelands home to Almery. With a cult group on a pilgrimage, he crosses the Silver Desert, and meets more danger and betrayal as he betrays others....

Title : The Eyes of the Overworld
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780671832926
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 190 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Eyes of the Overworld Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2019-05-17 18:51

    Underneath the fading sun, Cugel--a hero--emerges. Well, sort of a hero, but more of a trickster. Less Hector, more Ulysses; less Samson, more Jacob; less Tom, and a lot more Huck. Cugel, however, is less likable than any of the these. Selfish, exploitative, and filled with unlimited self-regard, he continually overestimates his own considerable intelligence and fails where a lesser man might have succeeded.Paradoxically, it is Cugel's flaws and failures that keep us on his side during his picaresque journey, and his personality helps organize what might otherwise seem a disconnect series of tales. Vance's prose is still eccentric but more fluid than in the previous "Dying Earth" collection, and his imagination continues to astound: his descriptions of landscapes, individual flora and fauna are mesmerizing, and his plot inventions--particular the "eyes" mentioned in the title--are a source of continual delight.

  • Lyn
    2019-06-09 19:36

    Tales of a trickster god.Like stories about Anansi, Coyote and Loki Jack Vance describes the misadventures of Cugel the Clever in picaresque fashion. Set in Vance’s far, far future world of the The Dying Earth, in his inimitable style blending elements of science fiction and fantasy, this 1966 publication is at times hilarious but always entertaining.While reading I smiled frequently and laughed out loud at least a couple of times and Vance made me think about the irascible nature of loveable rogues. No doubt from time immemorial, their have been stories about those who think outside the box, those who march to the beat of a different drummer, who – for all purposes – make their own rules and make the rest of us insane, make us roll our eyes and smirk.My wife and I raised three boys and there were times when, as parents, we needing to punish a child for some behavior. I can recall many times when, even amidst the scolding, I had to turn my head so the little imp would not see me smile. What is it about mischievous comportment that draws the grudging veneration from us all at some time or another? Is it a latent sense of respect for creativity? Are we inside at least a little jealous or admiring of those who can set convention aside and accomplish outside of rules what we wish we could?Reading Vance’s story, I thought of the fascination with outlaws and criminals, of the charisma of gangsters and ne’er do wells. Vance, in describing Cugel, has hit the nail on the head of a true anti-hero and Vance with his tongue in cheek wit and his subtle humor is uniquely qualified to deliver such a work.A must read for Vance fans, this is just fun reading and let me opine that American readers who do not quite get Sir Terry Pratchett’s British humor, may enjoy Vance’s quirky writing.

  • Algernon
    2019-06-02 17:36

    I have already gushed enthusiastic about the opening volume in the Dying Earth epic. It seems I should have kept some of the hyperbole in reserve for later books, as the appeal of the setting and of the characters show no sign of slacking with this second book. It's also interesting to note that the saga of Cugel the Clever is not simply an iteration of a success formula. In many ways it is an improvement over the experiments in style from the first book.For one thing, the book is better structured, with a framing story of the hero being sent on a quest and a sequence of related picaresque adventures as Cugel traverses exotic lands and meets monsters, maidens, ghosts, flying men, pygmies, giants, grotesque mutants and magic adepts. Concentrating on a single main character also helps, as there's no need to introduce and establish a new face in every episode.“What lands lie between us and Almery?”“They are wide and dangerous and peopled by gids, erbs, and deodands, as well as leucomorphs, ghouls and grues. Otherwise I am ignorant. If we survive the journey, it will be a miracle indeed.” For a second thing, the presentation is less melancholic and resigned to a doomed future. Cugel is a lot more pro-active about saving his skin and getting ahead in the rat race. The book is a lot funnier that I expected, often in a subtle, sarcastic way, as the self-annointed 'Clever' scoundrel gets tricked time and time again. I would make a last observation on general approach: it seems that once the worldbuilding was established with the first collection, the author felt less need to include the science-fiction elements (flying cars, underground data centers, nanotechnology, cloning tanks. etc) and the new saga is almost pure sword & sorcery fun. Cugel was 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 hair was the blackest of black fur, growing low down his forehead, coving sharply back above his eyebrows. 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. Word of the day, kids:Pertinacious: 1 a: adhering resolutely to an opinion, purpose, or design b: perversely persistent 2 : stubbornly tenacious Sound like a swell hero in this first presentation, does he not? I'm not well enough versed in Jack Vance lore to say whether Cugel is a typical hero or not for the author, but he sure makes for a memorable scoundrel. Usually, when we say anti-heroes, we refer to grumpy, cankerous, reluctant fighters who hide a heart of gold and who are ultimately ready to sacrifice themselves for some cause or some friend. Not so with Cugel, who manages to be thoroughly self-absorbed and without any moral scruples. From the opening sequence where he casually tries to rob a powerful wizard only to get caught and sent on the main quest to recover a magical lens, Cugel will thoroughly demolish the myth of the noble Knight Errant by lying through his teeth, cheating at dice and cards, cowardly pushing other people in front when it comes to fighting, bashing innocent people on the head, selling the ladies he meets in bondage, leading a bunch of gullible pilgrims to their death, and on an on. Yet, I have come to enjoy following the rascal around, mostly because his schemes usually go awry and he gets tricked in his turn. Here's just one example of the sneaky sense of humor to be found in these pages (Cugel tries to get a free meal and 'nympharium privileges' from a wizard; the wizard tries to discourage him): - "I will gladly perform a more comprehensive divination, though the process requires six to eight hours.” - “So long?” asked Cugel in astonishment, - “This is the barest minimum. First you are swathed head to foot in the intestines of fresh-killed owls, then immersed in a warm bath containing a number of secret organic substances. I must, of course, char the small toe of your left foot, and dilate your nose sufficiently to admit an explorer beetle, that he may study the conduits leading to and from your sensorium. But let us return to my divinatory, that we may commence the process in good time.” ... Uhmm, Thanks, but no thanks!The use of language is superb throughout the volume, a little toned down in terms of polychrome / psychedelic landscapes but with a more jocular bent in the dialogue and in the pseudo-scientifical theories: Since like subsumes like, the variates and intercongeles create a suprapullulation of all areas, qualities and intervals into a crystorrhoid whorl, eventually exciting the ponentiation of a pro-ubietal chute. (I guess that's a wizard explaining how a summoning spell works, or the operating principle of a washing machine, I can't remember precisely) Beyond the picaresque adventures, there are deeper meanings for the reader that wants to discover them in the text. The central quest sends Cugel to a village where all the inhabitants live in squalor, but also wear all wear rose-tinted glasses that permit them to look upon the Overworld: I dimly recall that I inhabit a sty and devour the coarsest of food — but the subjective reality is that I inhabit a glorious palace and dine on splendid viands among the princes and princesses who are my peers. It is explained thus: the demon Underherd looked from the sub-world to this one; we look from this to the Overworld, which is the quintessence of human hope, visionary longing, and beatific dream. We who inhabit this world — how can we think of ourselves as other than splendid lords? This is how we are.” This ecosystem is not self-supporting, so a second village must exist, where peasants toil for years in the hope oneday they will inherit one of the magical lenses. If you want, you might look upon it as a metaphor of the American Dream : you might live in the gutter, but one day you too could live in the house on the top of the hill, eating posh food and hobnobbing with the jet-set, looking at the world through distoring glasses and seeing only beauty and happiness all around.Another recurring theme for Vance is religious intolerance and faith as a con game. In the first book, there was an island with two warring sects. Here there's a group of pilgrims discussing their varied points of view around campfires and during a river journey. A hilarious anti-young-earth argument develops: The so-called Funambulous Evangels, who, refusing to place their feet upon the ground, went about their tasks by tightrope. In a curt voice Lodermulch exposed the fallacies of this particular doctrine. “They reckon the age of the earth at twenty-nine eons, rather than the customary twenty-three. They stipulate that for every square ell of soil two and one quarter million men have died and laid down their dust, thus creating a dank and ubiquitous mantle of lich-mold, upon which it is sacrilege to walk. True to his character, Cugel is using his silvered tongue to make it look like he is one of the pilgrims, only to offer another opportunity to Vance to showcase his sarcastic sense of humor: - “And you, Cugel the Clever, for once you are reticent. What is your belief?” - “It is somewhat inchoate,” Cugel admitted. “I have assimilated a variety of viewpoints, each authoritative in its own right: from the priests at the Temple of Teleologues; from a bewitched bird who plucked messages from a box; from a fasting anchorite who drank a bottle of pink elixir which I offered him in jest. The resulting visions were contradictory but of great profundity. My world-scheme, hence, is syncretic.” The ending is superb, I can't tell you much about it without spoiling the fun, but it is a typical Cugel messy project, one I believe would make a great Pink Panther or Monty Python skit. On to the third book.

  • Forrest
    2019-06-07 16:39

    Whereas Vance's previous volume in the The Dying Earth series was composed of several short stories, each featuring a different character, The Eyes of the Overworld focuses on one character, Cugel the Clever. Though the book is episodic in nature (each story was published separately over the course of a couple of years before being compiled in this volume), the character is consistent. And while the characters in The Dying Earth were capably presented in their individual stories, Cugel the Clever is featured in every story in this volume.And rightfully so! The character that Vance has created here deserves, nay, needs a more lengthy format to shine. Vance is able to extrude the subtleties (if they can be called that) of his main character with this form because Cugel is, if not clever, complex. Well, he is clever from time to time or, more appropriately, cunning, but there are several times when he fancies himself much more clever than he actually is. Still, he is no clown. This presents a wonderful Wodehousian dynamic to the whole book. In a nutshell, it is rather funny throughout. The section that I will call "The Lodermulch Ruse" had me laughing aloud, and demonstrated one instance in which Cugel's ability to improvise proved brilliant. Still, his mis-steps make me think that Sergio Aragones must have read this work before penning his comic Groo The Wanderer. If anything, the title "clever" should have been reserved for Vance, not Cugel, though Vance's use of the title for Cugel shows some genius.Cugel, caught in the act of thievery from the powerful magician Iocounu, The Laughing Magician, is forced on a quest for items of interest to Iocounu. To ensure cooperation, a small demonic, alien being named Firx is affixed to Cugel's liver. Firx, a'la the bomb implant in Snake Plissken in the movie Escape from New York, keeps Cugel "on task" by torturing his liver whenever he became distracted. This enforced quest is a sort of Grand Tour of the Dying Earth, introducing the reader to several strange peoples and customs. I was about to say "magic," as well, but in this setting, the line between magic, as thought of in most fantasy settings, and technological artifacts, as one would find in a science fictional setting, is blurred and sometimes altogether erased. There is a sense of deep time here. Not just of ancient magics, but of even more ancient technology whose creators are forever lost in the dull light of the giant red sun that once glowed bright yellow when these artifacts were first conceived. Vance continues in the wonderful writing voice from his first volume in the series. Not too baroque or flamboyant (as, I admit, my own work can sometimes be), but with enough flair to keep one enthralled and engaged. The more I read Vance's style, the more I like it. It strikes a great balance: not too presumptuous, but not treating the reader like an idiot.He's saved the idiocy for Cugel, and the world, whether out own or that of the Dying Earth, is better for it!

  • KatHooper
    2019-05-20 19:42

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.I’ve already said, numerous times, how much I love Jack Vance, so I’ll skip all that this time. You can read other reviews on this page if you missed that.The Eyes of the Overworld is the second part of Tales of the Dying Earth and the main character is one of my favorite Vance characters: the self-titled Cugel the Clever. Cugel is not the kind of guy you want to have dealings with — he’s clever, sneaky, completely selfish and remorseless. He is always trying to figure out how he can take advantage of other people in order to make his own circumstances better.In The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel decides to burglarize the house of Iucounu the Laughing Magician so he can sell some of Iucounu’s thaumaturgical artifacts. But the magician catches Cugel and punishes him by setting him on a quest to procure a lens which allows the wearer to view the overworld.Cugel is clever, but as clever as he is, he often finds himself facing a foe who, at least temporarily, manages to outwit him (which invariably surprises Cugel). This time his quest leads him on a series of misadventures in which he: gets captured by rat people… is forced to be the watchman of a village… steals more than one person’s inheritance… deals with demons… trades a woman for information… impersonates a god… and travels a million years into the past. Wherever he goes, Cugel, sometimes purposely and sometimes unwittingly, leaves sorrow and destruction in his wake. He deprives people of their hope, their faith and, often, their lives.This doesn’t sound like it should be very entertaining, but oh, it is! That’s because the story is written in Jack Vance’s singular style: high language, bizarre occurrences, and Vance’s characteristic humor. I hate to say it again, but the best comparison I can make is to Monty Python. If you’re a fan of that type of strange dark humor, then this should be your thing.I listened to The Eyes of the Overworld in audio format. I can’t express how excited I was to learn that Brilliance Audio was producing these, and I’m pleased to report that they did an excellent job. Arthur Morey once again brought out all of the nuances of Vance’s humor and he made a perfect Cugel. In fact, The Eyes of the Overworld was even better than The Dying Earth, probably because it follows the same main character rather than being divided up into separate short stories. I loved it.

  • Steve
    2019-06-04 12:52

    The Eyes of the Overworld is the second novel in Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth. I think I liked this installment even better than the first (which I loved). The story is about the adventures and misadventures of a Cugel the "clever," who is a pretty thorough rogue. I suppose he is clever at times, but he can also be stupid. Fortunately for Cugel, he does have some luck (good and bad -- though the bad is of the non-killing sort). I know this is Fantasy, but if you like the historical fiction character Flashman, you may also like Cugel. Just imagine Flashman in Alice's Wonderland. The first story in the Dying Earth sequence (also titled The Dying Earth), introduced the reader to a strange world that is a dangerous mix of science and magic. (In many ways I was reminded of The Wizard of Oz.) That "novel" is really a collection of short stories -- all taking place in the same world, a world increasingly haunted by shadows as the sun burns itself out. The fact that the world is dying doesn't stop or alter the weirdness in any way. In other words, humans will be humans no matter the circumstances. The fact that the world may be ending is always on the back burner, and never of immediate concern. In Eyes of the Overworld, the story more resembles a novel, though the book is also a collection of stories. However this time the book centers around one character, Cugel (a thief), and his attempt to get back to his home after being sent away to perform a task by a vengeful wizard.What follows is a series of adventures that are quite funny, and often horrific. Cugel will lie, betray, rape, and kill, though usually the people he's doing these terrible things to are not much better. It's an amazing world filled with wizards, vampires, were-things, rat people with ears on top of their heads, a long sleeping giant, a walking boat with detachable legs (that will chase you), etc. As a piece of imaginative writing, you would be hard pressed to find something more original. Enhancing all of this is Vance's appropriately baroque language that will have you, at least for a while, scrambling for a dictionary. (After a while, I just gave up and decided to go along for the ride and quit worrying about the verbal speed bumps.) In the end, as bad as Cugel can be, I found myself rooting for him. Excellent!Cover Art: 4 1/2 stars.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-05-29 13:53

    In this treasure island of a book Jack Vance had hidden two treasure troves: his wild imagination and his flowery language. And it is pure delight to find them both.“Cugel was 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 hair was the blackest of black fur, growing low down his forehead, coving sharply back above his eyebrows. 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. Coming into the possession of an ancient lead coffin – after discarding the contents – he had formed a number of leaden lozenges.These, stamped with appropriate seals and runes, he offered for sale at the Azenomei Fair.”I wish I knew some tricks Cugel did know… The Dying Earth is a fantastic place populated with malicious magicians, frivolous pranksters and all possible and impossible sorts of eccentric and cunning jugglers.But if one has enough imagination one would manage to survive in any fantastic world…

  • Stephen
    2019-06-16 16:30

    5.0 stars. Jack Vance deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robery Heinlein. He is a master story teller and, unlike the aforementioned authors, Vance's books do not seem dated and can be read today with the same sense of wonder as when they were first written. The Dying Earth books are special, timeless classics that should be read and enjoyed by all fans of Science fiction. Superb world-building, amazing characters, like Cugel the Clever, and top notch writing make these books as good as it gets. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

  • Stuart
    2019-05-26 17:32

    The Eyes of the Overworld is a great book, but I'm going to take a contrarian stance and say that I actually preferred The Dying Earth. Yes, I can admit that I wasn't totally smitten by the amoral, not-so-clever misadventures of Cugel the Clever after he crosses Iucounu the Laughing Magician. Yes, this book contained all the same sly, tongue-in-cheek humor, the strong imagery of a decaying and run-down world, and the wonderfully-stilted high language used by all the humans and other creatures of this autumnal far-future world. Basically, Cugel is not a charming scoundrel with panache like James Bond or Arsene Lupin III. Instead, he basically is just morally bankrupt and self-serving with a thin veneer of suave talk. He doesn't hesitate to betray companions at the first opportunity, and has loyalty to no one. I think Jack Vance's take on the anti-hero is quite fresh, I find it hard to be sympathetic to Cugel, but on further reflection I think that it is his inept selfishness and repeated failures to achieve his goals that has endeared him to a lot of readers, an unwitting Inspector Clouseau in an epic fantasy setting. What I liked most about The Dying Earth was the amazingly rich imagery, strange characters, and self-contained storylines that the prevented it from being just a long string of episodes for the main character to extricate himself from. The sense of melancholy and sheer fatigue of an unimaginably-old Earth was somewhat lacking in The Eyes of the Overworld. Cugel's adventures are still miles above your average sword-and-sorcery tale, but fail to reach the sublime heights of The Dying Earth.

  • Shelly
    2019-06-10 12:37

    I am officially in love with Jack Vance's writing and now I want to add Cugel the Clever among my list of favorite characters. Book 2 of the Dying Earth series follows Cugel as he lies, cheats and steals his way across the Dying Earth in order to find a rare artifact for conniving wizard. Vance's prose is so much fun to read and he has a real talent for writing. I can't believe it took me so long to find him.

  • Bryan
    2019-05-18 20:45

    An absolute masterpiece of literature. Every word is sublimely exquisite, and reading this book is a sheer pleasure for those who appreciate language. Deft turns of phrase, arcane vocabulary, and humorous (yet adultly gruesome) situations abound in this classic. A simply magnificent and wondrous book - definitely one that should not be missed.Do NOT delay - get this book and immerse yourself into the most sumptuous writings you'll encounter. But don't read this book when your mind is cluttered - you'll miss so much if you attend to this book with anything less than your full attention.Definitely a strong contender for my FAVORITE book ever... 5 stars are insufficient and a surfeit of multiples of stars should instead be available!

  • DNF with Jack Mack
    2019-06-07 12:47

    Vance enjoys forcing a dollar word into a nickel slot. While one can usually puzzle it out, putting your vocabulary processor into overdrive produces a Lorax-like swept-away-by-the-pants effect. Combine this with radical jumps across space and time, and you have the recipe for something better read than listened to. The audiobook's sound is poor, while the reader is below average. This makes a plethora of creatures sound similar. The reader's Cugel Voice is harder for him to manage than his critter voice, so it always sounds gruff. Cugel isn't sympathetic by nature, so no delicacy can be found here, and events are forced into a tired wilting. No emphasis is made for important events and characters, so they are overwhelmed by minutia, and cause backtracking. If this was a painting, everything would look swirled together into a tan baby food fart color, indistinguishable from the rest. Perhaps the printed book would be worthy of four stars. Couldn't wait for this painful listening to end.

  • fromcouchtomoon
    2019-05-21 20:44

    Vance's preferred title, Cugel the Clever, best fits this wandering yarn about a selfish vagabond whose arrogance never falters, no matter how often he is outwitted. A classic anti-hero: You'll laugh when he abandons his damsels to distress; you'll cheer when he finally gets laid.

  • KatHooper
    2019-05-27 18:24

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.The Eyes of the Overworld is the second part of Tales of the Dying Earth and the main character is one of my favorite Vance characters: the self-titled Cugel the Clever. Cugel is not the kind of guy you want to have dealings with — he’s clever, sneaky, completely selfish and remorseless. He is always trying to figure out how he can take advantage of other people in order to make his own circumstances better.In The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel decides to burglarize the house of Iuounu the Laughing Magician so he can sell some of Iuounu’s thaumaturgical artifacts. But the magician catches Cugel and punishes him by setting him on a quest to procure a lens which allows the wearer to view the overworld.Cugel is clever, but as clever as he is, he often finds himself facing a foe who, at least temporarily, manages to outwit him (which invariably surprises Cugel). This time his quest leads him on a series of misadventures in which he: gets captured by rat people… is forced to be the watchman of a village… steals more than one person’s inheritance… deals with demons… trades a woman for information… impersonates a god… and travels a million years into the past. Wherever he goes, Cugel, sometimes purposely and sometimes unwittingly, leaves sorrow and destruction in his wake. He deprives people of their hope, their faith and, often, their lives.This doesn’t sound like it should be very entertaining, but oh, it is! That’s because the story is written in Jack Vance’s singular style: high language, bizarre occurrences, and Vance’s characteristic humor. I hate to say it again, but the best comparison I can make is to Monty Python. If you’re a fan of that type of strange dark humor, then this should be your thing.I listened to The Eyes of the Overworld in audio format. I can’t express how excited I was to learn that Brilliance Audio was producing these, and I’m pleased to report that they did an excellent job. Arthur Morey once again brought out all of the nuances of Vance’s humor and he made a perfect Cugel. In fact, The Eyes of the Overworld was even better than The Dying Earth, probably because it follows the same main character rather than being divided up into separate short stories. I loved it.Read this review in context at

  • Thiago
    2019-05-27 15:48

    Cugel the Clever, what a giant A-hole. He is likely to be one of the most despicable characters I have ever read about, selfish, often cowardly, and incapable of remorse or empathy, nothing seems to be below him, burglary, perjury, murder, you name it. His one decent act in the entire book was in reality motivated by spite, if it was; maybe he simply saw profit in it. I wonder what his alignment would be in a D&D game… I guess it would be chaotic neutral, at least from his own point of view. It is not that Cugel relishes in his own evil (he doesn’t), nor that he simply does not care (he really does not), the thing is that in truth I do not think Cugel is even aware enough to be able understand the nature of his acts. He will just plow ahead, doing whatever he thinks will help him achieve his own ends. He doesn’t even think of his acts as particularly evil, he just sees them as basically “the only sensible option”. Cugel is always trying to profit over others, to take advantage of other people no matter their circumstances or dispositions. Say one thing for Cugel, say he is a practical man, and he is very very clever, but often his cleverness and his greed will get the best of him, for Cugel thinks he is cleverer than he really is, and that is how these tales begin and end.Despite all that, the World Jack Vance created is so compelling, imbued with such a solemn, eschatological beauty; and Cugel himself is so well written, and so unaware of his own faults that in these last days of Earth we can’t help but, despite ourselves, live vicariously through him.Can’t wait to read the next.

  • Simon
    2019-06-10 16:37

    And so, continuing on with the "Dying Earth" series, this time following in the footsteps of Cugel (the "clever"), a conniving and amoral rogue as he attempts to fulfil a quest he is unwillingly enrolled on by a wizard.Cugel is an interesting character, an anti-hero and unusual protagonist for a fantasy novel. He is not especially well endowed with any particular skills or abilities (he's not even particularly clever). He is opportunistic and cowardly, quite willing to sacrifice his friends and acquaintances in order to protect his own skin, puffed up with his own sense of worth and just generally not a very nice fellow. Then again, he's not excessively cruel, sadistic or malicious. He only does what he needs to do but he won't let any scruples get in his way.Throughout the story, one feels alternately unsympathetic one minute and then quietly hoping for him to succeed the next. Sometimes one feels that he gets dealt an impossibly harsh hand in life but at other times it seems that it is his own stupidity or greed that got him into a sticky situation.Pervading the narrative was Vance's distinctive style and humour but again, as I did with the previous volume, felt that his prose style matured and improved somewhat later on in his career. But all in all a good and enjoyable read marred only by sometimes finding the prose style not as engaging as I would have liked (and I know Vance often capable of).

  • Hein
    2019-06-02 17:34

    If your experience with Fantasy is that it is tediously long, badly written, and always involves some morally-beige quest of good conquering evil, then I urge you to read Jack Vance, and in particular the Dying Earth series (collected in "Tales of the Dying Earth"). His immaculate prose and vast command of the English language creates wonderful conversations between characters and a fascinating glimpse into an old version of Earth, basking in the last rays of the sun. Here we have a few last inhabitants, mostly dubious rogues, zealouts, and hermitic alchemists, waiting to trick or be tricked. This is a superb, vibrant and stimulating collection of stories that exudes imaginative power. With the recent death of Mr Vance, we have lost a truly outstanding and wonderful voice.

  • Eric
    2019-05-21 15:42

    "This is well enough," he said. "We are safe now, and there is much that lies between us."The girl shrank to her end of the boat. Cugel stepped astern and joined her. "Here I am, your spouse! Are you not overjoyed that finally we are alone? My chamber at the inn was far more comfortable, but this boat will suffice.""No," she whimpered. "Do not touch me! The ceremony was meaningless, a trick to persuade you to serve as Watchmen.""For three-score years perhaps, until I rang the gong from utter desperation?""It is not my doing! I am guilty only of merriment! But what will become of Vull? No one watches, and the spell is broken!""So much the worse for the faithless folk of Vull! They have lost their treasure, their most beautiful maiden, and when day breaks Magnatz will march upon them. "Marlinka uttered a poignant cry, which was muttered in the mist. "Never speak the cursed name!""Why not? I shall shout it across the water! I will inform Magnatz that the spell is gone, that now he may come for his revenge!""No, no indeed not!""Then you must behave toward me as I expect."Weeping, the girl obeyed, and at last a wan red light filtering through the mist signaled dawn.Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever may just be the rogue-iest rogue whoever rogued in all of fantasy and science fiction.As you hopefully guessed from the passage I chose to head this review with, I mean this in the most unflattering manner possible. Considering one of the primary recurring elements in the Dying Earth stories is the resulting human bastardry that would surely follow when everyone knows any day could be the day when the red sun finally goes out there is no doubt this was the reaction Vance was aiming for. I think that the above passage serves as a good litmus test for any potential would-be readers as to what they should expect from their protagonist since this is one of the worst things Cugel does in The Eyes of the Overworld. And I'm not talking about the rape. Cugel the Clever reads like a savage, satiric takedown of anti-heroes (especially the rogue-ish ones) so much so that I feel like even calling him an antihero - even a narcissistic, conniving, cowardly, self-interested, morally bankrupt one - is giving him a tad too much credit since it would imply he actually does something heroic on occasion. Cugel shares more in common with certain other archetypes and it is this intentional unlike-ability that ironically made Cugel something of a breath of fresh air for me. In this day where there are arguably more anti-heroes than their are heroes in pop culture, and where even a clear villain protagonist like Walter White has a depressing number of fans who don't consider him a villain, Cugel's horrible behavior and Vance making zero attempts to make him remotely sympathetic or cool was a surprising welcome. Kinda like the Gang from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which just so happens to be one of my favorite shows, so maybe my willingness to accept unsympathetic, uncool bastards in the main character role is higher than the average person's) only Cugel gets into a lot more weird shit and he leaves a ton more ruined lives in his wake.After botching a robbery of Iucounu the Laughing Magician's mansion the notorious wizard sends Cugel away across the world on a quest to recover the titular Eyes of the Overworld with no means of a quick, easy way to get back. Iucounu can give Cugel a run for his money in the amorality and cleverness department (he's called the Laughing Magician because of his creative, sadistic sense of humor), with the added bonus of being more intelligent, more powerful, and more dangerous. For example, to make sure Cugel doesn't run off with the Eyes or simply take his sweet time getting back Iucounu affixes a small demon named Firx to his liver to "motivate" him. The short stories that comprise The Eyes of the Overworld come across like a giant irreverent parody of your typical fantasy quest. For starters, against his complete will our "hero" sets off on his quest, and he has no one to blame but himself for that (but of course Cugel would never blame himself). As for the macguffin he must find? He gets it pretty early on. The real conflict is getting back (to get revenge on the wizard who set him off on this quest). How many fantasy stories even acknowledge the return journey? The macguffin itself? It gets stolen from an innocent man who has been toiling for decades to receive one (oh yeah, there are several versions of the macguffin). The beautiful woman who decides to travel with our hero? Let's just say she doesn't stick around for long (and that it's not the woman referred to in the above passage). This is all in the first few stories, mind you. What separates the good parodies from the bad parodies is that the good parodies also work as an effective tale of the story or genre they are lampooning. (Shaun of the Dead is the first example that comes to mind. Ignore the jokes, and it's a emotional zombie story). Likewise Cugel's bizarre, picaresque misadventures are still lushly written, unpredictable sword and sorcery adventures with highly amusing Shakespearean dialogue (for maximum enjoyment imagine the cast of Monty Python reciting the lines). The short stories and novellas that comprise The Eyes of the Overworld are the most consistently exciting, imaginative, and humorous batch of tales in Vance's Dying Earth setting, and are the main reason I feel why you should read Tales of the Dying Earth if you are at all curious.4 1/4 stars

  • William
    2019-05-27 16:37

    * SummaryCugel "The Clever" a rogue somewhat in the spirit of Frasier's Flashman, runs afoul of Iuconnu "The Laughing Magician." Iuconnu sends Cugel on an errand to a faraway land, magically conveying him there, but leaving Cugel to return, the hard way, compelled by Iuconnu's parasitic servant, Frix. Cugel's adventures on the way back, lead him from through danger and treachery and every manner of wonder and terror of Vance's imagination. It's pretty much a showcase for what Vance does best: imaginary exotica.* What I liked about itI like the name. "Cugel" makes me think of "cudgel" - a blunt instrument, for striking and rendering helpless. "Clever" makes me think of "cleaver" - of cutting and making fine distinctions. What Cugel thinks himself and what he proves of himself over the course of this book, compliment and expand on his paradoxical name. (Note: I believe Vance probably had in mind the original meaning of "clever" relating to the hand - a claw, seizing and taking).Cugel is a wicked, wicked man, and in desperate and dire straits. Cugel suffers - oh does he suffer! - such spectacular torments one wouldn't wish on anyone not at least as evil and desperate as Cugel. But, I've carefully noted, his sufferings are incidental to his sins. I believe there is moral irony here, the same kind that frustrates moralists and decent people when the evil seem to "get away with it" but I believe, craftily inverted. My outrage at Cugel's vile acts, gives way to delight at what seem to be Cugel's punishments, but I'm left unsettled, I don't sense any justice here. I could, and have accepted The Eyes of the Overworld as black comedy with no further gloss. but I have since found it unsettling, but rewarding to think carefully on Cugel's various episodes. If Cugel were less wicked, he wouldn't survive, and on rereading, I've found grace notes of sympathy and even admiration while still feeling appalled.I have found themes of justice and revenge in almost all I've read of Vance. One the one hand these are primal desires which are probably easy to write about quickly, and Vance seems more concerned with fantastical cultures, set dressing, and wordplay than on these grander notions.* What I didn't like about itI think Vance's prose here is generally in excellent form, possibly better than many other books I've read of his. But it does wander about sometimes.* General thoughtsThe Eyes of the Overworld is very short but very dense. A malicious little darkling gem.

  • Jim
    2019-05-25 20:48

    This was my reading choice to commemorate the upcoming end of the world on Friday, December 21, 2012, the so-called end of the Mayan calendar according to conspiracy theorists and gullible fools. What better choice than one of jack Vance's The Dying Earth series of stories, in this case the second volume of the series, The Eyes of the Overworld. The series is set in a time when our sun is a red giant and could blink out at any time: Our civilization and most of the civilizations that followed it have long since been ground to dust, and the world is full of magic.Cugel the Clever is our hero, who finds himself in deep trouble when he is trapped by Iucounu the Laughing Magician attempting to burgle his manse. He is sent to find a certain magical eye cusp in a distant land to complete a matched set. To ensure Cugel's cooperation, Iucounu uses magic to wrap a creature named Firx to Cugel's liver to prod it with sharp barbs whenever Cugel appears to be loath to return to Azenomei and Iucounu.The Eyes of the Overworld is a record of Cugel's travels to return to Azenomei and use his cleverness to avoid being felled by magical spells and to use the people he encounters along the way. Vance goes out of his way to imagine interesting peoples and situations:The spell known as the Inside Out and Over was of derivation so remote as to be forgotten. An unknown Cloud-rider of the Twenty-first Eon had construed an archaic version; the half-legendary Basile Blackweb had refined its contours, a process continued by Veronifer the Bland, who had added a reinforcing resonance. Archemand of Glaere had annotated fourteen of its provulsions; Phandaal had listed it in the 'A,' as 'Perfected,' category of his monumental catalogue. In this fashion it had reached the workbook of Zaraides the Sage, where Cugel, immured under a hillock, had found it and spoken it forth.While no one can truly admire Cugel's selfish ways unless to his social detriment, the book is an incredibly humorous introduction to the end of days and worthy of being read.

  • Mike
    2019-06-04 20:32

    Jack Vance was a great writer in a genre that did not have a lot of respect or wealth during the majority of his life. This is one of the few books of his that I got "new" (vs. from a Used Bookstore) and I was given it to write a review in a student newspaper years and years ago.It is imaginative, fast-paced and humorous (of the sarcastic variety) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think I was aware of (and may have read) the second book of Cugel's adventures, but I did not know that another author had taken up the torch in given us more in between.Vance was made a Grandmaster of SF near the end of his life (possibly posthumously, I forget) and this is an excellent example of why. Years ago, when the SciFi channel was just starting out and spelled that way, Harlan Ellison used to do short video bits for them. Ellsion is and always had been a superb writer as well as an opinionated and direct speaker. I remember one small bit where he talked about Vance and his qualities as a writer. I don;t know if any of that stuff is available, but if you like Vance it might interest you.

  • John
    2019-06-02 20:40

    Unlike "The Dying Earth", which was an interesting but somewhat awkward collection of interlinked stories set in a fantastical far-future earth, "The Eyes of the Overworld", which follows the adventures of 'Cugel the Clever' through magical landscapes and eras, was a much more coherent and enjoyable story. Either that, or maybe it just took me some time to get used to Vance's outlandish prose and baroque vocabulary, which I found myself enjoying much more in this book.

  • Jaro
    2019-06-03 16:27

    Read in Vance Integral Edition.

  • TJ
    2019-05-20 20:39

    The Eyes of the Overworld is the second Vance novel in the book compilation titled Tales of the Dying Earth. Although it reads like a novel, it is actually a collection of five short works previously published in magazines plus one original work written for the novel. The original work is Cil. Another work, The Manse of Iucounu, was broken into two chapters in The Eyes of the Overworld and became The Cave in the Forest and The Manse of Iucounu. When it was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction the two stories were combined as one and simply titled The Manse of Iucounu. In its first publication it would have been novelette length. The first novel titled The Eyes of the Overworld was published in paperback by Ace Books in 1966. It is currently available in a Kindle edition and apparently a trade paperback edition from Orb Books as part of the collection called Tales of the Dying Earth. (This is the copy I have and highly recommend it.) There is also an e-book available from Spatterlight Press under the title Cugel the Clever, which was Vance's preferred title. This is the second time I have read this novel recently. Cugel is one of Vance's classic characters. At times Cugel's adventures reminded me of Don Quixote, The Odyssey or Gulliver's Travels but with the humor of Monty Python or Terry Pratchett. But, of course, it is simply Jack Vance. I rated the novel a 5 and highly recommend reading it.Chapters in The Eyes of the Overworld include: (MFSF=The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)1. The Overworld, first published in MFSF in 12/65, 25 pages., novelette length2. Cil, first published as part of the novel The Eyes of the Overworld, 22 pgs, novelette length3. The Mountains of Magnatz, first published in MFSF in 2/66 but revised, 26 pgs, novelette length4. The Sorcerer Pharesm, first published in MSFS in 4/66, 22 pgs, novelette length5. The Pilgrims, first published in MSFS in 6/66, 33 pgs, novelette length6. The Cave in the Forest, first published as the first part of The Manse of Iucounu, 11 pgs, short story7. The Manse of Iucounu, first published in MSFS in 7/66, 16 pgs, short story lengthThe novel introduces us to Cugel the Clever, a self serving, con artist, anti-hero, trickster character who labeled himself the Clever but often does not live up to his self appointed name. In this picaresque work Cugel's behavior is usually self-serving and often dishonest. When he does behave kindly, without an apparent ulterior motive, it often backfires on him. Once someone is his adversary or if Cugel is under threat, he usually demonstrates some very determined survival skills. Sometimes he simply uses his sword or other force but usually he plots an escape or revenge. Vance describes Cugel as "a man of many capabilities, with the disposition at once flexible and pertinacious. He was long of leg, deft of hand, light of finger, soft of tongue." Vance often infuses wry or sardonic humor into situations that involve Cugel. Cugel also blunders so many times that it becomes comical. He even casts spells incorrectly and ends up being his own victim. Each story follows the adventures of Cugel and flows into the next story with the storyline and main characters continuing so that it reads like a novel.In the story The Overworld we encounter Cugel at a fair where he has a booth and tries to sell so called magic items to unsuspecting customers. Another seller, Fianosther, offers better magical products and has a much more desirable situation for his booth so he does a brisk business while Cugel sells very little. Cugel enters into a discussion with Fianosther and is persuaded to partake in a scheme to steal from Iucounu the Laughing Magician who lives nearby. Iucounu is planning to visit Fianother's booth because he wants to purchase some magic items from him. Fianosther plans to bargain with and stall Iucounu while Cugel enters Iucounu's home and steals some of his valuable magical items. The two will then split the profits. But Cugel blunders and is caught. Rather than kill him or imprison him, Iucounu offers Cugel a deal to avoid punishment. If Cugel agrees to visit the Land of Cutz and obtain a special magical violet lens for Iucounu, then he will be forgiven for his attempted burglary and will be released. Iucounu already has one such lens but wants a second one for his other eye. Cugel readily agrees and is provided with a magical device that turns wood, leaves, clothing or anything else into digestible food and also detects poison in food. Cugel later learns that it works but that it does not change the taste of the edible item. A piece of wood will nourish him but still tastes like wood. He is also given a partner named Firx who is a sharply spined, small, alien being who enters Cugel's chest and attaches itself with claws to his liver. Iucounu has a friend of Firx's so that Firx is motivated to return to Iucounu. Firx contracts his prongs to inflict pain on Cugel to motivate him to complete his task and to insure that he returns and does not run away. Firx can understand Cugel when he speaks to him but can only reply by inflicting pain or easing off the pain.Iucounu magically transports Cugel to the Land of Cutz where he has to obtain one of these magical lenses and return it to Iucounu. Cugel learns that Cutz has two different groups of people, those with lenses and those without. Those with two lenses see, taste and experience everything as beautiful, delicious and wonderful. (It provides them with a virtual reality view into the Overworld.) If the wearer looks at porridge it appears and tastes like a gourmet meal. Shacks become castles. Ugliness becomes beautiful. Two lenses create a magical paradise for the wearer. There is a story about their origin of the lenses from the Overworld, but I will leave that to the reader. Unfortunately for Cugel there are many people in Cutz who don't have lenses who want them so there is a long waiting list for a pair of lenses. To obtain the lenses Cugel has to sign up as a resident of Cutz and wait until he has gone from the bottom of the long list to the top. Only when a person with a pair of lenses dies, will the pair be passed on to the person at the top of the waiting list. But Cugel's life is at stake so fair play is not among his considerations. He schemes to develop a plan to obtain some lenses without having to wait many years. The rest of the story focuses on his efforts and is quite interesting.In the story Cil, Cugel has one of the lenses (sometimes called cusps) in his pouch and begins the long journey on foot to return to Almery where Iucounu lives. After dealing with a ghost who puts a curse on him and bandits who try to steal from him, Cugel encounters an old man on the seashore who has spent his life sifting sand to find a lost amulet. His ancestors lost the amulet and with it the land of Cil. He hopes to recover the amulet and gain back Cil. The rest of the story is a fascinating one about the amulet, but Cugel also meets four large talking shell creatures on the way to Cil. Some amazing stories are presented as the novel and adventures proceed.In The Mountains of Magnatz story Cugel continues his journey back to Amery. Accompanying him is a woman he met in Cil named Derwe Coreme. Cugel needs guidance through the Mountains of Magnatz so makes a trade with some guides for information. But he owns nothing, so what Cugel trades does not belong to him. He later takes a deodand hostage but is followed by three other deodands. These are cave dwelling humanoid beings that like to eat people. Then he meets some men in a hunting party from a nearby town called Vull Village. His Pythonesque adventures continue and include a new wife named Marlinka, and a job as the watchman in a tall watch tower and a giant monster named Magnatz. How does so much happen in so few pages? It is all extremely imaginative, surreal and very well written.Cugel continues his journey in the story The Sorcerer Pharesm and makes Homer's Odyssey look a stroll around the block. This story is so bizarre, imaginative and creative that I began to wonder if Vance hadn't taken on Timothy Leary as co-author. Except it is all well thought out, organized and infused with absurd humor. Cugel meets fifty some workmen involved in intense carving of rock into "further complexities, and elaborations upon complexities: twists, spires, volutes; disks, saddles, wrenched spheres; torsions and flexions; spindles, cardioids, lanciform pinnacles; the most laborious, painstaking and intricate rock-carving conceivable, manifestly no random effort of the elements. Cugel frowned in perplexity, unable to imagine a motive for so complex an undertaking." A three foot tall foreman reviews written plans and uses his thirty foot long extensible forefinger to assist the carvers with creating the right pattern. The work has been going on for 318 years and is not yet completed. Then there is Pharesm the Sorcerer who directs it all. Unfortunately Pharesm has spent 500 years on the rock carving project and other attempts to attract a creature called Totality. But he learns that Cugel just found the creature, then boiled it and ate it for lunch. Pharesm informs Cugel "The creature, he said in a grating voice, is TOTALITY. The central globe is all of space viewed from the inverse. The tubes are vortices into various eras, and what terrible acts you have accomplished with your prodding and poking, your boiling and chewing, are impossible to imagine." "What of the effects of digestion? inquired Cugel delicately. Will the various components of space, time and existence retrain their identity after passing the length of my inner tract?"This creature called Totality is very important to Pharesm and possibly the universe. Pharesm is so upset that he creates a leaping ghoul, zigzag blazes of energy and glittering purple wasps to prevent Cugel from leaving while citing Kartinjae's Second Law of Cryptorrhoid Affinities. For Cugel to redeem himself Pharesm proposes sending Cugel back into the past a million years to rescue Totality before it had been eaten. After arriving a million years back in time Cugel finds people with large heads, pumpkin orange skin and black teeth along with giant birds that dash people to death after flying off with them. The people of Farwan have strict religious rules that Cugel unintentionally violates, so Cugel has to flee for his life while still attempting to find Totality to transport it magically into the future uneaten. This is a must reading that is amazingly creative and entertaining beyond any description I can possibly provide.In The Pilgrims story Cugel continues his journey home when he encounters some pilgrims and hears about various strange religions including the "Funambulous Evangels, who refusing to place their feet upon the ground went about their tasks by tightrope." Here we have an interesting, often humorous exchange of religious beliefs including Cugel's which he admits is "somewhat inchoate" because he has "assimilated a variety of viewpoints, each authoritative in its own right: from the priests at the Temple of Teleologies; from a bewitched bird who plucked messages from a box; from a fasting anchorite who drank a bottle of pink elixir which I offered him in jest. The resulting visions were contradictory but of great profundity. My world-scheme, hence is syncretic." Later Cugel bribes a priest so he is able to trick some pilgrims into crossing the Silver Desert and the Songan Sea with him. During the crossing they encounter a series of adventures. In one village the locals and guests have to each cut off one of their own fingers to add to the communal cooking pot to "demonstrate our common heritage and our mutual dependence." At another place the villagers declare, "We worship that inexorable god known as Dangott. Strangers are automatically heretics, and so are fed to the sacred apes." The story is quite interesting and frequently very funny.In The Cave in the Forest Cugel treks through an old forest until he sees a sign from Zaraides the Sage offering a free consultation. Cugel inquires but is captured by the rat-folk who will free him only if he brings them two other hostages to replace himself. Cugel needs to call on all of his talents to try to escape.In Manse of Iucounu Cugel finally arrives back at Almery where he began his journey and offers the magical lens to Iucounu but Iucounu no longer appears to be himself. This an interesting and humorous story but it would disclose too much to describe any of it.The Eyes of the Overworld reads like a novel even though it is fix-up novel composed mostly of previously published stories. It is one of Vance's finest, most creative and humorous works and is highly recommended to anybody who likes highly imaginative, entertaining, and talented fantasy writing.

  • Ahmed Mahdi
    2019-05-20 13:32

    كتاب "أعين العالم العلوي" هو الجزء الثاني من سلسلة "الأرض المحتضرة" وهي سلسلة تمزج بين الخيال العلمي اولفانتاظيا، حيث تقع أحداثها في المستقبل البعيد بعد ملايين السنين والأرض موشكة على الفناء بعدما بردت الشمس وأصبحت كرة حمراء ضعيفة الضوء موشكة على الانطفاء، والبشر قلة تكافح للبقاء وسط مخلوقات مخيفة، ويمتليء العالم بالسحر والمشعوذين وبقايا تكنولوجيا الحضارات القديمة البائدة.على عكس الجزء الأول الذي كان عبارة عن قصص قصيرة منفصلة قد يتكرر فيها أحيانا نفس الشخصيات، إلا أن هذا الجزء يتبع رحلة نفس البطل عبر مغامرات مختلفة، وهو بطل من حيث كونه محور الأحداث لا من حيث مقومات البطولة، فهو إنسان أناني مبدأه في الحياة أن الغاية تبرر الوسيلة، حتى لو كانت هذه الوسيلة هي الكذب أو القتل أحيانا، ورغم أنه يظن في نفسه الذكاء والمهارة، إلا أنه يوقع نفسه في العديد من المشكلات، بسبب طباعه الأنانية وعدم تفكيره سوى ي نفسه، ولكنها مغامرة مثيرة وممتعة، من المدهش حقًا رؤية العوالم الخيالية التي صنعها الكاتب بخياله، فقد تفوق كثيرًا على ما كتبه في الجزء الاول، وأثار فضولي أكثر للإكمال تلك السلسلة، وربما ترجمتها في يومٍ من الأيام.

  • Joseph
    2019-05-20 18:26

    This book taught me the meaning of the word "picaresque".adjective pi·ca·resque \ˌpi-kə-ˈresk, ˌpē-\: telling a story about the adventures of a usually playful and dishonest characterCugel the Clever (who sometimes seems like he should be called Cugel the "Clever") allows himself to be persuaded to visit the manse of Iocounu the Laughing Magician while Iocounu is otherwise occupied. Needless to say, it doesn't end well, and Cugel finds himself on a rocky, northern shore facing the prospect of a long, long journey south.It's a very episodic book.picaresque (ˌpɪkəˈrɛsk)adj1. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) of or relating to a type of fiction in which the hero, a rogue, goes through a series of episodic adventures. It originated in Spain in the 16th centuryIt was originally serialized in SF magazines (remember those?) back in the 1960s; each longish chapter has Cugel, having barely escaped from some (often self-inflicted) peril, finding a new way to get himself into yet more trouble.The tone is very, very different from that of Mazirian the Magician: -- that book had a faintly mournful tone to it; Cugel the Clever is often out-and-out ridiculous, which is a major part of its charm -- to read Jack Vance's clever and often elliptical descriptions and circumlocution-laden dialogue.Warning: Cugel is actually kind of a terrible person and occasionally does some Not Very Nice Things, either out of expediency or from simple pique.

  • Ĝan Starling
    2019-05-22 12:42

    Cugel is my favorite Jack Vance character. I am presently occupied in translating both this and the second book into a hobby, I might add...because I just enjoy them so much and wanted to share (with full permission, of course).Cugel is no one you'd care to know too very well. He is a rogue's rogue: charming and witty. But you'd have your hand on your purse the whole while he was around. His plans for larceny are often successful...right up to the point where comically they fall apart...or are undone by some past enemy. By the same token, he himself is the undoing of any plans his enemies have for doing likewise to him...again in almost comical fashion. And all the side characters are colorful too. Take Radkuth Vomin's woeful demise. Truly a lesson for us all. These are books I find myself reading again and again. I also own the audiobook versions and play them repeatedly in the car about once a year.

  • Tim
    2019-06-03 12:52

    I've read this in the omnibus Tales Of The Dying Earth. I feel like kicking Cugel's ass, for everywhere he comes, he leaves a path of destruction, death, ... has no respect for customs, profites from others' actions, and yet, one can't help feel to choose his side too when he's cornered. On the other hand, in the end you sort of get the message: what goes around, comes around. Or, don't seek personal revenge, because that is not going to end the circle or spiral. On the contrary, it might get worse. All in all, another nice read, though less exciting (and more nerve-wrecking) than "The Dying Earth", hence only 7/10.

  • Ben
    2019-05-27 15:27

    The book is written in an extravagantly fluid style which employs a great breath of language and vocabulary, and this ornate style doesn’t end with the narration but extends into each and every character that has a voice. From the grand wizards who rule the future earth under the dwindling sun to half humanoid-half crustacean creatures with childish voices, they all speak with the same elaborate tongue. This over the top style of the book is what gives us the fantastic world Vance has created. Because of the descriptive rich language used the landscapes become these lush ethereal gems in the mind’s eye. But it is also the core of its tongue-in-cheek humour. As characters are in complete dire-straits running away from creatures of dread they can give full blown dialogues deliberating on their situation. The story follows Cugel after an attempted robbery of Iucounu, the Laughing Magician. As an act of clemency instead of casting the “Charm of Forlorn Encystment” which thrusts the victim forty-five miles beneath the earth in a capsule for the remainder of their lives, Iucounu asks Cugel to fetch purple cusps which are in the mainly unpopulated north. So as Cugel doesn’t simply run off once he is out of the wizards reach, Iucounu attaches a crablike creature to Cugel’s liver which will cause agonizing pain to Cugel if he deviates too much from his task. And after giving him a few things to help him on his journey he sends him off. The rest of the book chronicles the misadventures of Cugel trying to return alive to seek his vengeance on Iucounu, who he has seen to have wronged him. Along the way he will be sent back in time, loop-hole his way out of curses, cross desert’s riding strange beasts created by an ancient wizard and even more equally bizarre tasks. The books protagonist Cugel the Clever is the perfect example of an anti-hero. At no point throughout the entire plot does he show any heroic qualities. Instead he lies, cheats and steals his way through this epic journey of self-induced circumstance. But what he lacks in honesty and courage he makes up in, as the name would suggest, “cleverness”; though at some points it is his overbearing trust in his own smarts which gets him into the worst/hilarious predicaments. I really loved this book from its range of eccentric characters to sometimes jaw dropping descriptions; this novel was a pleasure to escape with. I preferred it to the first book “The Dying Earth” which had a few different stylistic changes in each different story, but I felt that the style was completely solid throughout “The Eyes of the Overworld”, never wavering. It is a work of humane craftsmanship and I’m looking forward to finishing the series.The Dying Earth Series as a whole has quite an interesting number of influences which might surprise some people. So I thought it might be worth mentioning a few before wrapping up the review. It deeply affected the currently widely popular writer George RR Martin. The extremely widely played roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons magic system is almost identical to the one in The Dying Earth (that a wizard can only memorize a certain amount of spells and must rest before being able to use them again). And that the notorious “Grue” from the influential text-based adventure game “Zork” has its origins in the series.Favourite quote(s): “For the first time Cugel looked towards the cliffs which rose to the west, and now the sense of deja-vu was stronger than ever. Cugel pulled at his chin in puzzlement. The time was a million years previous to that other occasion on which he had seen the cliffs, and hence, by definition, must be the first. But it was also the second time, for he well remembered his initial experience of the cliffs. On the other hand, logic of time could not be contravened, and by such reckoning this view preceded the other. A paradox, thought Cugel: a puzzle indeed! Which experience had provided the background to the poignant sense of familiarity he had felt on both occasions?…Cugel dismissed the subject as unprofitable…” – pg 122“The twisted turrets of green glass rose against the dark blue sky, scarletsunlight engaging itself in the volutes. Cugel paused, made a careful appraisal of the countryside. The Xzan flowed past without a sound. Nearby, half-concealed among black poplars, pale green larch, drooping pall-willow, was a village – a dozen stone huts inhabited by bargemen and tillers of the river terraces: folk engrossed in their own concerns.” – pg 8

  • Alfredo Amatriain
    2019-06-07 14:44

    The second book of the Dying Earth series, published 16 years after the first. And oh, how much the quality of Vance's prose improved in these years.The backdrop is the same as the first Dying Earth book, but here we have a single story following the long journey of a single character, instead of a collection of unconnected short stories. The tone is very similar to what probably was the best story in the first Dying Earth book, "Liane the Wayfarer"; the main character is a greedy, mischievous and cowardly rogue, the eponymous Cugel, who constantly gets in trouble trying to cheat others of their valuables. Only Cugel is not as clever or charming as he believes, and he's cheated as often as he cheats others. Still he goes on oblivious to the fact that most of the troubles he finds himself in are caused by his own attempts at skullduggery.Vance as a writer has improved immensely here. The descriptions flow, even if dialogues sometimes are a bit stiff. The worst parts of the book are still vastly better than the worst stories of the first book, which had some disappointing stories. Following the misadventures of the unlucky Cugel is always entertaining and funny, even if it's often predictable how the next reversal of his fortune will strike.The book is a fix-up, originally published as self-contained short stories, and the book suffers because of it. There is only a flimsy excuse for an overarching plot, instead every chapter is a totally different misadventure for Cugel, and the individual chapters feel disjointed, with plot connections that feel a bit forced. There is no real structure to the whole book, no character progression; the reason for Cugel's long trip is just a vague excuse to join individual misadventures. It's better to keep this in mind and not to expect much in the way of plot; still, each individual chapter is very much enjoyable and funny.