Once upon a time, I viewed science fiction and fantasy as two distinctly separate genres, but that all changed once I happened upon the works of Jack Vance. With Tales of the Dying Earth, Vance made me realize that the two could, in a way, work together, and I had to hunt down more examples. I found them, plus so much more, in THE JACK VANCE TREASURY, a hardcover collection packed full of novellas and short stories. Included are several more sci-fi/fantasy blends, such as "The Dragon Masters", "The Miracle Workers", "The Moon Moth", and "The Last Castle". These stories are much stronger examples of genre-blending than what is presented in the Dying Earth tales, and they are truly outstanding.
In addition, several of Vance's straight sci-fi tales are included, such as "Sail 25", "The Gift of Gab", "Noise", "The Kokod Warriors", and "The Mitr". "The Men Return", "The New Prime", and "The Secret" could also be considered sci-fi, but not in the standard sense. Also included are three of the aforementioned Dying Earth tales - "Liane the Wayfarer", "Guyal of Sfere", and "Morreion" - as well as "Overworld", "The Sorcerer Pharesm", and "The Bagful of Dreams" (three excerpts from the Cugel adventures).
As this collection includes work from a approximate 20-year period [1951 - 1973?], the quality varies, but there's really not a weak story in the bunch. They're all extremely creative and are definitely not your run-of-the-mill filler material. Many of the stories in this book eschew theatrics or action in favor of weighty topics: genetic engineering, language, the scientific method, and alien psychology, just to name a few. One thing that I admire about Vance's style is how richly he fleshes out his characters and concepts - the man is a "world builder" in the truest sense of the term, creating fascinating alien cultures and settings. As a result, I was pulled deeply into these stories, and once they ended, I had a hard time leaving. Another thing I admire about his style, and this is made all the more amazing when considering the first, is its brevity - many of the concepts in these stories could have easily been expanded into turgid full-length novels by a lesser writer, but Vance gives the reader just the right amount of material to make his point and then moves on to something else. I appreciate this highly, as it's a skill that many of today's authors unfortunately lack. Each story contains an afterword of sorts by Vance, a few of which provide insight to what was just read; however, the bulk of them appear to be random quotes.
This book has apparently entered the realm of remainders, so you can probably score a mint copy for a fraction of the cover price if you cast your net widely enough. Don't be tempted to pay inflated prices!