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The Worm Ouroboros (Forgotten Books) [Paperback]

Eric Rucker Eddison
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 May 2008

"The Worm Ourorobos is second only to the Lord of the Rings in the pantheon of 20th century English fantasy. E.R. Eddison, who moved in the same literary circles as Tolkien, was praised by Tolkien as "The greatest and most convincing writer of 'invented worlds' that I have read".

The Worm Ourorbos was originally published in a very limited and now very rare edition in 1922 (a used first edition recently listed for $3,750). Eddison wrote three sequels set in roughly the same universe, but none of them have the sustained pacing and invention of Ouroboros.

Before diving in, there are a few things to be aware of. The rich language Eddison uses is based on Tudor and Jacobean English, with some modern anachronisms; it may take some getting used to, and occasionally a trip to the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. The narrator, one Lessingham, who appears in a very brief framing sequence, disappears a few dozen pages in. The book is set on Mercury; however, keep in mind this is not science fiction, so this is not literally the planet Mercury. Eddison on several occasions in the body of the book calls the world 'Middle Earth', and the setting is recognizably the Midgard of the Norse myths and sagas, although for some unexplained reason the denizens worship the Greek pantheon. The cast of characters, like Tolkien, are principally masculine, albeit with a couple of standout female leads. And lastly the various nationalities (Demons, Witches, Pixies, Imps, etc.) are not really separate species as in Tolkien; they are all essentially humans." (Quote from sacred-texts.com)

About the Publisher

Forgotten Books is a publisher of historical writings, such as: Philosophy, Classics, Science, Religion and Mythology. http://www.forgottenbooks.org

Forgotten Books is about sharing knowledge, not about making money. Our books are priced at wh

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Product details

  • Paperback: 458 pages
  • Publisher: Forgotten Books (7 May 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1606201751
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606201756
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 501,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In 1922, Eddison published his first novel The Worm Ourobouros, a novel of daring adventures and dastardly treachery set in a never-never-land on Mercury; his four novels channelled the evolution of genre fantasy, not least by being much admired by both Lewis and Tolkien. The gallant and noble lords of Demonland are threatened by an assortment of villains--the various kings Gorice of Witchland and the thuggish generals of their court, aided and abetted by the compulsively treacherous Lord Gro; Gro is one of the more fascinating villains in fantasy: charismatic, intelligent, sensitive and flawed. Eddison was obsessed with the poetry and prose of the Elizabethan era--not trusting his own poetic skills, he simply has his characters quote sonnets and epigrams and ballads, some of them famous; when his characters deliver heroic defiance or counsel betrayal, it is always in a rhetoric that for once sounds like what the characters of a heroic age might say. What makes The Worm Ourobouros a classic fantasy is, quite simply, that it has some of the best battle scenes, some of the more terrifying scenes of magic and some of the most tender love scenes that the genre has ever achieved--it is nice to have it back again. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

SALES POINTS * #3 in the Millennium Fantasy Masterworks series, a library of the most original and influential fantasy ever written * 'It is very rarely that a middle-aged man finds an author who gives him the sense of having opened a door on wonder. Eddison's heroic romances are works, first and foremost, of art' C.S. Lewis * 'A masterpiece of hedonism . . . can still shock an audience' The Encyclopedia of Fantasy --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy novel of epic proportions 5 Feb 2003
Format:Hardcover
On far off Mercury, there lie many nations. Paramount among these is the kingdom of Witchland, which is ruled by the terrible King Gorice. Standing proud against Witchland is Demonland, wherein lives a race of heroes. Among their leaders are the lords Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco, and Brandoch Daha. With great valor, these Demons wage a war of heroic proportions against Gorice, a war equal to that which the Greeks fought at Troy. This is a story of dark magic and great valor.
This was a rather flowery summation for me, but this book rather brought it out in me. The book is written using archaic words and phrases, which means that it is not for the faint of heart, but the gist of the meaning is always easy to determine. The use of the man Lessingham in the first few chapters is poorly done, but is quickly forgotten in the reading of the book.
Overall, let me say that this book does not read like any other fantasy book I have ever read, not even Lord of the Rings. The author's use of the language, combined with style of telling, gives the story the feel of an epic, such as the Iliad. This book is quite rightly considered one of the classics of fantasy literature, and it is something that every fantasy-lover should read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
"The Worm Ouroboros" is one of the main, if generally unread, underpinnings of the modern fantasy genre. It was written early in the Twentieth Century by a man profoundly out of sympathy with that century and with ours.

By profession, he was a bureaucrat. By inclination, he was a mighty-thewed hero. He was an outstanding success at neither.

This is a book of soaring ambition and grievous faults. Its language is spiky, ornate Jacobean, with its every word intentionally high-flown. Its structure is shockingly inept. The clumsiness and, indeed, pointlessness of the opening chapter--the "induction"--is almost guranteed to turn away most potential readers. Eddison's use of such names as Imps and Demons and Witches to designate his warring states is simply childish.

And yet ... there is true power here, even majesty. Was ever there so admirable, brave and noble a blackhearted villain as King Gorice XII? Was ever a band of virtuous heroes so obnoxious a gang of self-centered, overdressed, stuffed shirts as the Lords Juss, Goldry Blusco, Spitfire and Brandoch Daha? Is there a grander image in all the literature of fantasy than that of three armies perpetually doomed to pursue each other across the forbidding desert? And the ending of the book, utterly preposterous and yet wonderful at the same time: "Lord, it is an Ambassador from Witchland and his train. He craveth present audience"!

This is a book for a reader who seeks a challenge. I speak words of high praise for it when I assure you that "The Worm Ouroboros" is neither easy nor a fast read. For those who accept its challenges, though, it will serve as a base mark against which to measure all that is fantastical.

Five stars as bright as those "escarbuncles, great as pumpkins, hung down the length of [Lord Juss' presence chamber], and nine fair moonstones standing in order on silver pedestals between the pillars and the dais."
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Gem 3 May 2009
Format:Paperback
I primarily wish to provide some balance to the gushing prose that is heaped upon this work. It *is* a good book, but it is certainly not what you expect it to be. It is a dream sequence, non-linear, and fragmented. Yet for all that, it was well worth the effort it took to read it.

But it does take effort. Eddison (like Tolkein) was writing to the audience of a different age. Unlike Tolkein, he was less successful. Where Tolkein's prose served the descriptive purposes of a grand historical epic, Eddison revels in word-play for it's own sake. Yet it does have many bright moments, not the leat of which is the tail-eating finale (one has to suspect it is also the source of the title).

It's hard to paint a picture of a middle-ground opinion. I liked the book, but it's definitely not of universal appeal.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy novel of epic proportions 12 Dec 2005
Format:Paperback
On far off Mercury, there lie many nations. Paramount among these is the kingdom of Witchland, which is ruled by the terrible King Gorice. Standing proud against Witchland is Demonland, wherein lives a race of heroes. Among their leaders are the lords Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco, and Brandoch Daha. With great valor, these Demons wage a war of heroic proportions against Gorice, a war equal to that the Greeks fought at Troy. This is a story of dark magic and great valor.
This was a rather flowery summation for me, but this book rather brought it out in me. The book is written using archaic words and phrases, which means that it is not for the faint of heart, but the gist of the meaning is always easy to determine. The use of the man Lessingham in the first few chapters is poorly done, but is quickly forgotten in the reading of the book.
Overall, let me say that this book does not read like any other fantasy book I have ever read, not even Lord of the Rings. The author's use of the language, combined with style of telling, gives the story the feel of an epic, such as the Iliad. This book is quite rightly considered one of the classics of fantasy literature, and it is something that every fantasy-lover should read.
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Was this review helpful to you?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best fantasy books ever written 29 Nov 2002
By S. Flaherty VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The Lord of the Rings has had such an effect upon Fantasy, particularily Epic Fantasy, that a lot of people consider it to have been invented then. The existence of authors such as Eddison, Dunsany and others refutes that and yet they have never been as popular as Tolkein or even Lewis with his insipidly bland Narnia series and so are often unread. The Fantasy Masterworks series aims to change that and a good thing too.
I first was directed to this book by a throwaway remark by Fritz Leiber in the introduction to his "Swords and Deviltry", the first book in his Lankhmar series (reprinted in the Fantasy Masterwork series as "The First Book of Lankhmar", and well worth getting, another 5 star book but Sword and Sorcery, not Epic Fantasy, so different in tone.) Because Leiber referred to it, I assumed it must be good and so I tracked it down and read it, c. 20 years ago. I was immediately impressed by how good a book it was.
It can be criticised. The book is written in Old (thou, thee, spake unto him, etc) the putative setting on Mercury is ridiculous given modern knowledge, the names of the Nations as Witches, Demons, Imps, Pixies, etc, names drawn from myth and legend yet having no connection at all to their legendary source - all these are faults, and there are others. Tolkein criticised Eddison's naming schemes as being ridiculous and having no structure (read LOTR to see how it's possible to go a little too far the other way) and he is right. And the ending is terrible.
So why the 5 stars? Because if ever a book was greater than the sum of its parts, was able to transcend its flaws and become literature, this is it. It is quite simply one of the most magnificent works of Epic Fantasy ever written.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantasy without Equal
I first read an excerpt from this book some 50 years ago and by chance heard it mentioned as an aside on a TV programme recently. Read more
Published 8 days ago by smiley494
2.0 out of 5 stars Read this once when you're young.
I first read "The Worm Ourobouros" in my early twenties, and loved it. Admittedly I was smoking a lot of weed in those far-off days, so my critical faculties were not terribly... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Eustace Phenackertiban
2.0 out of 5 stars good book, terrible print
the review title pretty much covers it.

the book is good. won't say more since i haven't finished reading it, plus i don't do book reviews (i'm neither qualified nor is... Read more
Published 18 months ago by perishedinflames
3.0 out of 5 stars The Worm Oroborus
This is a book I bought because I had a second hand paperback copy of it, that was falling apart. I had not yet read all of it and though I found it interesting, this kindle... Read more
Published on 20 April 2012 by L. M. Ingle
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and in some ways terrible.
I first read this book this book when I was sixteen and loved it as intensely as only sixteen year olds love. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2012 by Ian Hodge
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid the Kindle edition
The transcription for this Kindle edition is extremely careless, with misprints on practically every page. Worse than amateurish. Read more
Published on 30 Dec 2011 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Flaunting its flaws
In an age when fantasy writers seem to ration their invention and squeeze every last drop out of any idea to produce thick multi-volume "epics" (Brook, Fiest and Jordan to name... Read more
Published on 29 Jan 2010 by Good Book Fan
5.0 out of 5 stars Now this book is a MASTERPIECE!!!!
The single most original most brilliant work of art that fantasy has produced.The language is richly evocative,the descriptions without paralell,the characters superbly drawn. Read more
Published on 23 Nov 2009 by Sam I am
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of serious study
Eddison's classic tends to produce highly polarized opinions. People either love it (warts and all) or are turned off by it. Read more
Published on 4 Oct 2009 by K. Metcalfe
4.0 out of 5 stars Yeah, its pretty amazing
I was lucky enough to have Clive Barker himself recommend this to me many moons ago, and i found a cracked, musty copy of the 70's edition in a second hand bookshop. Read more
Published on 10 Jun 2006 by mingo
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