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Viriconium: "Pastel City", "Storm of Wings", "In Viriconium", "Viriconium Nights" (FANTASY MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 13 Jul 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (13 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857989953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857989953
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 129,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The world that Harrison depicts is intricate and authentic, peopled with a multitude of strange yet lifelike characters--a combination which serves to make his richly imagined empire of Viriconium feel very real indeed.... This omnibus collection from the author of Light" "is canon-reading for those who wish to know the genre's roots, as well as the heights, to which it can aspire."--"Kirkus Reviews," starred review

Book Description

Viriconium, the Pastel City, was the last bastion of the civilised world . . .

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By D. Harris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Jun 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, I should say that this book - actually, three novels and a number of short stories - is an excellent read. Secondly, it isn't exactly what you might expect from the Amazon blurb - the text about the murderous nightly games in Viriconium. That comes from the start of the first story in the volume, "Viriconium (K)nights". It suggests that these are stories of of no-holds-barred rivalry between picturesque factions of killers - you know, intrigue, fights, twists of fate, betrayal, all seething beneath the surface of the city.

Actually, it's not like that, it's much better.

At the surface level, the world of Viriconium is apparently our world tens of thousands of years in the future. Industrial civilization has risen and fallen, leaving its name (which nobody can read) in the stars - and a poisoned and depleted world, where people survive as best they can, scavenging from the past and nursing bits of decaying technology. The geography is vague (no hand drawn maps!) and all identifiable landmarks have gone, apart from the names of some (real) places and features (Dunham Massey; Rannoch Moor; Lymm) and (especially) Viriconium street names: it's fun spotting the literary or geographical allusions).

The first two novels (`Pastel City' and `Storm of Wings') explore the consequences of this and develop the idea in a number of ways, some subtle, some gross. While haunting in their atmosphere and very inventive, they are fairly conventional. Perhaps significantly, much of the action takes place far from Viriconium.

The short stories apparently fit between the novels and take a more personal, close up look at the lives of characters in this extraordinary world.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Nov 2000
Format: Paperback
In the first two books of this series, Harrison was attempting to write commercial fantasy somewhat at odds with his own talents and interests, more or less, as someone says, in the Moorcock mode. By the time he came to write In Viriconium and Viriconium Nights he had learned effectively that there was no point in his trying to write commercial fantasy because the fantasy he wrote wasn't commercial. I knew him slightly in Manchester, when he was writing in the basement of Savoy Books, who were essentially his patrons and great enthusiasts, who gave him the time and money to write In Viriconium, which they originally intended to publish but went bankrupt before they could do so. By freeing Harrison from the commercial restraints of the genre, Savoy allowed him to come into his own and produce the second two books in this volume, which in a sense are best read first, because this is invented-world fantasy about as far as you can take it and still have it bear any resemblance to the genre (upon which it comments so successfully). Harrison is not an under-rated writer, he is an under-published writer, and it is wonderful to see his work at last getting the status, respect and admiration it deserves. Jack Connolly.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Sep 2001
Format: Paperback
In Viriconium is one of the finest fantasy novels of the last thirty years. Heartbreaking in its realism, vicious in its satire, witty, observant, and stylistically in a class by itself, this is a book that can be reread again and again. The early Viriconium novels read like Moorcock pastiches but with a flair for vivid simile. They display an obvious impatience with the 'Fantasy' genre, but haven't quite found a way to dismantle it. In Viriconium however offered life in one of Calvino's Invisible Cities, a weird amalgam of Prague, late Victorian London, Paris, Yeats's Byzantium, and Venice. Harrison seems steeped in the English decadent writing of the fin-de-siecle, and there are echoes here of Wilde, Beardsley, Baron Corvo, Swinburne, Ernest Dowson and others. What emerges though is a powerfully original and intellectually challenging book that is far beyond the capabilities of most writers in the fantasy genre, let alone their readers, as can be seen from a certain review here.
Why MJH isn't better known, I have no idea. He's easily a better stylist than McEwan or Amis. Maybe he's just one of those like Christopher Priest whose books will always be caviare to the general. Buy this book and change your life.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Aug 2000
Format: Paperback
I have spent the last ten years desperately scouring second-hand bookstores for a copy of In Viriconium. While the first two novels in this volume initially seem to be little than above standard Moorcock, it is the third novel In Viriconium which completely and equivocably establishes Harrison's status as fantastist par excellence. A sublime and grotesque sensibility coupled with a deep and humane insight into matters of the heart. These themes are carried through in his later works like Climbers and Signs of Life. M. John Harrison is one of fantasy's supreme stylists, his language is elegaic and full of phrases that insinuate themselves in your mind like half-remembered dreams. He has achieved for fantasy in serious literature what J.G. Ballard achieved for science fiction: proof that writers of genuine merit and talent can begin in what seems like generic ghettos of fiction and create works whose depth and power is as important as any A.S. Byatt or Kazuo Ishiguro.
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