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Time and the Gods Six Story Anthology (Featuring A Dreamer's Tales, The Gods of Pegana, Time and the Gods, The Book of Wonder, The Sword of Welleran and The Last Book of Wonder) Paperback – 16 Mar 2000
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Time and the Gods collects in one volume the short stories of Lord Dunsany, some of the most influential fantasies ever written, affecting. Among others, the works of James Branc Cabell, HP Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Michael Swanwick and Jack Vance. In these stories we find out what lies beyond the edge of the world and what happened to the jeweller Thangobrind there; champions return from beyond the grave to save a city lost in its dreams and a young warrior goes up against the sorcerer who inhabits the Fortress Unvanquishable Save for the sword Sacnoth. Dunsany's stories have the jewelled perfection of dreams and the sly malicious wit of after dinner conversation; his surreal imagination is as capable of sending a pirate ship trekking across the Sahara as it is of having a man sell his soul for three deadly jokes. These are stories in which time is the enemy and the gods as much victims of it as humanity, in which the tragedy of dreamers is that eventually they must wake. This is a definitive collection of work which has been unavailable for many years; it is one of the essential books in any fantasy collection. --Roz Kaveney
The definitive collection work by the forefather of modern fantasy.See all Product description
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Many volumes of work claim to have influenced Tolkien in his creation of Middle-Earth and Dunsany has been cited as one of these influences. I am a big Tolkien fan so I decided to give this a go. I have discovered since, however, that perhaps William Morris and others were more influential and having read this book I would tend to agree. I am aware that Dunsany did write other volumes involving elves and the like, but this collection has few similarities to Tolkien's work beyond the first few chapters of the Silmarillion perhaps.
The book is not a continual story as such but a number of short passages that express Dunsany's ideas about creation and prophecy in a mythical world. This is not to say the ideas here are bad ideas - just a little underdeveloped. Very few characters are introduced or developed here, and any idea of a plot is almost nonexistent. Personally, I found these ideas stimulating and exciting - but then I do like that kind of thing!
Dunsany was a complex character himself and lived a busy and active life. He had a fervent interest in Greek classics, which is often evident here. This collection seems to be a series of extracts collated from a notebook: jottings laid down during his time in the trenches, between an innings of cricket or during his game hunts in the African bush perhaps. So if you are looking for a good story with a beginning and an end, and peopled by developed characters in a complex and interesting narrative, you may well do better looking elsewhere (William Morris's Roots of the Mountain does offer these themes, albeit in a rather antiquated form... and it is, perhaps, more Tolkienesque).
If however this seems like it might be for you then you may do better to search out another volume as this particular edition is riddled with proofing errors. I also expected a better binding for the price. A more comprehensive 'collection' of Dunsany's work will also afford you a far more rounded view of the man's talents.
My rating is based more on this edition's shortcomings, rather than Dunsany's achievement here.
Dunsany has long been cited as an influence on numerous fantasy writers. This Victorian adventurer had an interesting and remarkable life, and this collection of fiction is reflective of that world view.
It is unfortunate that the weakest stories of this collections are the first a reader encounters, because if you do not persevere, you are in danger of missing out on some great fiction. For every thirteen at table, there are five stories in the mould of Carcassonne. And there in lies the crux of this book - at times it can be a frustrating read, at others, you stumble across a hidden gem like the highwayman, inspiring you to want to write your own collections of short stories.
If the mark of a great short story collection is to inspire the reader to pen their own, then Time and the Gods is a roar away success, its strengths, which are legion, more than compensates for any weaker stories.
This is unfair, in my opinion, Dunsany was a very original and prolific writer and the short story form suited his style perfectly. The early works, included in this excellent anthology, may seem slight, the tales from "The Gods Of Pegana" are startlingly short, but even these are perfect blends of humour and fantasy.
The later, longer stories form "The Sword Of Welleran" are brilliant examples of the art of constructing short stories. For me, very few authors in this form equal Dunsany's skill...perhaps H G Wells and T H White could compare, I can honestly think of no other examples.
Characterisation and dialogue are not Dunsany's strengths, his longer works like "The King Of Elfland's Daughter" show this, but his ideas and plotting and evocative descriptions of place are all second to none. In these short stories, these qualities are richly shown.