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Compleat Traveller in Black Paperback – 9 Apr 1987

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Methuen Publishing Ltd; New edition edition (9 April 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0413149102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0413149107
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,600,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
A collection of linked short stories concerning the enigmatic ( and eponymous ) Traveller in Black, whose job it is to bring order to a chaotic world. One of my favourite fantasy books: dry, witty tales, somewhat whimsical at the start and of a much darker hue towards the end of the book. The humour is often black, sometimes macabre. The central character elegant and powerful yet limited by his very nature and the terms of his existance. The secondary characters are often just sketched in, yet seem to have depth and feeling. A very cerebral book, there's little 'action' as such - the only battle is more of a farce than anything else, yet world shaking events do occur.
It's hard to convey the flavour of this book, it really is unlike anything else your likely to read in the genre. So then: a great book, one of the best fantasy books you're ever likely to read....and not a Dark Lord, elf or dwarf in sight.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I couldnt recommend this book highly enough, its my first encounter with Brunner and I've not been disappointed.

In fact its a little difficult to put into words just how readable this book is, a deceptively simple tale of a order versus chaos in a world evolving away from the later, its immensely engaging and witty.

Characterisation is brilliant, pace perfect and all accomplished with a wonderful economy of words. There is just the right amount of elaboration, framing and scene setting, brief descriptions of character, landscape and setting are achieved without any feeling that anything is lacking in depth or feeling. I was surprised how when almost incidential characters met with darkly comic consequences or fate that it provoked sympathy or sentiment from me the reader.

The central character exhibits a kind of heart warming world weariness and stoicism, I was sorry when I reached the end of the book. I can heartily recommend this book to everyone, it deserves to reach a wide readership beyond the fans of the fantasy genre. I hunted this book out following my reading of Tales Of The Dying Earth (Fantasy Masterworks) and Three Hearts & Three Lions (Fantasy Masterworks), its a lot more like the second and if you liked that book you'll love this one.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a minor masterpiece. The short stories in this collection were published individually through the 1960s and up to the late 70s and they are as relevant now as when they were first written. Although classed as fantasy, these stories are more in the nature of philosophical tales with a metaphysical theme. The stories deal with order and chaos, human frailty, greed, lust etc but most of all, they demonstrate that man, as a species, does not understand what he is doing. John Brunner seems to have drawn on classical authors for his inspiration including Ovid and Virgil but there are also nods in the direction of Darwin, Nietzsche and possibly even Freud. I have read this book many times and will return to it again. Often I have seen or heard an event on TV or in the street and muttered to myself, 'Yes, the Traveller was right!'
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It took me a long time to read this book since I kept returning to passages on previous pages to savour them again. I would stop reading, put the book down and look at it, thinking about the ideas it contained and not wanting to continue reading since I was loathed to finish it. The last time this happened to me was when I read Perec's life a users manual.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars 20 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ending the age of magic 21 Sept. 2006
By wiredweird - Published on
Format: Paperback
That's the job of the magical Traveller, to use his magic to end magic. That underlying paradox provides the premise of this connected set of short stories. He travels the world at intervals, surveying the realm of unreason on each trip, and taking satisfaction in watching it shrink. Where he can, he applies his subtle magic in support of Reason's expanding domain.

Brunner explores Chaos's control and degradation of humankind in several of its ways. The first story tweaks mindless religion. It might even show how one can choose atheism, after encountering a god face to face and finding him unworthy of belief. Another of these gentle stories undermines magical thinking - again, not because it fails, but because its success is not worth having. And so with the faith in luck that makes Las Vegas the holy city of Chance, and so the unwarranted sense of entitlement that demands ever-richer result for ever-poorer effort at earning it, and so for blind pursuit of power irrespective of the cost or of who pays it. Since these stories are built around layers of paradox, Brunner's mechanism is itself a paradox, the smallest of magics to achieve the largest of consequences.

Brunner was one of the best SF writers of the 70s and 80s, author of "Shockwave Rider" and other stories of chilling prescience. Among all of his writings, though, "Traveller in Black" may be his finest and most under-stated, under-rated achievements. These stories have held up well over the thirty years since they were written; since they pass in a distant place and age, there is little in them that can look dated. I recommend these stories to any thinking reader.

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A being with a singular nature ... 18 Oct. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The eponymous traveller winds his way through a strange and bizarre world, maybe of the future, maybe of the past, 'tidying up' the chaotic beings he finds there - imprisoning capricious and vicious elementals, punishing the wicked and granting the wishes of the high- and low- born.
.. but none of the recipients of the wishes get *exactly* what they want ...
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The existential classic... 14 July 2004
By Addison Phillips - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you know John Brunner's other work, well, this isn't like that. Traveller in Black is a collection of several mid-length stories that fit together in a progression. The nameless eponymous traveller, an agent of order, goes about imprisoning various chaotic entities and granting certain wishes. This works on several levels to give you allegories for the unexamined life, as well as a gripping adventure yarn.
In some ways, this book is a bookend to Larry Niven's "The Magic Goes Away" (and various sequels, etc.). The flavor and style is similar, although this book is very different. In any event, this is one of those touchstone books of fantasy: you'll see where other writers (including Niven's works cited above!) have "borrowed" some of the dazzling images in Brunner's classic. This gem is a great read and I recommend it highly.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy classic set in the morning of the world 3 Sept. 2009
By Jvstin - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although I've read some of Brunner's SF, I had not heard of this book until I started playing the White Wolf RPG game Exalted. That book lists The Compleat Traveller in Black as an inspiration, and so, even though it is out of print, I was inspired to eventually find a copy of this book and read it.

It feels very much like some of Moorcock's Melnibonean work. The world is young, and still in many ways in the grip of the elder era of Chaos. The laws of science, logic and reason are still not in full evidence, with the laws of magic and chaos still trying to hold their ground.

Enter into this realm the Traveller in Black. The Compleat Traveller in Black collects a number of stories Brunner wrote about a mysterious figure who works for Order and reason. In Moorcock terms, he is a definite champion for Law. The traveler encounters forces of elemental chaos, and by actions both subtle and gross, by himself and through sometimes unwitting accomplices,works to impose reason on the world. He often does this by granting wishes. One to a customer, but the results are not often what the wisher expects. Sometimes, not even the Traveler himself is fully aware of the consequences of the wishes...

The stories have a unity of voice and vision even though they were written over a period of twenty years. The traveler is a character difficult to get to know, but we get an interesting portrait of him and the world he is helping fashion. We see through the stories how his actions shape the world around him, diminishing its magic, increasing its stability. And indeed, in the end, he creates a world that not only does not need him, but is positively opposed to his further existence.

I found this an interesting counterpoint to Vance's Dying Earth, set at the opposite end of time. I think the Dying Earth is a better realized milieu, overall, but certainly, many fantasy fans will enjoy this look at the morning of the world by Brunner.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable character 5 Feb. 2014
By John Shannonhouse - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Traveler in Black lives in a world of wild magic, and he seems to be one of the great immortal powers.

But his power is very limited.

He can grant wishes -- the wishes of other people, not his own. And he does, but usually not the way they expect. And he does it when they are not expecting it.

I am sure you have heard: "Be careful what you wish for. You might get it." The Traveler in Black is the personification of that statement.

Still, while he seems very impersonal, he also comes across as a GOOD person. The ones who suffer as a result of his granted wishes deserve it.

And as to leaving the world a better place -- he leaves the world a place with less magic. Every time he grants a wish, some great source of magic disappears. The final story helps explain his long journey.

The Traveler in Black has lived in my imagination for a long time now. He is a presence you cannot forget, unique in fantasy.

Ages ago I introduced him into my Dungeons and Dragons game. It was interesting to say how carefully players started making sure they did not phrase stupid things as wishes, and how often they still failed in doing so.
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