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on 19 November 2000
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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on 1 January 2016
I am not a massive fantasy fan but then Viriconium could be seen as science fiction being set in a far future earth were technology has mostly faded away yet life very much still goes on.

Viriconium does not like being defined at all though and in other stories it seems to shift slightly to become somewhere a little different, a world where even its very name slides elsewhere and elsewhen.

In the last two stories in this collection the city seems to crumble into a sort of contact with our world set at the time the stories were written. At the same in those last two tales Viriconium’s very substance fades. One character speculates perhaps it is because its deep age is wearing out its hold on reality. Athough the city fades from the minds of some of its own characters, Harrison’s writing is powerful enough to etch the city on many of we readers' minds.
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on 16 April 2016
Mr Harrison's Viriconium is a classic within the genre - a fore-runner of so many that copied or alluded to his mighty imagination. Read this book.
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on 28 November 2015
An interesting book, well written, interesting cover. Would read again.
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on 1 October 2015
I read these stories 30 years ago and was glad to find them again
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 29 June 2006
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. They are much stranger, and focussed mainly on Viriconium, as is the last novel (`In Viriconium') Don't try to work out exactly what order these stories go in because it's just not like that. The same characters appear in what can only, I think, be accounted for as alternate versions of the same worlds. Characters who are heroes in one story show up as decidedly shabby in another. Even the names shift (so, Uroconium rather than Viriconium).

And what's going on with the repeated scenes? Events in one book are echoed, in a different context, elsewhere. For example, the encounter with St Elmo Buffin and his experimental telescope in "Storm of Wings" and a similar scene with Emmet Buffo in "In Viriconium" - similar down to the unsatisfactory snack of fish given to the visitors. Or the descriptions of the Mosaic Lane baths in "Lord Cromis and the Lamia" and in "A Young man's Journey...". Then there is the repeated theme of folk ritual - often involving dancers dressed as animals or with animal heads.

I'm not sure exactly what is happening here, but for me, the way the various stories intersect, reinforce and contradict one another recalls a mythology, or a body of folk tales, rather than a single narrative. It's as if the whole thing has grown up rather than being written, or the stories have been reconstructed from earlier versions, from underlying texts.

At the end, a link emerges between Viriconium and our own time. Its nature is enigmatic, though, and as with much else, we are left to wonder exactly what it means.

As other reviewers have pointed out this is a bleak world, a chilly place, an Earth almost wound down. But it is far from depressing. The short stories in particular portray a world of intense cultural creativity - they mostly revolve around dancers, musicians, poets and artists. And the description of the city is captivating and real - convincing not so much because of what is said but because of what isn't. You would only leave out so much - or allow so much contradiction - if you were describing a real place, wouldn't you? It must be true, or it would look more perfect.

Really, really worth a go.
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on 23 May 2001
This is a collection of Harrison's Viriconium writings. It is definitely a book of two halves - In Viriconium and Viriconium Nights are superb - they're atmospheric, evocative and enthralling and I've re-read them a number of times. The first two parts though are fairly average Fantasy which are okay but not memorable. This collection is superb value and is worth it for the last half and I believe it may be the only collection currently in print. Harrison is undoubtedly one of Britain's most gifted writers and is severly underrated.
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VINE VOICEon 11 March 2008
Now why would someone post a review of a book after admitting they have only read the first stories....unusual...why bother?
What is unusual too, but in a positive way is the strange and compelling world that Mr. Harrison draws you into. The first time I read it I couldn't put this book down from Lords of Misrule onwards. Admittedly The Pastel City is a little derivative of the sword and sorcery (or whatever you wish it to be called) genre but it's still worth reading to see how some of characters introduced fit into later tales I guess.
I still love to read it maybe once a year (or a little over) cover to cover, I love the bizarre world and strange folk and almost claustrophobic feel of the book. It's one of those things in life I reckon, you either love it or hate it....a Marmite book haha!
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on 28 November 2013
After glowing reports from my hero, Ian M Banks, thought I'd try this. Frankly, a tad disappointing. Maybe I'm just not wired correctly but while the "imagery" of a post- industrial wasteland planet was good, I felt the stories were rather...... disjointed and more like the wanderings of an undoubtedly creative mind, while lacking cohesion.
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VINE VOICEon 22 July 2013
These are fantasy stories of which I thought "Pastel City" was by far and away the best. It flows well has twists and a master swordsman with a queen in trouble who needs saving it also has a dark side. Unfortunately I thought that the other stories did not live up to the promise of Pastel City. OK to pass some time, some 550 pages in length.
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