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Customer Review

Tellingly, Harrison's least accessible work gets better reviews here than the most mainstream (in so far as that word is at all applicable - I'm thinking of Light, for example). If you had a hard time with Light or any other Harrison novels this may not be the book for you, nor is it the best place to start, in my opinion.
The Viriconium stories are collected here in their (very near) entirety, and what an amazing collection it is. Set in the far, far future (possibly a billion years, who knows?), civilisation has died back to a uniquely twisted version of the medieval past, and its weary inhabitants are awaiting the end of the world. The novels are laid out in what appears to be chronological order, and as you move towards the end the tone becomes increasingly less straightforward and more hallucinatory. This is, among many other things, an extremely powerful meditation on death and decay. The ageing protagonists are beset by forces they cannot understand, they lose their memories, it becomes clear that they are the last generation with any knowledge of what has gone before, as the world enters a final age of ignorance. Depressing? Maybe. But Viriconium is written with lyrical and stylish prose with more economy and gusto than 10 average authors (of SF or otherwise); it's tremendously evocative of place and character. Readers who like to know what is going on in their novels from the off and follow such outmoded notions as "characters" participating in "events" that really "happen" in any meaningful sense should get with the times - it's the end of the world! And this incredible book communicates that on multiple levels. This is post-novel literature, and it would be ahead of its time if it were written today, let alone 30 odd years ago. Brilliant.
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3.7 out of 5 stars