I’ve read Jack Vance before. I know he wrote some very cool Science Fiction. Unfortunately, his Dying Earth stuff does not really click with me. Because I know he’s hugely influential, I have tried to give it a try a couple times. The first book, The Dying Earth, was a loose collection of short stories. There are some cool ideas, but not a great deal of substance. The second book is, ostensibly, a novel. But it’s mostly just a few episodic stories about a protagonist. It doesn’t build much in the way of character or plot. And the lead, Cugel, is one of the least likable protagonists I’ve ever come across.
If Elric is an anti-hero, I don’t even know what to call Cugel. He’s a jerk to everyone, never learns anything, and basically never changes. While the setting features some interesting twists on genre, that can only carry a reader so far. You can find little nuggets that have inspired those who followed, but for this reader, it wasn’t worth the sifting. None of this is improved by the oddly archaic language, especially the dialog.
I just can’t imagine who I’d recommend this book to. I was figuring that I’d eventually move on to the third book, but truth be told, I really don’t want to. I recommend giving this one a pass, and that you try something else from Vance, instead. I really enjoyed his Planet of Adventure novels and Big Planet, among others.