Reviews

Viriconium by M. John Harrison

ratgrrrl's review against another edition

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5.0

Truly spectacular and strange science fantasy!

The Pale City is wonderful, but A Storm of Wings is a poetic fever dream of sheer brilliance, which makes all the really great stuff that follows feel a little disappointing. But, this is all bloody brilliant and the first big work I've read the text of in many, many years due to my conditions, which was tough, but absolutely worth it!

thomasgoddard's review against another edition

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4.0

I highly recommend Viriconium if you want a novel that features a rich landscape populated with interesting characters. Its not quite Gormenghast, but it was fascinating and a really interesting way to blend two genres in a way that felt really compelling. So yeah, if you like Dune, you'll love this.

peapod_boston's review against another edition

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4.0

There's another kind of fantasy. One without borders. One without stable points of reference. One that deliberately resists our attempts to map it, to understand its cultures, to make guides to it. This is that kind of fantasy.

aaairm's review against another edition

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1.0

Man I wanted to like this so much ... The Pastel City was fantastic in its portrayal of a doomed and decaying society but the rest of the stories are so .. out there... Neil Gaiman's intro, where he describes the books as baroque and having a theme of escapes, pretty much sums it up.

whogivesabook's review against another edition

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4.0

I highly recommend Viriconium if you want a novel that features a rich landscape populated with interesting characters. Its not quite Gormenghast, but it was fascinating and a really interesting way to blend two genres in a way that felt really compelling. So yeah, if you like Dune, you'll love this.

vbroes's review against another edition

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5.0

Viriconium, a city--no, a plurality of cities--with parallel and intersecting timelines and characters as mercurial as the city itself, and the vicissitudes that befall it and its protean inhabitants are described beauteously in Harrison's delectable prose. Not recommended for amateurs of easy-reading high fantasy.

megapolisomancy's review against another edition

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2.0

I approached this expecting a more straightforward Moorcock-style pulpy adventure.

That was a mistake, and so I was very disappointed as the narrative (and characters, and world) disintegrated in a kind of dreamlike manner as the book progressed.

I'll get around to re-reading this sooner or later.

eigendecomp's review against another edition

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3.0

I liked "The Pastel City" a great deal. The rest of it felt to me like various shades and degrees of suppurating meh. "A Storm of Wings", in particular, felt like a pale imitation of "The Pastel City", but weak, wan, a bit unpleasant, and - worst of all - drawn-out and boring. I started skipping and quickly found myself just skipping to the end. Having reached the end, I felt a momentary urge to go back and read it all properly, but it passed very quickly. The rest I also skipped and skimmed at high speeds.

Now, I get it that the repetetiveness and pale-copyness are in fact part of the over-arching meta-point, I do, but it just didn't really work for me, except in a few isolated moments. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, pedestrian, philistine, but I like to have a proper plot that can be made sense of eventually.

Anyway, "The Pastel City" on its own is a solid 4.5 at least. The rest, like I said...

P.S.
Mr. Harrison's vocabulary is amazing, especially in words that pertain to shades and colours. I think I know my English pretty well - but, this, this was the true glimpse of a wholly different world for me.

P.P.S
Please read Charles Heywood's review. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2463645281
He sums it up admirably:

Unfortunately, the delicate and successful balance that Harrison achieves here, between reality and heroism, is destroyed in the sequels that Harrison wrote in the 1980s. These are awful books, full of squalor and nihilism, morbidly bizarre, totally lacking the heroic edge and flashes of faded beauty and glory that make the feeling of unalterable decline in "The Pastel City" bearable for both characters and reader.

I do wonder, though, if according to this logic we should not be compelled to pronounce Norvin Trinor, the seeker for vitality, as the true tragic hero of the book? And does that not undermine Mr. Heywood's and mine own reading of the text?

jianrossi's review against another edition

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5.0

All the best takes effort and this is especially true with Viriconium.

wmhenrymorris's review against another edition

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Whether or not you appreciate this fever dream, where everything is encrusted and dissolute and dismal and confused and falling apart, pretty much comes down to your tolerance for Jack Vance/Peake/Moorcock-style use of language -- the archaic words, the repetition of images, characters, colors and other adjectives. Perhaps it's more than a soporific attempt at grad school fantasy. There were parts I really liked. And it is interesting to see where China Miéville stole his chops. Okay, not that interesting. Basically if you like any of the authors mentioned above, go for it. If not, you might want to give it a pass.