A review by eigendecomp
Viriconium by M. John Harrison


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...

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.

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?