Back when fantasy and science fiction were one eclectic genre, and most writers were re-interpreting Tolkein or Wells, Viriconium was born. In short it is an occasionally psychedelic, sometimes challenging, imagined remembering of a place that never existed, or perhaps did and does exist in many places and times. It undermines the concept of Tokein-esque "world building" as the setting constantly morphs and changes. There is no logical chronology, characters change from story to story and become twisted analogues of themselves. Places change, cultures change, main themes become obtuse metaphors, metaphors become realities. It is an extremely difficult collection of stories to read.
However, there is much to be gained -- many ideas explored. There is often an emphasis on the nature of Time and its effect on society. Also discussed are madness, art, religion and human destruction of the environment; a theme even more poignant now, than when many of these stories were written. Harrison's use of language is extraordinary and vaguely reminiscent of T.S Eliot in the first few novellas.
Simon Vance was an excellent choice. At first I was worried his often skeptical tone would miss the tone of writing. I was wrong. It makes a haunting counterpoint to the events of the book, and suites the style of writing almost perfectly.
If you are looking for an easy read -- something to entertain you on a summer holiday, a throwaway read -- then you will be disappointed. This is a book for the well-read, and a book for those willing to think. It is literary fiction that happens to be within the milieu of Fantasy and science fiction. If this is what you are looking for, then I highly suggest Viriconium in all its many guises.
This audiobook was the epitome of an "adequate" fantasy. It hold my attention just enough to ensure that I finished it, but not enough to leave any lasting impression. There were some quaint ideas in here, but not too much as to be outright original.
In addition the production was similarly "OK". The reader, while not suited to the role, made a good attempt. However I feel that he gave many of the characters a strange tone at odds with what they are saying. Again its a matter of it being "good enough".
2.5/5 across the board.
This is perhaps the best audio-book I have purchased from Audible. I feel I must preface this with a warning: this is not for everyone. It is an extremely subtle, dense and fragmented book. But with patience and curiosity it unfolds into a masterpiece of fractal beauty -- it comes together like the blue fusion birth of a star.
The quality of the production is very good, the narrator is, to my mind, perfect and enhances the story in small unobtrusive ways. The story itself is breath-taking. But as I said, it is certainly not for the faint of heart. If you are a fan of M. John. Harrison, or wish to see a very literary take on Science Fiction, I implore you to give this a try, if not stay far, far away.
In short its an esoteric masterpiece.
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