This collection of short stories set in Vance's Dying Earth is old school fantasy and may suffer from the phenomenon of seeming to be derivative by virtue of being the thing that everyone else has been imitating. It's swords and sorcery mixed with hints of lost technology in a far future age when Earth's sun is going out and magic has replaced science, or perhaps they have simply merged to become the same thing. The red sun, the lands and peoples whose names bear no resemblance to that of our world, and the inhuman creatures who might be demons or might be aliens, are evocative and mysterious. It's reminiscent of Moorcock and Gene Wolfe, but distinctively Vance.
This is a world where magicians know one of a hundred known spells, the rest all lost to the ages. There are swordsmen, magicians, scholars, and wandering rogues. The characters are heroic and scoundrelous, innocent and wicked. The dialog is formal and stilted, but deliberately so, in a way that makes each story read like a classic legend. The prose and stories are sure to please any fan of traditional fantasy, and Vance is an above average writer in this genre.
I didn't love
this book - hence only 4 stars, though I've enjoyed Vance's stories before and I'll enjoy more. As I said, this book suffers from the fact that most people have probably read so many imitations that The Dying Earth
deserves acclaim for its place as a core work in the fantasy genre, but it doesn't have much that most fans haven't seen before. Very enjoyable stories, and hard to imagine that the man who wrote this over 60 years ago is still alive!