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Ebook Rhialto the Marvellous by Jack Vance read! Book Title: Rhialto the Marvellous
Date of issue: November 1st 1985
ISBN: 0671559915
ISBN 13: 9780671559915
The author of the book: Jack Vance
Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 482 KB
Edition: Baen Books

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Rhialto the Marvellous closes the initial collection of Dying Earth stories, as chronicled by Jack Vance, a master of invention who took me on an incredible journey through eons of history, hundreds of lost civilizations and quirky cultures, multicolored vistas of exotic lands, weird trees and chimaeric wildlife, magic invocations and last, but not least : deeds of daring, craft and cunning to tax credibility . Even if none of the later books quite recaptured the lyrical, melancholic atmosphere of the first one, prefering instead a more humorous, adventure oriented approach, the series kept me glued to the pages until the very last morsel. And then I wished I could spend more time in the company of the characteristic amoral, arrogant, opportunistic and unreliable scoundrels that usually lead the way around the Dying Earth landscape.

Rhialto is not a simple reincarnation of Cugel the Clever: he is a fussy dresser and a cad where women are concerned, but as a wizard he is quite proficient in the art, and as a trickster he is less easily fooled by other magicians, demons or villagers he meets on his quests. Both heroes have supersized egos, but where Cugel ended mostly on the losing side in every intellectual endeavour and got by only through brawns and a lot of luck, Rhialto is deviously planning ahead and outsmarting his adversaries in a Sherlock Holmes manner. It took a good portion of the book to get me interested in Rhialto, and finally it was his sarcastic wit and elaborate form of polite expression that conquered me:

Always disposed to create a favorable impression before members of the female sex, so long as they were of an age and degree of vitality to notice, Rhialto leaned an arm against a stump, disposed his cloak so that it hung in a casual yet dramatic style.
The girls, preoccupied with their chatter, failed to notice his presence. Rhialto spoke in melodious tones: "Young creatures, allow me to intrude upon your attention, at least for a moment. I am surprised to find so much fresh young beauty wasted upon work so dull, and among brambles so sharp."

I have already accepted the fact that the series abandoned almost all the science-fiction elements after the first book and developed as a magic intensive sword & sorcery adventure. If Cugel was more adept with a sword that with a spell, Rhialto relies very little on physical exertions and deploys almost exclusively his magic-fu. The magic theory of the Dying Earth is succintly presented in the introduction of the novel ( Magic is a practical science, or, more properly, a craft, since emphasis is placed primarily upon utility, rather than basic understanding.), with a few choice examples of spells that had me chuckling in anticipation of seeing them deployed later in the book:

Looking into (for instance) Chapter Four of Killiclaw's Primer of Practical Magic, Interpersonal Effectuations, one notices, indited in bright purple ink, such terminology as:
Xarfaggio's Physical Malepsy
Arnhoult's Sequestrious Digitalia
Lutar Brassnose's Twelve-fold Bounty
The Spell of Forlorn Encystment
Tinkler's Old-fashioned Froust
Clambard's Rein of Long Nerves
The Green and Purple Postponement of Joy
Panguire's Triumphs of Discomfort
Lugwiler's Dismal Itch
Khulip's Nasal Enhancement
Radl's Pervasion of the Incorrect Chord.

Actually, very few on the list made it into the proper adventure, but it was fun to imagine them in action. The one spell that is put to repeated use is one that I believe every one of us imagined at one point in his life being in control of: the power to stop time for everybody else, and move freely about the frozen population. Here it is used primarily for mischief or for getting the heor out of tight corners.

Coming back to the book, there are only three novellas in it, but the middle one is quite extensive, and I didn't feel shortchanged in any way by the limitation. Having the same set of protagonists (a conclave of wizards that are constantly quarelling among themselves, reminding me fondly of the masters of the Unseen University on Discworld) in all three parts of the book helps with the continuity and with the character development.

The Murthe is a hilarious farce about the wizards phobia towards womenfolk. Their 'boys only' club falls prey to a spectre from a terrible past, when women had ascendancy:

The Murthe is at large among you, with squalms and ensqualmations.

The series had its less savoury moments, especially when Cugel was involved, with women treated as sex objects and as fickle creatures. The panic of the wizards as they contemplate serving under women is a refreshing reversal, and their bafflement regarding their true nature is illustrated in the following extract:

Calanctus likens a woman to the Ciaeic Ocean which absorbs the long and full thrust of the Antipodal Current as it sweeps around Cape Spang, but only while the weather holds fair. If the wind shifts but a trifle, this apparently placid ocean hurls an abrupt flood ten or even twenty feet high back around the cape, engulfing all before it. When stasis is restored and the pressure relieved, the Ciaeic is as before, placidly accepting the current. Do you concur with this interpretation of the female geist?

Fader's Waft follows the quest of Rhialto to recover the Blue Perciplex: a precious prism containing the rule of law governing the Wizard Conclave. The prism is hidden in the past, and Rhialto must time-travel back accompanied by a couple of recalcitrant indentured demons. He meets twenty footed blue aliens from Canopus, witnesses epic battles between long lost empires, damzells in distress, venal construction workers, villagers with peculiar eating habits:

Must your disgust be so blatant? True: we are anthropophages. True: we put strangers to succulent use. Is this truly good cause for hostility? The world is as it is and each of us must hope in some fashion to be of service to his fellows, even if only in the form of a soup.

The humour mixed with the rich history of the past/future Earth and with the flowery prose made for a very pleasant pastime indeed, and too quick I arrived at the last story:

Morreion has the wizards travelling in a floating palace to the edge of the Universe searching for 'nothing' (aka : the nonregion beyond the end of the cosmos). There they hope to rescue one of their colleagues who left ages ago in search of precious, magic infused IOUN stones (and relieve him of this treasure, if possible). Some of the passages describing the journey came very close to the marvellous prose that first attracted me to Jack Vance:

Through clouds and constellations they moved, past bursting galaxies and meandering star-streams; through a region where the stars showed a peculiar soft violet and hung in clouds of pale green gas; across a desolation where nothing whatever was seen save a few far luminous clouds.
Then presently they came to a new region, where blazing white giants seemed to control whirlpools of pink, blue and white gas, and the magicians lined the balustrade looking out at the spectacle.

But every ship or floating castle eventually reaches harbour and the weary traveller must disembark, wave goodbye to his companions and go his own way. Morreion, the lost wizard, remarks at one time to his colleagues:

Before you came my life was placid; you have brought me doubt and wonder.

The same applies to me, and I know I will come back to sail once more with Jack Vance on the boundless oceans of his imagination.

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Ebook Rhialto the Marvellous read Online! Aka John Holbrooke Vance, Peter Held, John Holbrook, Ellery Queen, John van See, Alan Wade.

The author was born in 1916 and educated at the University of California, first as a mining engineer, then majoring in physics and finally in journalism. During the 1940s and 1950s, he contributed widely to science fiction and fantasy magazines. His first novel, The Dying Earth, was published in 1950 to great acclaim. He won both of science fiction's most coveted trophies, the Hugo and Nebula awards. He also won an Edgar Award for his mystery novel The Man in the Cage. He lived in Oakland, California in a house he designed.

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