Excellent review of Jack Vance's "Tales of the Dying Earth"

I read and greatly enjoyed Jack Vance's 4-book series, Tales of the Dying Earth last year. Today I wanted to tell my daughter about one of the spells in the book (the Spell of Forlorn Encystment), so I looked it up online. One of the top results Alison Flood's 2011 review of the series in The Guardian. She likes the books for the same reasons I do, describing the stories as "strange, and disturbing, and glowing."

"Glowing" is an especially good way to describe Vance's writing. His use of language in enchanting, and it really does feel like his sentences and words are manifesting some kind of spell.

From Flood's review:

All is recounted in Vance's wonderful, unique prose. Is it possible to be both deadpan and flowery at the same time? I think he pulls this off, to hilarious effect. "These girls seem not to relish the garland of pulchritude," says Guyal of a collection of unattractive women. Cugel, after ditching a former princess into the hands of a brigand (it was his own hopelessness which led to her losing her kingdom), justifies himself angrily. "'The woman is a monomaniac!' he told himself. 'She lacks clarity and perceptiveness; how could I have done else, for her welfare and my own? I am rationality personified; it is unthinking to suggest otherwise.'"

There are remnants of ancient civilisations: floating roads and air-cars. There are horrific images galore: a pyramid of screaming flesh half a thousand feet high. And so, so much of these stories can be seen in the work of later authors. Mazirian's garden of nightmarish plants ("'K-k-k-k-k-k-k,' spoke the plant. Mazirian stooped, held the rodent to the red mouth. The mouth sucked, the small body slid into the stomach-bladder underground. The plant gurgled, eructated, and Mazirian watched with satisfaction.") reminds me a much-loved childhood novel, Douglas Hill's Blade of the Poisoner, and the poisoner's deadly garden. The Twk-men – tiny men-things mounted on dragonflies, with skin "of a greenish cast", bring Philip Pullman's Gallivespians to mind. Mazirian's plunge into the Lake of Dreams after uttering the Charm of Untiring Nourishment, breathing the water as if it were air and chasing T'sain across the lake's bottom, recalls the scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry uses gillyweed to breathe underwater. And this is just the first 29 pages …

(By the way, the Spell of Forlorn Encystment "constricts the subject in a pore some forty-five miles below the surface of the earth.")