Viriconium

  • by M. John Harrison
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 19 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on Viriconium: "Viriconium is three novles and a short story collection, spanning much of M. John Harrison’s illustrious career - what an ambitious task to imagine an alternate version of someplace that may be London, albeit a punk-sensibility London in a post-apocalyptic future. It's as if Mike Harrison remembered a place that will never exist, or at least not for millennia, and fleshed it out with art and legends and glorious gods hiding amidst the population…. the first novel, The Pastel City, introduces Lord tegeus-Cromis, called upon to be the reluctant defender of Virconium from a barbarian onslaught. Eighty years later, in the novel A Storm of Wings, a race of demi-gods rises to threaten Viriconium. The short stories In Viriconium are glorious and terrifying by turns, but they are always incredibly human and incredibly real, and you get the joy of M. John Harrison’s prose, which is crystalline and sharp and uplifting…. Viriconium Nights is my favorite novel of the sequence.... Simon Vance is the gold-standard of narrators, and I’m thrilled and proud to have him. He’s brilliant, and he's brought entire worlds to life before in the Millennium Trilogy and in Anthony Powell’s twelve-book cycle Dance to the Music of Time. He is the man of a hundred voices, a thousand voices, and as soon as Mike and I heard him, we knew we’d found the man to carry us there and back again."
This landmark collection gathers four groundbreaking fantasy classics from the acclaimed author of Light. Set in the imagined city of Viriconium, here are the masterworks that revolutionized a genre and enthralled a generation of readers: The Pastel City, A Storm of Wings, In Viriconium, and Viriconium Nights. Back after a long absence, these singular tales of a timeless realm and its enigmatic inhabitants are now reborn and compiled to captivate a whole new generation."

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Virocon, Virocon, still the ancient name rings on

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.
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- Max

Dreaming of Beautiful and Grotesque Viriconium

What was this experience that just warped my sense of reality, fantasy, beauty, and story? Viriconium. How can words describe the city? ???I???m a dwarf, not a philosopher!??? And the past of Viriconium is so vast that it ???made of the air a sort of amber, an entrapment.??? As the caf?? philosophers say, ???The world is so old that the substance of reality no longer knows quite what it ought to be.???

The first novel, The Pastel City (1971), in which a morose poet-swordsman named tegeus-Cromis leads a raggedy bunch of legends in an attempt to save Viriconium from Northern barbarians, reminds me of Michael Moorcock???s Elric or Corum wandering Jack Vance???s Dying Earth. If you like dark epic science fantasy, you???d love this.

In A Storm of Wings (1980), Galen Hornwrack, a bitter aristocratic assassin, becomes caught up in a quest to protect Viriconium from an alien insect reality invasion. Recalling Lewis Carroll and Philip K. Dick, this novel was the most densely and richly written Viriconium and hence the most challenging to listen to. Superficial skimmers of pages steer clear!

Evoking Laurel and Hardy, Oscar Wilde, and Kafka, In Viriconium (1980) depicts the milquetoast portrait artist Ashlyme trying to complete a commission and to save his subject as a plague of attenuation spreads through the city. This is the most funny and disturbing novel of the three, as well as the most difficult to understand, as the reality of Viriconium warps and ramifies.

The collection of seven short stories called Viriconium Nights (1985) nightmarishly develops the mirroring of alternate Viriconiums until characters reappear with similar or different names, careers, lives, and deaths, the city accrues overlapping names, rulers, and histories, and finally we are left in our real world desperately seeking Viriconium, which is, after all, only a fiction (isn???t it?).

M. John Harrison???s sad beauty and humorous grotesquery, his painterly, poetic, and pregnant descriptions of landscapes, buildings, and people, his explorations of time, memory, reality, art, and love, his flawed and moving characters and the overwhelming city they live in, leave from, or long for, provide a deep and altering dream. He makes new his ancient Evening Earth and our real world.

Simon Vance???s urbane and warm voice relishes Viriconium and makes listening to it an affecting and absorbing experience. Just hearing him talk like a lamia or croon ???Ou lou loo lou loo??? is worth the price of admission.
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- Jefferson "I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-13-2011
  • Publisher: Neil Gaiman Presents