The Eyes of the Overworld

{4/5} “I dimly recall that I inhabit a sty and devour the coarsest of food — but the subjective reality is that I inhabit a glorious palace and dine on splendid viands among the princes and princesses who are my peers. It is explained thus: the demon Underherd looked from the sub-world to this one; we look from this to the Overworld, which is the quintessence of human hope, visionary longing, and beatific dream. We who inhabit this world — how can we think of ourselves as other than splendid lords? This is how we are.”

Cugel gets some advice that he could steal some valuables from Iucounu the Laughing Magician. He fails, and Iucounu will apply the Charm of Forlorn Encystment unless Cugel performs a task for him. Iucounu has one magic cusp — Cugel is to obtain another. A pair of cusps fit over your eyes will allow you to see into the Overworld. Obtaining the cusp might not be the hardest part of the quest — then he has to get back home.

The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance was published in 1966. This book is set in the same world asĀ The Dying Earth. The earlier book is a collection of short stories, whereas this is a novel.

Like the characters in The Dying Earth, Cugel is on a quest — this one just takes longer. He encounters many strange beings on his journey. He also frequently vows revenge on Iucounu, who has forced him on this unpleasant journey.

The humour comes from the use of language. Here’s what a footman says to Cugel: “Your manner, the tilt of your head, the swing of your eyes from side to side denotes recklessness and unpredictability. I trust you will hold this quality in abeyance, if indeed it exists.” Here’s what a member of the rat-folk says after kidnapping Cugel: “There is no reason why, in an essentially inconvenient relationship, we should not adopt an attitude of camaraderie.”

Although Cugel calls himself “Cugel the Clever” I found some of the solutions to problems to be not quite as clever as the ones in The Dying Earth. Cugel is unfailingly pleasant in manner but he treats people he doesn’t care about (which is pretty much everyone) as objects to be discarded when he feels like.

I was under the impression that the word “grue” was made up by the makers of the text adventure game Zork, but Vance uses it here — it’s some kind of monster you don’t want to encounter in a dark place.

There are a couple more books in the series, but I think I’ll move on to something else.

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 21st, 2012 at 8:41 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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