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THE GUIDING NOSE OF ULFANT BANDEROZ by Dan Simmons. Dust jacket and interior illustrations by Tom Kidd. Burton, MI; Subterranean Press; 2013. 1st trade hardcover edition.

Length: 120 pages.

Jack Vance’s stories of the Dying Earth are among the most indelible creations of 20th century fantasy. Set on a far future Earth moving toward extinction under a slowly dying sun, these baroque tales of wonder have exerted a profound influence on generations of writers. One of those writers is Dan Simmons, who acknowledges that influence in spectacular fashion in The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderoz, an informed and loving act of literary homage.

The narrative begins at a critical moment in the Dying Earth’s history, a moment when signs and portents indicate that the long anticipated death of the planet is finally at hand. Against this backdrop, Simmons’s protagonist—Shrue the diabolist—learns of the death of Ulfant Banderoz, ancient magus and sole proprietor of the legendary Ultimate Library and Final Compendium of Thaumaturgical Lore. Determined to possess its secrets, Shrue sets out in search of the fabled library, guided by the severed nose of the deceased magician. The narrative that follows tells the story of that quest, a quest whose outcome will affect the fate of the entire dying planet.

The result is a hugely engrossing novella filled with marvels, bizarre encounters, and an array of astonishing creatures—the pelgranes, daihaks, and assorted elementals of Jack Vance’s boundless imagination. Written with wit, fidelity, and grace, and rooted in its author’s obvious affection for his source material, The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderoz is something special, a collaborative gem in which the talents and sensibilities of two master storytellers come powerfully—and seamlessly—together.

Trade: Fully cloth bound hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly: “Taking a more plaintive and concerned tack than Vance’s evanescent and insouciant tone, Simmons (Drood) uses familiar characters and settings in ways that restore their original luster and sharp edges.”

From The Speculative Scotsman: “Yet it is homage of the highest order. Simmons' prose is moreish in much the same way as Vance's words were in the originating stories. His vivid vision of the Dying Earth is as affectionate as any other I can recall, striking precisely the right balance between the playful and the profound. The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderôz was by a large margin the most absorbing story in the landmark aforementioned anthology—despite it featuring fiction from literary luminaries like George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Jeff VanderMeer and Tad Williams, alongside an assortment of other awesome authors—and it has lost none of its power in the years since Songs of the Dying Earth.”

From SFRevu: “Soon the villains pick up the scent and follow. Shrue's ingenuity will please readers and the ending has a nice twist. The diabolist's is a man determined to stick with the Dying Earth until the end, but he doesn't mind having a little feminine companionship along the way. This short novella is a great way to pass a rainy afternoon.”

Fine in fine dj.