The Eyes of the Overworld

by Jack Vance
Series: Dying Earth 2
Reviewed date: 2007 Jun 24
Rating: 3
158 pages
cover art
cover art

The second book in Jack Vance's Dying Earth is better than the first. The Eyes of the Overworld follows a single main character, Cugel the Clever. Cugel foolishly tries to burgle the manse of Iucounu the Laughing Magician. Iucounu catches Cugel in the act. As punishment, Iucounu sends Cugel on a quest for a violet cusp, an eye of the Overworld. To ensure that Cugel conducts himself "with unremitting loyalty, zeal and singleness of purpose," Iucounu attaches a maleficent creature to Cugel's liver.

Cugel's adventures do not make compelling reading. But the story is engrossing. Cugel is a sociopath with no regard for others. Cugel lies, steals, tricks, and kills without regret. He does whatever he can to get ahead. He sells a princess into slavery to save himself. He tricks a group of pilgrims into crossing a desert, so that he will have protection from bandits. Dozens of the pilgrims die. He kills a defenseless sea creature that plays a harmless practical joke on him.

Cugel the anti-hero is interesting enough to carry the story. The Eyes of the Overworld rates a strong three.

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