Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Feb 15 11:40:47 EST 1990

Raymond's Reviews #11

%T The Compleat Traveller in Black
%A John Brunner
%I Collier/Macmillan
%D 1989
%O paperback, US$3.95
%P 233
%G 0-02-030720-9

The publisher's blurb describes this story collection as "a classic of existential fantasy", and for once it isn't exaggerating by an angstrom. The only previous publication of the Traveller In Black stories, a 1971 Ace Special, turns out to have been missing one ("The Things That Are Gods"); it is a true delight to see these stories reissued complete.

The Traveller In Black is a night-robed figure with a staff of curdled light who wanders the world pitting his art against the forces of primal chaos. His medium is an inexorably fair variety of justice; his mode, to defeats those allied to chaos by granting their wishes in a way that they invariably come to regret.

These stories are wry, fantastic, vigorous and strange. The world through which the Traveller moves remains baroque and dangerously mutable -- though gradually less and less so as the Traveller labors. Old gods and demons and all the weird elemental forces of chaos are ranged against him. He must defeat and confound them all to prevail.

Brunner's writing has all the gorgeousness of Lord Dunsany or James Branch Cabell or Jack Vance at his best. Indeed, the resemblance to Vance's style in his saga of Cugel the Clever is so powerful as to suggest that one of these story-suites may have begun as a pastiche of the other -- it would be most interesting to know in which direction the influence ran.

Even SF fans who believe they hate fantasy ought to give these stories a try -- they are as far removed from the reams of shoddy formula fantasy churned out every month as one of Hieronymus Bosch's dark masterpieces is from finger painting.

The Compleat Traveller In Black earns an official Raymond's Review Rave. If you've never read these stories before I truly envy you the thrill of discovering them for the first time!

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Feb 15 11:40:47 EST 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>