Viriconium is an omnibus edition of the three short novels and most of the short stories set in Harrison's Viriconium universe. This is a far future universe, in which mankind has done great things and gone to the stars, only to see civilization collapse and knowledge lost. What is left of mankind lives a low tech life on the one remaining continent not so polluted so as to kill you immediately, digging up "magical" items left behind by the earlier civilizations. In concept, it has a fair amount in common with Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, but the execution is totally different. These stories are actually much more along the lines of China Mieville, with a healthy dose of Mervyn Peake and perhaps a hint of Dostoevsky. In fact, I'd highly recommend the Viriconium stories to Mieville fans, and I know we have quite a few of them here. Harrison is an impressive word-smith. I repeatedly found myself re-reading paragraphs two or three times, partly to enjoy the mesmerizing use of language, and partly to try to figure out what the hell is going on. I can't remember the last time I read an author who used so convincingly used so many words I didn't know (you might want to have a dictionary handy when you tackle these). So despite the short page count, don't expect these stories to be quick reads. The stories are generally much more about mood and character and emotion than about plot. I suppose that's why they are short; Harrison certainly could have easily drawn the novels out to three hundred pages of story if that had been the kind of book he wanted to write. They are full of ambiguity and symbolism and irony. Many of them are about quests that fail. Characterization is effective but unconventional--frequently we learn about our protagonists through their fears and failures and unfulfilled desires. In the world of Viriconium characters are more than individuals; they represent archetypes that appear again and again, sometimes as heroes, other times as villains (and rarely with a happy ending). Indeed there is a strong suggestion that these are not all tales from a single history, but rather a series of alternate future realities.