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Jack Vance

fantasy literature author Jack Vance(1916-2013)
John Holbrook (Jack) Vance wrote science fiction, mystery, and fantasy under several pennames. He has won several Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. In 1997 he was named a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Grand Master.

The Dying Earth

The Dying Earth — (1950-1984) Publisher: One of Jack Vances enduring classics is his 1964 novel, The Dying Earth, and its sequels — a fascinating tale set on a far-future Earth, under a giant red sun that is soon to go out forever. Here, in one volume, is Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award-winning author Jack Vance’s classic Dying Earth saga: The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugels Saga, Rialto the Marvellous. Travel to a far distant future, when the sunbleeds red in a dark sky, where magic and science is one, and the Earth has but a few short decades to live…

fantasy book reviews Jack Vance The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugels Saga, Rialto the Marvellousfantasy book reviews Jack Vance The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugels Saga, Rialto the Marvellousfantasy book reviews Jack Vance The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugels Saga, Rialto the Marvellousfantasy book reviews Jack Vance The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugels Saga, Rialto the Marvellous

The Dying Earth: A juxtaposition of the ludicrous and the sublimely intelligent

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The Dying Earth by Jack Vance

The Dying Earth is the first of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth and contains six somewhat overlapping stories all set in the future when the sun is red and dim, much technology has been lost, and most of humanity has died out. Our planet is so unrecognizable that it might as well be another world, and evil has been "distilled" so that it's concentrated in Earth's remaining inhabitants.

But it's easy to forget that a failing planet is the setting for the Dying Earth stories, for they are neither depressing nor bleak, and they're not really about the doom of the Earth. These stories are whimsical and weird and they focus more on the strange people who remain and the strange things t... Read More

The Eyes of the Overworld: Vance at his best

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The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance

I’ve already said, numerous times, how much I love Jack Vance, so I’ll skip all that this time. You can read other reviews on this page if you missed that.

The Eyes of the Overworld is the second part of Tales of the Dying Earth and the main character is one of my favorite Vance characters: the self-titled Cugel the Clever. Cugel is not the kind of guy you want to have dealings with — he’s clever, sneaky, completely selfish and remorseless. He is always trying to figure out how he can take advantage of other people in order to make his own circumstances better.

In The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel decides to burglarize the house of Iucounu the Laughing Magician so he can sell some of Iucounu’s thaumaturgical ... Read More

Cugel’s Saga: Who could imagine such protean depravity?

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Cugel's Saga (aka The Skybreak Spatterlight) by Jack Vance

Cugel “the clever” is one of the scummiest, nastiest, lowliest rogues in all of fantasy literature. He’s got no morals and no respect for women, he’s often a coward, he’s not good looking, nor is he particularly good with a sword. In the words of one of Cugel’s acquaintances, “who could imagine such protean depravity?” The answer, apparently, is Jack Vance. And that's why Cugel is one of my favorite “heroes” — because he belongs to Jack Vance.

Cugel’s Saga, book 3 of The Dying Earth and the direct sequel to The Eyes of the Overworld, begins ironically — with Cugel again fallen afoul of Iucounu, the Laughing Magician, who has now banished Cugel a... Read More

Rhialto the Marvellous: “Flagrant and wild!”

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Rhialto the Marvellous by Jack Vance

"Flagrant and wild!"

If you’re a fan of Jack Vance, of course you’ve read, or plan to read, Rhialto the Marvellous, last of the Dying Earth books. If you’ve not read any of Mr. Vance’s work, you can start here — it isn’t necessary to have read the previous installments.

Rhialto, who has earned the cognomen “Marvellous” (this has something to do with him being a bit of a dandy) is one of the last of Earth’s magicians, a small group of selfish and unscrupulous men who sometimes work together and sometimes oppose each other as it suits their individual inglorious purposes. The other magicians don’t care too much for Rhialto because he is aloof, popular with women, arrogant, and generally unflappable. Read More

Big Planet

Big Planet — (1952,1975) Publisher: The objective of the mission from Earth: to stop the ruthless Barjarnum of Beaujolais from expanding his empire on the Big Planet… and prevent the world from falling under this tyrant’s domination. Then sabotage forces the craft to crash land, and the survivors face an epic 40,000-mile trek across the dangerous landscape. A SF landmark.

Jack Vance 1. Big Planet (1952) 2. Showboat World (1975) Jack Vance 1. Big Planet (1952) 2. Showboat World (1975)

Big Planet: Disappointing compared to later Vance works

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Big Planet by Jack Vance

Big Planet is an early work by Jack Vance, and like much of Vance’s early output is a little uneven in quality. The plot is fairly straightforward. Centuries before the events of the story take place, a huge planet is discovered in a neighboring solar system. Despite its size (around 25,000 miles according to a later novel set in the same setting) the planet is of low density, with earthlike gravity and atmosphere, but lacking in metals, making ownership of any metal object valuable.

The planet has for many years been viewed as a place for outcasts and odd groups and individuals to go if they wished to escape the rigid constraints of the stellar areas under the direct rule of Earth. While this has worked out for the many groups and cults who emigrated to Big Planet, their descendants in many cases are trapped in various pockets of anar... Read More

The Demon Princes

The Demon Princes — (1964-1981) Publisher: Kirth Gersen carries in his pocket a slip of paper with a list of five names written on it. Theses are the names of the five Demon Princes who led the historic Mount Pleasant Massacre, which destroyed not only Kirth’s family but his entire world as well. He roams the universe, searching the endless galaxies of space, hunting down the Demon Princes and exacting his revenge.

Jack Vance The Demon Princes 1. The Star King 2. The Killing Machine 3. The Palace of Love 4. The Face 5. The Book of DreamsJack Vance The Demon Princes 1. The Star King 2. The Killing Machine 3. The Palace of Love 4. The Face 5. The Book of DreamsJack Vance The Demon Princes 1. The Star King 2. The Killing Machine 3. The Palace of Love 4. The Face 5. The Book of DreamsJack Vance The Demon Princes 1. The Star King 2. The Killing Machine 3. The Palace of Love 4. The Face 5. The Book of DreamsJack Vance The Demon Princes 1. The Star King 2. The Killing Machine 3. The Palace of Love 4. The Face 5. The Book of Dreams

The Star King: Like James Bond in space

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The Star King by Jack Vance

When he was a child, Kirth Gersen's village was raided and massacred by the five Demon Princes. He and his grandfather escaped and, at his grandfather's encouragement, Kirth has spent his life training and preparing for revenge. Now it's time...

Jack Vance's DEMON PRINCES saga consists of five short science fiction novels which each tell the tale of how Kirth Gersen tracks down and deals with one of the evil men who killed his family. In the first installment, The Star King, Kirth is looking for Attel Malagate, aka Malagate the Woe, who may be masquerading as a university academic. Along the way, Kirth must get past Malagate's henchmen, including the memorable Hildemar Dasce, also known as Beauty Dasce or Fancy Dasce:
Into the hall stepped the strangest human being of Gersen's experience.
... Read More

The Killing Machine: Nobody outdoes Vance for sheer inventiveness

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The Killing Machine by Jack Vance

After successfully dispatching the first of his lifelong enemies in the previous novel, The Star King, Kirth Gersen now takes on the second of the five demon princes, Kokor Hekkus, aka "The Killing Machine." The Killing Machine is even more fun than The Star King. It's full of diverse characters, exotic venues, hilarious fashions, weird food, awesome architecture, and bizarre machinery. Nobody outdoes Jack Vance for sheer inventiveness. The plot moves rapidly and contains plenty of action and suspense.

As with many of his novels, at the beginning of each chapter Vance imparts small amounts of background information in the form of excerpts from government documents, textbooks, popular sayings, magazine articles, planetary travel guides, etc. This is a clever way to give us knowl... Read More

The Palace of Love: Three of Vance’s best supporting characters

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The Palace of Love by Jack Vance

Two down and three to go… In order to exact revenge on Viole Falushe, the third Demon Prince, Kirth Gersen must first discover who Mr. Falushe is, and then find and infiltrate his famous Palace of Love.

The actual plot, while just as brisk and fun as usual, isn't the most entertaining aspect of The Palace of Love. This volume is particularly charming because of Jack Vance's exquisite characters — three in particular:

Vogel Filschner was rejected by the prettiest girl in school when he was a pimply 14-year old geek. His retaliation feels just like what school psychologists are warning us about these days. He's a fascinating villain!
Navarath is a washed-up poet who lives on a houseboat. We're not sure if he's a genius, a fake, crazy, or just drunk. Whatever he is, he's amusing and Vance has lots of fun ... Read More

The Face: Clever and satisfying

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The Face by Jack Vance

Here’s another thoroughly delightful installment (book 4 of 5) of The Demon Princes. The plot is as usual: Kirth Gersen is hunting down one of the Demon Princes who destroyed his family and homeland when he was a boy. There’s no doubt that Gersen will kill Lens Larque; the question is how he’ll kill him and what adventures he’ll have on the way.

The Face distinguishes itself by introducing a couple of cultures which Vance uses to make fun of human behavior. Lens Larque is one of the Darsh of the planet Dar Sai. They’re a large ugly people with a disgusting cuisine, a fondness for flagellation, and some pretty entertaining mating habits. Their women have a short period of beauty during adolescence, but then become meaty, mustached, and mean. Thus, th... Read More

The Book of Dreams: I’m going to miss Kirth Gersen

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The Book of Dreams by Jack Vance

The Book of Dreams is the final book of Jack Vance’s The Demon Princes saga. Kirth Gersen must find and eliminate his last elusive enemy: Howard Alan Treesong. As usual, he has the help of his reluctant banker and there’s a new Innocent Pretty Young Female to attend to, also.

The Book of Dreams is reminiscent of The Palace of Love (the third Demon Princes novel), which also featured a sensitive boy turned bad after being bullied and teased by his peers. Kirth finally tracks down Treesong at his high school reunion where he shows up to get revenge on his classmates. That scene was hilarious. There were plenty of other humorous Vanc... Read More

Tschai: Planet of Adventure

Tschai: Planet of Adventure — (1968-1970) The Chasch was originally published as City of The Chasch and The Wannek was originally Servants of the Wankh. Publisher: The starship Explorator IV is destroyed after entering orbit around the planet Tschai. Adam Reith’s scout ship is en route to the surface when the attack occurs, and is damaged in the explosion; Reith crash-lands and is separated from his ship. He finds a world full of violence, where four non-human races rule: the Chasch, the Dirdir, the Wannek, and the Pnume. Humans are present, but dominated by the other races. In this volume Reith sets out to regain his scout ship, and makes his way to Dadiche, ruled by the Blue Chasch and their human servants. Along the way he finds loyal friends, and challenges social inequities with the same aplomb that he rescues fair maidens — like the lovely Ylin Ylan, Flower of Cath.

Original novels:                                                                                                                     Omnibus:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJack Vance Tschai City of the Chasch (The Chasch. 1968) Servants of the Wankh (The Wannek, 1969) The Dirdir (1969) The Pnume (1970)fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJack Vance Tschai City of the Chasch (The Chasch. 1968) Servants of the Wankh (The Wannek, 1969) The Dirdir (1969) The Pnume (1970)       fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

City of the Chasch: Finally! PLANET OF ADVENTURE on audio!

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City of the Chasch by Jack Vance

City of the Chasch (1968) is the first book in Jack Vance’s PLANET OF ADVENTURE series. I’m so excited that Blackstone Audio is finally getting these produced in audio format! City of the Chasch was just released a few weeks ago and the following books, Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir, and The Pnume, will be released in the next three months (one per month).

In this first book we meet Adam Reith, a scout on a spaceship that traveled from Earth to Tschai, a planet of the star Carina 4269 from which some sort of signal has been detected. When Adam is sent out on a shuttle to reconnoiter the planet, the spacesh... Read More

Servants of the Wankh: Still trying to get off that crazy planet

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Servants of the Wankh by Jack Vance

Servants of the Wankh (1969) is the second of Jack Vance’s PLANET OF ADVENTURE stories. It’s a direct sequel to City of the Chasch, which you’ll want to read first, though Servants of the Wankh has a short but thorough recap of the story so far. Adam Reith was stranded on the planet Tschai after his spaceship crashed there. He is now back to full health, has formed a couple of friendships and a romance, and is still trying to get off that crazy planet.

Audio version



First, though, he has agreed to escort Ylin Ylan, the damsel in distress that he saved in the previous book, back to her country. He’s secretly hoping tha... Read More

The Dirdir: The best PLANET OF ADVENTURE book so far

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The Dirdir by Jack Vance

Poor Adam Reith. He’s still stranded on the planet Tchai where he is the only Earthman on a world where nobody believes in Earth and everyone thinks he’s crazy. All of Adam’s efforts to leave have, so far, only resulted in him becoming a wanted criminal. After escaping from the Chasch in the first book (City of the Chasch) and from the Wankh in the previous book (Servants of the Wankh), Adam wants to travel to the domain of the technologically-advanced Dirdir. They have a spaceyard in the city of Sivishe where he should be able to find the specialized supplies and labor he needs to build a spaceship capable of taking him home.

Since book one, Adam has been traveling with two very different companions, Traz and Anancho:
They ate in silence; disparate beings, each found the other incom... Read More

The Pnume: Will Adam escape the Planet of Adventure?

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The Pnume by Jack Vance

The Pnume is the final book in Jack Vance’s PLANET OF ADVENTURE quartet. These four short novels, which were published between 1968 and 1970, combine to tell the story of Adam Reith’s adventures on the planet Tschai after his spaceship crash-landed there. Adam has been trying to gather resources so that he can build a new spaceship and leave Tschai. Besides just wanting to return home, he also wants to warn Earth that there are other sentient creatures out there who may threaten Earth.

There are four main races of inhabitants on Tschai, each with their own customs and quirks. In each of the four PLANET OF ADVENTURE books — City of the Chasch, Servants of the... Read More

Lyonesse

Lyonesse — (1983-1990) Omnibus editions available. Publisher: The Elder Isles, located in what is now the Bay of Biscay off the the coast of Old Gaul, are made up of ten contending kingdoms, all vying with each other for control. At the centre of much of the intrigue is Casmir, the ruthless and ambitious king of Lyonnesse. His beautiful but otherworldly daughter, Suldrun, is part of his plans. He intends to cement an alliance or two by marrying her well. But Suldrun is as determined as he and defies him. Casmir coldly confines her to the overgrown garden that she loves to frequent, and it is here that she meets her love and her tragedy unfolds. Political intrigue, magic, war, adventure and romance are interwoven in a rich and sweeping tale set in a brilliantly realized fabled land.

Jack Vance Lyonesse 1. Suldrun's Garden 2. The Green Pearl 3. Madouc fantasy book reviews Jack Vance Lyonesse 1. Suldrun's Garden 2. The Green Pearl 3. Madouc fantasy book reviewsJack Vance Lyonesse 1. Suldrun's Garden 2. The Green Pearl 3. Madouc fantasy book reviews

Suldrun’s Garden: Why is Lyonesse out of print?

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Suldrun's Garden by Jack Vance

As I'm writing this, Jack Vance's under-appreciated Lyonesse trilogy has been off the shelves for years. My library doesn't even have a copy — it had to be interlibrary loaned for me. Why is that? Publishers have been printing a seemingly endless stream of vampire and werewolf novels these days — same plot, same characters, blah blah blah. If not that, it's grit. We all want grit.

Or maybe it's that more women are reading fantasy these days and publishers think we want to read about bad-ass heroines who kill vampires. But, the publishers and authors are just giving us what we demand, I suppose. We all got sick of the sweeping medieval-style multi-volume epics that take forever to write, publish, and read. So now we get vampires and sassy chicks with tattoos and bare midriffs. When we've be... Read More

The Green Pearl: Florid imagination, deliberately peculiar

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The Green Pearl by Jack Vance

The Green Pearl is another engrossing adventure in Jack Vance's whimsical world. This installment of Lyonesse mainly follows Aillas, now King of Troicinet, as he seeks revenge on the Ska, tests his infatuation with Tatzel, deals with a couple of traitors, and tries to thwart the ambitions of King Casmir of Lyonesse who, unbeknownst to Casmir, is Aillas's son's grandfather. We also spend quite a bit of time with Shimrod, Glyneth, Melancthe, and some new and excellent characters such as the duplicitous innkeeper Dildahl, the dogged but distractible Visbhume, and The Notable and Singular Zuck (Dealer in Objects Unique Under the Firmament).

There are two main reasons that I love Lyonesse. First, I admire Vanc... Read More

Madouc: Lyonesse is Pythonesque

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Madouc by Jack Vance

Well, here's the finale of Jack Vance's Lyonesse, and I'm sorry to see it end. This novel was about Madouc, the changeling princess of Lyonesse, and her interactions with Casmir, Sollace, Aillas, Dhrun, Shimrod, Throbius, Sir Pom-Pom, Umphred, Twisk, et al.

Madouc maintains the quality of this excellent trilogy — it's filled with clever prose, charming characters, and lots of imagination. Jack Vance's careful planning produced a tight plot and Madouc wrapped up all the loose ends from Suldrun's Garden and The Green Pearl.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lyonesse, but it may not be for everyone. It occurs... Read More

The Cadwal Chronicles

The Cadwal Chronicles — (1987-1992) Publisher: For centuries the breathtakingly beautiful planet Cadwal has been held in trust by a centuries-old Charter of Conservancy, created by the now-defunct Naturalist Society on Old Earth. Over time, restrictions on population expansion written into the Charter have become irksome to some who live on Cadwal—those who would take the unexploited wealth of Cadwal for themselves, also those forced to leave the planet to keep population in check. Glawen Clattuc grows to manhood within the insular community of Araminta Station, the primary settlement on the planet, and becomes attuned to conflicts among the parties wishing to break free of the Charter. He joins the Constabulary, and ties mysterious events and circumstances together. To uphold the Conservancy, much depends upon locating the original Charter document, which has been lost for many years; Glawen is chosen to search for the Charter, on backwater Earth and worlds beyond. The Cadwal Chronicles was written by Vance in his maturity- an accomplished master sure of his game- using a light touch and broad palette of characters.

Individual novels:                                                                                                  Omnibus:
fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews    fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

The Cadwal Chronicles: The first two books are some of Vance’s best

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THE CADWAL CHRONICLES by Jack Vance

The 1980s found Jack Vance moving into his sixth decade of life. Imagination still sharp, he produced such works as the LYONESSE trilogy, the second half of the DYING EARTH saga, as well as began THE CADWAL CHRONICLES with Araminta Station published in 1989. The novel is on par with the best of Vance’s oeuvre. The second novel in the series, Ecce and Old Earth, sees only a slight decline in quality, the story furthered in fine fashion. However, Throy, the third and concluding volume, is like a different writer took hold of the script. It is dry and bland and does not come close to the bar set by the first two, but it is fortunately not bad enough to destroy the integrity of the series. THE CADWAL CHRONICLES contain all of the tro... Read More

To Live Forever: Vance writes about things that fascinate me

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To Live Forever by Jack Vance

Note: You may also find this book published with the name Clarges.

In Clarges, a city in the far future, humans have conquered death. Unfortunately, there's just not enough room for billions of immortal people to live forever, so they've passed the fair-play act which divides society into 5 phyle which must be maintained at certain population ratios. Those who choose to participate in fair-play must register in Brood, the lowest phyle, and receive 82 years of life, after which an "assassin" visits and takes them away in a black hearse. By significantly contributing to society, citizens may move up through the phyle, adding several years of life with each step. A very select few will reach Amaranth and may have their bodies genetically modified (with 5 copies made, in case of accidents), making them youthful forever. This social ... Read More

The Languages of Pao: One of my favorite Vance books

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The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance

Jack Vance
is known as a master stylist who, at his best, has an exquisite way with the written English language, a tribute in many ways to his idols P.G. Wodehouse and the unjustly forgotten Jeffery Farnol, among others, but Vance is also a writer of thought-provoking and unique ideas. The Languages of Pao is Vance at the top of his game as far as exploring unusual concepts. The premise of the story is based on a theory known as “Linguistic Relativity” or the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis” and in layman’s terms it basically means that the language a person speaks shapes human thought patterns and behavior, in both individuals and societies. Vance has here taken the theory to its logical extreme conclusion in a far future time, where a group of “wizards” use the method to attempt to change the mindset of an entire planet to suit their own agenda. Read More

The Dragon Masters: Great characterization in the Vancian style

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The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

Jack Vance
won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for this little gem of a tale which is a favorite of many of Vance’s fans, your present reviewer included. The story takes place vast millennia into the future on a planet known to its inhabitants as Aerlith. Aerlith is a harsh world, where slow rotation leads to long nights and days (analogous to several “earth” days). The human beings living on the planet are descended from spacefarers who fled an earlier interstellar war and who have lost all industrial knowledge as well as the capability of space flight. They may or may not be the last remnants of humanity. Every few generations or so, alien spaceships descend and wreak havoc, capturing as many humans as they can, leaving those who escape to try to rebuild their backward civilization among the rubble. The invaders are the “Dragons” of the title, intelligen... Read More

The Blue World: More great stuff from Vance

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The Blue World by Jack Vance

What’s to be said about Jack Vance that hasn’t already been said? The man is simply one of the most imaginative writers of the 20th century. His sci-fi fantasy styled adventures are deceptively simple, but the complexity of being human hides just below the surface, rearing its head in profound fashion in the middle of all the humor and fun. Vance’s 1966 The Blue World is no different.

Our hero, Sklar Hast, is an assistant hoodwink living on Tranque Float. Not a con or charlatan, Hast literally winks the hoods — in more complex Morse Code fashion — of the communicator devices located on the floats of their lily-pad archipelago, passing news between themselves. At the outset of the story, Sklar’s life is relatively simple. He sits in when the master hoodwink is away, teaching apprentices at other times. Tranque Float’s... Read More

Emphyrio: One of Vance’s more ideological pieces

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Emphyrio by Jack Vance

After establishing himself as a writer of short fiction, Jack Vance began to shift toward novels in the 1960s. Given more space (ha!) to create, his unique voice rounded into form and imagination, and the decade can be marked as the upswing of his career — particularly given the exclamation point the TSCHAI: PLANET OF ADVENTURE series places on the end. Tucked neatly in the middle of the publishing of these four novels, however, is a stand-alone novel: Emphyrio. Interestingly, the title is not taken from the name of a locale or culture, as is usual with Vance, but from a legend innate to the tale. Singling it out further, the book is one of Vance’s more ideological pieces; there are ominous elements of socialism and the value of historical knowledge is expanded. The capricious storytelling, vivid setting, and resourceful hero remain ... Read More

Maske: Thaery: Fun and quick

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Maske: Thaery byJack Vance

Jack Vance was a fairly prolific author during his writing career, publishing over sixty novels and various short stories in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. During the 1960’s and 70’s many of his science fiction stories were set in a far future milieu which he termed the Gaean Reach. In these stories interstellar travel is common place, as is colonization of a multitude of solar systems throughout the galaxy. While some of the colonized planets contain alien life forms with which the human colonies have to co-exist, the majority of Vance’s works in the Gaean Reach deals with the many unusual human cultures that have developed over the many centuries of colonization. Vance is never what can be termed a “hard-science fiction” writer, but he shines at the “softer sciences” especially when coming up with strange... Read More

The Jack Vance Treasury: A wide array of Vance’s oeuvre

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The Jack Vance Treasury by Jack Vance (edited by Terry Dowling & Jonathan Strahan)
While I don’t think there’s any one novel or short story or even collection of Jack Vance‘s work that comes close to capturing all the best aspects of his writing, I do think that this 633-page Subterranean Press collection does a fairly good job of exposing the reader to a wide array of Vance’s oeuvre. In addition to eighteen stories that span much of Vance’s writing career, there’s a brief comment from Vance himself after each story that gives a little view into how his mind worked while in creative mode, as well as some of the authors and factors that had a major impact on him in developing his writing (note to self after reading one of his comments: re-read P. G. Wodehouse, then find and read some Jeffrey Farnol, two of the writers he says influenced him). There’s also an “Appreciation” by Read More

Wild Thyme, Green Magic: Cagey heroes & exotic locales

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Wild Thyme, Green Magic by Jack Vance

I'm a big fan of Jack Vance's wild imagination and his "high-end" writing style (his description, as I learned in this book). So, I was happy to get a copy of Wild Thyme, Green Magic, an assortment of his fantasy and science fiction tales which have previously been published in several SFF magazines and have now been compiled and edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan and published by Subterranean Press. Wild Thyme, Green Magic also includes several informative excerpts of a 1986 interview with Mr. Vance and a couple of short bios written by Norma Vance, Jack's wife.

Of the 12 stories (one is really just a glorified outline), I was completely tickled, enraptured, b... Read More

Hard-Luck Diggings: The Early Jack Vance

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Hard-Luck Diggings: The Early Jack Vance

I adore Subterranean Press because they’re regularly publishing the kind of classic and new speculative fiction that you might have a hard time finding otherwise. They ignore teen trends and market demands and focus on producing high quality volumes of excellent fiction complete with beautiful covers and interior art.

Hard-Luck Diggings is a collection of 14 of Jack Vance’s unconnected short stories that were written early in his career, when he was perfecting his style and writing the kind of tales that were currently popular and likely to be purchased by publishers.

In each of these tales the prose is sparse, the characters are quickly sketched, and the plot is fast, tight, and weird. Many take place in the far future but, ev... Read More

Dream Castles: The Early Jack Vance Volume Two

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Dream Castles: The Early Jack Vance Volume Two by Jack Vance

Jack Vance is my favorite author, so another collection of Vance’s works by Subterranean Press is a welcome treat! Dream Castles: The Early Jack Vance Volume Two, edited and lovingly introduced by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan, collects ten of Vance’s works:

“The Dogtown Tourist Agency” (originally published in Epoch, 1975) — Miro Hetzel, a private investigator whose “fees are calculated subjectively,” goes to the planet Maz to discover how a client’s competition is creating a better but less expensive product. While there, he gets caught up in the doings of a couple of strange alien cultures.
“Freitzke’s Turn” (Triax: Three Original Novellas, 1977) — Another Miro Hetzel SF mystery set in the Gaean Reach. This time Miro must track down the outrage... Read More

The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz: An homage to Jack Vance

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The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz by Dan Simmons

A few years ago Subterranean Press published what has ever since been my favorite anthology of all time — Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance. It’s a hefty collection of stories written by 22 authors who consider Jack Vance an influence on their own work. Each wrote a story set in Vance’s DYING EARTH universe and many of them attempted — often quite successfully —Vance’s trademark style. Each also wrote an afterward which explains how Vance influenced them personally. I’ve reviewed that anthology here.

This month Subterranean Press is releasing Dan Simmons’ contribution to that anthology as a hardcover stand-alone novella. It has previously been released on Kindle. The Guidi... Read More

The Moon Moth Graphic Novel

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The Moon Moth by Jack Vance; adapted as a graphic novel by Humayoun Ibrahim

My favorite Jack Vance story is “The Moon Moth,” so when I heard that First Second had a graphic novel version of the story, I was extremely excited. However, I also was nervous, as one is when a favorite novel is made into a movie: Will the adaptation live up to my high expectations? In this case, I’m pleased to report that Ibrahim’s The Moon Moth, while obviously incapable of employing Vance’s rich language throughout, has, at the same time, an advantage to the original prose-only story because it shows us the images of a highly visual work of literature.
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Magic Highways: The Early Jack Vance Volume 3

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Magic Highways: The Early Jack Vance Volume 3 by Jack Vance

Subterranean Press continues collecting the early works of Jack Vance with Volume 3, titled Magic Highways, which was released last month (the previous editions were Hard-Luck Diggings and Dream Castles). Magic Highways includes a 6½ page introduction by editors Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan and 16 “space adventures” which Jack Vance wrote during the decade from 1946 (when he was 29 years old) to 1956. Seven of these are Magnus Ridolph stories. The stories are:

“Phalid’s Fate” — (Thrilling Won... Read More

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

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Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.

Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many ... Read More

More fantasy and science fiction by Jack Vance

Nopalgarth — (1973-1978) Publisher: “The Tree ruled the horizons, shouldered aside the clouds, and wore thunder and lightning like a wreath of tinsels- it had come to be worshipped by the first marveling settlers on Kyril”. Joe Smith arrives from Earth and soon is caught up in a political plot between opposing worlds. Ultimately he discovers the true, horrific nature of The Tree of Life…

Jack Vance Nopalgarth 1. Son of the Tree (1964) 2. The Houses of Iszm (1964) 3. The Brains of Earth (1966)Jack Vance Nopalgarth 1. Son of the Tree (1964) 2. The Houses of Iszm (1964) 3. The Brains of Earth (1966)Jack Vance Nopalgarth 1. Son of the Tree (1964) 2. The Houses of Iszm (1964) 3. The Brains of Earth (1966)


Alastor — (1973-1978) Publisher: Trullion — world 2262 of the Alastor Cluster — is a water-world of fens, mists, and idyllic islands set in clear oceans whose teeming richness provides food for the taking. The Trill are a carefree and easy-living people, but violence enters their lives during raids of the Starmenters, freebooting galactic pirates who live short, perilous lives in pursuit of adventure, rape and pillage. Then there’s the planet-wide game of hussade — when the Trill’s passion for gambling drives them to risk all — even life itself, on the hazardous water-chessboard gaming fields. Their prize? The beautiful sheirlmaiden…

Trullion: Alastor 2262 (1973) Marune: Alastor 933 (1975) Wyst: Alastor 1716 (1978)Trullion: Alastor 2262 (1973) Marune: Alastor 933 (1975) Wyst: Alastor 1716 (1978)Trullion: Alastor 2262 (1973) Marune: Alastor 933 (1975) Wyst: Alastor 1716 (1978)


Durdane — (1973-1974) Publisher: The minstrel Gastel Etzwane lives in Shant — a country of cantons, each independently dictating its own law and customs. The enforcement of law is simple, quick, and inevitable: death by decapitation, from an explosive torc clamped around each citizen’s neck by authority of a single man — the Anome. For millennia Anomes have ruled Shant, dealing death as they see fit- and none dares defy them, until Gastel Etzwane risks his head to expose the Anome’s identity — and end the tyranny of these faceless men forever.

The Anome (alternate title: The Faceless Man, 1973) The Brave Free Men (1973) The Asutra (1974)The Anome (alternate title: The Faceless Man, 1973) The Brave Free Men (1973) The Asutra (1974)The Anome (alternate title: The Faceless Man, 1973) The Brave Free Men (1973) The Asutra (1974)


Ports of Call — (1998,2004)Publisher: Myron Tany is an unhappy young economist until his flamboyant great-aunt lets him captain her space yacht on an interstellar hunt for a clinic rumored to restore youth. But when a disagreement with Dame Hester leaves Myron stranded on a distant planet, he signs on as supercargo aboard the tramp freighter Glicca. He travels the exotic worlds of the Gaean Reach, finding adventure or misadventure at every touchdown. Jack Vance, grandmaster of lighthearted space opera, shapes a picaresque tale of adventure, romance, humor, and youth’s eternal yearning to see the wonders that lie beyond the horizon.

Jack Vance Ports of Call 1. Ports of Call (1998) 2. Lurulu (2004)Jack Vance Ports of Call 1. Ports of Call (1998) 2. Lurulu (2004)


Jack Vance The Gray PrinceThe Gray Prince — (1974) Publisher: When Schaine Madduc returned to Koryphon after five years in space, her home planet was not as she left it. The several intelligent species that had lived so long in a sort of symbiotic harmony were at each other’s throats. The humanoid Uldra were united in rebellion against the human land-holding community of which Schaine was part. The Uldra revolutionary leader and catalyst—the Gray Prince Jorjol—was actually an Uldra fostered in Schaine’s own home, and upon whom Schaine had exerted a profound influence. An influence far more profound than Schaine would have thought possible. An influence possibly powerful enough to smash her home, her family, and her entire way of life!


Jack Vance The Gray Prince, Vandals of the Void, The Five Gold Bands, The Languages of PaoVandals of the Void — (1953) Young adult. Publisher: Fifteen-year-old Dick Murdoch leaves Venus to meet his father Paul on the Moon. On the voyage there, the captain stops to examine the wreckage of a sister spaceship. No one knows what attacked the ship—some say it’s the Basilisk. Dick’s adventures aboard spaceship and on the Moon start to pay off as he finds more and more clues. Written for younger readers.


Jack Vance The Gray Prince, Vandals of the Void, The Five Gold Bands, The Languages of PaoThe Five Gold Bands — (1953) aka The Space Pirate. Kirkus Reviews: The first hardback edition of Vance’s 1950 short novel–a space opera wherein picaresque adventurer Paddy Blackthorne and his Earth cop-sidekick Fay Bursill team up to search for an important secret (how to manufacture a space drive) that, for safekeeping, has been divided into five parts and concealed at different locations. Each of the five gold bands of the title contains a cryptic clue to the whereabouts of a hidden part. Amply displayed here are the young Vance’s cardinal virtues, along with the usual flaws: a lively assortment of alien beings, a variety of exotic settings, strong characters, a narrative set forth with rare energy, color, pace, and style–not to mention the formulaic plot, strained motivations, and perfunctory resolution. Entertaining but by no means essential.


Jack Vance Gold and Iron, The Man in the Cage, The Dragon Masters, Monsters in Orbit, Space OperaGold and Iron (aka Slaves of the Klau) — (1958) Publisher: Roy Barch is taken slave by the Klau, along with the golden Lekthwan, Komeitk Lelianr. On the industrialized world Magarak, the Klau hunt Barch and others for recreation. Barch refuses to fall prey — and fights a grim battle to return to Earth.


Jack Vance Gold and Iron, The Man in the Cage, The Dragon Masters, Monsters in Orbit, Space OperaThe Man in the Cage — (1960) Publisher: Junketing around the Mediterranean in petty smuggling operations, Noel Hutson liked to think of himself as a gallant adventurer. But in the middle of a North African desert kasbah, with a truckload of contraband, the American feels less and less like a swashbuckling hero. Forced to reload his truck with a very suspicious cargo, he writes to his family asking for help. Noel disappears, and his brother Darrell comes to find him. Darrell’s search takes him to the ancient city of Fez, and into the desert- along the way meeting fanatics, beautiful women, and villains. An exciting suspense novel about an American making his way through a restless society of smuggling, murder, and North African politics.


Jack Vance Monsters in Orbit, Space Opera, The Blue World, The Last Castle, Emphyrio, Bad RonaldSpace Opera — (1965) Publisher: A society matron underwrites the interstellar tour of an Earth opera company, performing Beethoven, Mozart and Rossini for bewildered human and alien audiences on a kaleidoscopic range of planets. But intrigue and secret agendas complicate what was already a doubtful enterprise, and the matron’s feckless nephew finds that the simple country girl he plans to marry is far more mysterious than she seems. This is Jack Vance at his funniest, rolling out a rollicking picaresque tale where the belly laughs play a perfect duet with the grandmaster’s sly observations on the absurdities of life, love and librettos.


Jack Vance Monsters in Orbit, Space Opera, The Blue World, The Last Castle, Emphyrio, Bad RonaldThe Last Castle — (1966) Publisher: For 700 years the Meks served without complaint; they were indispensable, for no gentleman would demean himself with toil. But now they turn against the strongholds of civilization — Castle Halcyon, then Sea Island, Morninglight, and Maraval — one by one the proud castles of Earth fall; last standing is Castle Hagedorn. Winner Nebula Award 1966, Hugo award 1967.


Jack Vance Monsters in Orbit, Space Opera, The Blue World, The Last Castle, Emphyrio, Bad RonaldBad Ronald — (1973) Publisher: Misfit teenager Ronald Wilby accidentally kills a neighborhood girl, and his hyper-protective mother hides him between the walls of their house. Years pass, and Ronald’s mind slips into delusional fantasy. When his mother dies a new family with three teenage daughters moves in. Things go badly when Ronald decides the youngest belongs in his imaginary world.


Jack Vance Galactic Effectuator, The Grey Prince, Night LampGalactic Effectuator — (1980) Publisher: Featuring three tales of the galactic effectuator who first appeared in “The Dogtown Tourist Agency”, a tale suggesting that its author is a well-travelled man, intimately acquainted with the shortcomings of those who may seek to serve your needs in foreign lands.


Jack Vance Monsters in Orbit, Space Opera, The Blue World, The Last Castle, Emphyrio, Bad RonaldNight Lamp — (1996) Publisher: Found as a child with no memory of his past, adopted by a scholarly couple who raised him as their own, Jaro never quiet fit into the rigidly defined Society of Thanet. When his foster parents are killed in a mysterious bombing, Jaro Fath sets out to discover the truth of his origins — a quest that will take him across light-years and into the depths of the past.


Jack Vance Magnus RidolphMagnus Ridolph — (2012) Publisher: “Magnus Ridolph didn’t look like an interstellar troubleshooter, at first. He was not tall and muscular, … and his voice and manner seemed far too mild for an adventurer. Yet there was a chill hardness in his mild eyes that warned of the deceptiveness of his appearance…” This is a collection of all stories featuring Magnus Ridolph, troubleshooter for hire. Invariably those with whom he associates try to either cheat him or take advantage of him, but Magnus Ridolph always comes up with the answer to their problem and, usually with an unexpected twist, manages to collect his full fee from the cheater.


CLICK HERE FOR A FEW MORE TITLES BY JACK VANCE.


Thank you, Jack Vance

Jack Vance



Jack Vance passed away on May 26, 2013. He has been a major influence on science fiction and fantasy since he published The Dying Earth in 1950. We'd like to thank author Matthew Hughes for sharing what Jack Vance meant to him. 

Jack Vance: An Appreciation by Matthew Hughes


When you're young and on the upward curve of your life, you're in the business of doing things for the first time. Most of those things — your first kiss, your first date, your first car — you look forward to. Some of them — your first job interview, your first "we need to talk" talk — not so much.

And then there are the firsts that you don't even recognize as significant until you look back... Read More