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

Jack Vance The Demon Princes 5. The Book of Dreamsscience fiction book reviews Jack Vance The Demon PrincesThe 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 Vanceian elements, too, including an intergalactic magazine contest and a species of sub-humans who had devolved because they don’t eat meat (“the dark side of vegetarianism”).

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the Demon Princes novels, but I was hoping for something extra in this final episode — perhaps the most outrageous enemy, a near-death experience, the cleverest plot, the perfect girl — something special to wrap up the series. Vance could have done more with Howard Alan Treesong who had multiple personalities and was planning to take over the universe. He could have been a scarier villain.

The end of The Book of Dreams was abrupt. All through the series, I’ve been wondering what Kirth would do when his life’s work was over. Would he feel relieved? Depressed? Purposeless? This was answered in two lines at the end of The Book of Dreams. I was hoping for more, but Vance chose not to enlighten us. So, I didn’t get the “go-out-with-a-bang” ending or the epilogue I was hoping for, but I’m still satisfied. Kirth Gersen is one of Jack Vance’s best heroes. I’m going to miss him.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I really want to reread these books. They were some of the first SF I ever read. I wish I could find my copy of the books – I think I may have accidentally thrown it into a box with library donations or something. Very frustrating.

  2. They’ve got them in 2 omnibus editions now, which makes it easier. I loved this series.

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