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 with Navarath, giving him an eccentric artist personality. He talks dramatically and emphatically, gestures extravagantly, seeks attention, drinks a lot, and broods. When he got on a spaceship for the first time he “simultaneously became afflicted with claustrophobia and agoraphobia, and lay on a settee with his feet bare and a cloth pulled over his head.” He even constructs absurd (but somehow ingenious) poems, including one whose stanzas end with lines such as “But Tim R. Mortiss degurgled me” and “But Tim R. Mortiss peturgles me.”
- Zan Zu, the girl from Eridu, is a dreamy dirty adolescent misfit with no name. (Since Kirth asked for her name, Navarath introduced her as “Zan Zu from Eridu.”) Vance can’t help but use her entire title nearly every time she’s mentioned (and I can’t either), so Kirth thinks of her as Zan Zu, the girl from Eridu, and we regularly encounter the words “Zan Zu, the girl from Eridu” in the text. It just trips off the tongue so nicely and somehow made me smile every time I saw it. (I read somewhere that Jack Vance chose his characters’ names this way — by saying them over and over to see how they sound.)
These are three of Vance’s best supporting characters, all packed into about 150 pages. That’s enough reason to read The Palace of Love.