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Thread: Jack Vance

  1. #16
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    Some years ago I read the Star King and then realised that it was the first book of a 5 book series (The Demon Princes ) the rest of which I didn’t have of course.
    In the last couple of months the other 4 books came into my possession (at 25 pence each!) so I decided to finish the series many years late.
    Well the wait was definitely worth it, so much so that I read the books one after another, something I rarely do.
    Vance has a style of his own, which I have found to be very readable. I think it’s fair to say that he is not a writer who uses too much in the way of technology in his stories – space ships are just there to enable his characters to get to the planets he so brilliantly describes. All his planets are different, from Dar Sai where the Darsh live in almost “Dune” like conditions to the fabulous sounding Sogdien where the Palace of Love was situated.
    He will enrich your vocabulary –especially if you keep a dictionary handy to check out those unknown words, like otiose
    I have spent a very enjoyable 10 days or so reading this series, although I suppose it’s not for those who like “hard” science fiction.
    The full series was:
    The Star King
    The Killing Machine
    The Palace of Love
    The Face
    The Book of Dreams

    42
    ps. Otiose –serving no practical purpose, or, idle.

  2. #17
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    I agree with 42 that Vance does not use a lot of technology, or at least, he does not describe the technology in great detail. He shows it for what it is, utilitarian; a means to an end.

    Where I would say that Vance is VERY hard science fiction is in his treatment of the consequences of humans using technology and moving out into the galaxy.

    He certainly speculates that humans will begin to diverge from our standard 23 chromosomes if left unattended in distant worlds. Some of his humans have become almost new species by the time we see them in the Demon Prince series.
    He has even more fun with the plasticity of human form and mind in the Planet of Adventure series. He pointedly makes a distinction between the physical human form being morphed and adapted and the human mind undergoing similar changes. The Chaschmen are almost little Chasch, they have been bred so long apart from other humans. The Wankhmen and the Pnumekin are quite the opposite: looking very much like terrestrial people, but having greatly different psychological processes.

    I derive a great deal of enjoyment from contemplating these possibilities. This is what makes Vance so good. That, and his ability to paint a landscape with a handful of choice words. His planets leap off the page unlike any other that I have read.

  3. #18
    Registered User Pathir's Avatar
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    Ah, Vance... I love his books. Have almost all of them by now.
    I can go on and on about his works, most of them brilliant, the rest still great, but I will constrain myself. I can recommend Vance to everyone though. Does anyone else have this great map of Tscai, by the way? I got it with a special edition. The whole planet in full view. A good map is a rare thing of beauty...

  4. #19
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    Pathir:

    Map of Tschai? Do you refer to the line drawing as it appears in the 4 book single volume? Or is this something else, like an artist actually created a "from space" type view?

    If it is the second, I would be dearly interested in getting a copy, or a link to a scan, anything. I took colored pencils and marked up the map in my 4 book volume to trace Adam Reith's travels across Tschai.

    Wish there was a way I could take aphysical tour of Tschai! See the aliens, taste the foods, smell the odors, hear the sounds. It would be a wonderful (and somewhat perilous) place to visit.

    PS: how is Tschai pronounced? It's bugged me for decades. I mentally hear it as "Ch-Eye" but I could be wrong. Growing up with an Oregonian's flat accentation to English almost any pronunciation is possible.

  5. #20
    Registered User Pathir's Avatar
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    Moybin - Nope, just a map like you can find in say, WOT or SOIAF...
    Not a view from space or something like that. Just a flat drawing of all the continents, oceans and stuff, and the places Reith visites while on Tschai. Wonderfully done though...

  6. #21
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    Night Lamp
    I’ve just finished Night Lamp by Jack Vance, a story set in the Gaean Reach series, of novels. Again, he is up to scratch with his well rounded characters and richly descriptive planets.

    Here’s a little of what you find on Ushant a small planet in the Reach.

    “clusters of pink, black and orange feather-ferns shuddered in the breeze, emitting puffs of sweet- scented spores which when collected and compressed, yielded a confection much enjoyed by local folk. At intervals maddercap spines rose two-hundred feet, to stand stiff and rigid as poles. Each spine terminated in a ten-foot knob, from which spurted a corona of orange flames, regular as flower petals. The flames burned perpetually , and by night from an altitude, the Gages of Lyrhidion seemed a field of flameflowers”.

    I’m sure Vance has been to Ushant and seen all these things!

    A few new words to look up (and probably forget again).

    Another good story by a master of literature

    42

  7. #22
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    Big Planet
    This is possibly the most unsatisfying Vance story I’ve read.
    It started ok with the survivors of a sabotaged space ship having to make their way across an inhospitable planet. Plenty of opportunity for Vance to indulge in his strengths of planet/people descriptions. He has all the ingredients for an interesting story but doesn't carry it through.
    Vance made the journey to safety for our heroes 40000 miles in length which seemed to dishearten him. After writing about a planet bereft of high technology to make their journey quicker, he suddenly throws in the towel and has them overpower some baddies and take over their air car. They then fly to safety-what a cop-out.

    42

  8. #23
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    Vance the Best of The Best

    At the risk of starting an arugument, I am going to say that I think Jack Vance is the unqualified and undisputed best SF writer of all time, and I mean bar none!

    I've been reading SF for some 35 years, and have read just about all imaginable, but for me, no other comes close. Don't get me wrong -- I worship Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Silverberg, and many more as if they were gods -- and they are!

    But Vance transcends! He not just a great SF writer, but I truly believe he is a major literary figure of our times. I really think he belongs in a pantheon of greats, such as James Joyce, Fitzgerald or Hemingway. Vance is that good, and that important.

    When you begin to read his books in depth, you began to discover many layers of intelligence, meaning, form and purpose. His vocabulary is what stuns and delights most people, as it should -- but there is really so much more to his work -- just incredible depth.

    When I die, I hope the afterlife is just like Vance's Oikomeine. That's where I want to spend the rest of eternity -- flitting about the far flung planets of the Gaean Reach!

  9. #24
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    Re: Vance the Best of The Best

    Originally posted by Ken Korczak
    At the risk of starting an arugument, I am going to say that I think Jack Vance is the unqualified and undisputed best SF writer of all time, and I mean bar none!

    I've been reading SF for some 35 years, and have read just about all imaginable, but for me, no other comes close. Don't get me wrong -- I worship Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Silverberg, and many more as if they were gods -- and they are!

    But Vance transcends! He not just a great SF writer, but I truly believe he is a major literary figure of our times. I really think he belongs in a pantheon of greats, such as James Joyce, Fitzgerald or Hemingway. Vance is that good, and that important.

    When you begin to read his books in depth, you began to discover many layers of intelligence, meaning, form and purpose. His vocabulary is what stuns and delights most people, as it should -- but there is really so much more to his work -- just incredible depth.

    When I die, I hope the afterlife is just like Vance's Oikomeine. That's where I want to spend the rest of eternity -- flitting about the far flung planets of the Gaean Reach!
    .... No argument from me on the merits of Vance,Ken,he rarely produces a dud story and when he does, it comes as a shock.
    Apart from Big Planet the only other one I can think of that was disappointing was the Durdane series, in my opinion rather feeble for Vance.

    42

  10. #25
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    You are absolutely right, 42 --

    I think I have made my admiration and hero worship of Jack Vance quite clear (see comment above, everyone) -- but even a near genius like this guy produces the occasional dud.

    I really agree with you, 42, about Big Planet. I really think this is, by far, one of Vance's weaker books -- yet, so many other call it their favorite, and I think even the analysis of Vance in the Enclycopedia of Science Fiction praises this work -- that perplexes me! Still, I enjoyed it while recognizing it as flawed.

    As for the Durdane books, at first I found this strange series a bit of a struggle -- and even tedious -- to read at first, but then it slowly grew on me -- and the last in the series, "The Asutra," I think he finally hits a very good stride.

    In my opinion, Vance's very worst series is the "Planet of Adventure" books, I forget their exact names, just now -- they're like old fashioned space opera, very much in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs (sp?) whom I understand Vance loved when he was younger -- yet, over and over again I see many others call this their favorite Vance, and I truly can't understand that.

    But we can look at any great writer and find lumps of coals among their many diamonds. Look at the way the mighty Kurt Vonnegut faded from a super-hip, groundbreaking, brilliant and trend setting writer, to an overwritten hack who seemed to be churning out books purely for money. (I say this as an ardent fan of Vonnegut, believe me).

    One more clear weakness of Vance: He really struggles to hold a plot together in longer works, his novels. Vance excells with the short novel, but seems to lose steam and wander a bit in his longer works.

    I think we have to remember that these guys are only human. I remember years ago when I was a newspaper columnist, I always seemed to be judged on all the bad columns I wrote, and rarely praised for the good ones I wrote.

    I think it's important to look back on the total body of work of a writer, and never judge them on just their good stuff, or just their bad. Writing something -- anything -- that is good is just plain hard! Even for the gifted.

    I could even mention how such giants as T.S. Eliott and others faded from their glory, but then I'm already an out-of-control windbag here -- so Sianara for now!

  11. #26
    Registered User rune's Avatar
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    I've heard about Lyonesse:Suldrun's Garden (bk 1 Lyonesse Series) which is suppose to be a fantasy series by this author. I've not read any of his stuff and was wondering if anyone can confirm this is a fantasy story. I'm not keen on sci-fi!

    rune

  12. #27
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Rune - Lyonesse IS a fantasy - it uses the fictional place of Lyonesse (rather like Atlantis) as its setting.

    I think that you might be mistaking it for his Dying Earth series which is SF, but not obviously so.

    Hobbit
    Mark

  13. #28
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    Originally posted by Hobbit
    Rune - Lyonesse IS a fantasy - it uses the fictional place of Lyonesse (rather like Atlantis) as its setting.

    I think that you might be mistaking it for his Dying Earth series which is SF, but not obviously so.

    Hobbit
    Thanks for the tip . I get confused when authors write both fantasy and sci-fi.

    rune

  14. #29
    The Planet of Adventure series!!! Weak?? What incredible books. The detail of the various races and societies all on the same planet. The humans linked to the various races (Chaschmen, Pnumekin, Whankhers (Ha! Ha!) and how they evolved to each master species over time! Makes me want to read them again. I would not want to run into the "Preistesses of the Female Mystery" or what ever they were called. Crazy old crones!!!!
    Last edited by thrint; September 14th, 2003 at 06:24 PM.

  15. #30
    Iv'e always thought the "Demon Princes" books were influenced by that old Steve McQueen movie "Nevada Smith". Kirth seems to do some of the same things Smith does to get his quarry. I think the first book came out about a year after the movie.
    Last edited by raggedyman; September 20th, 2003 at 09:02 PM.

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