Jack Vance

The Dragon Masters

"War between the Basics and man had been waged intermittently over a period of many decades. Previous encounters had left each side with prisoners of the other species and each had performed remarkable genetic experiments. Thus, when they met again transformed men were slaves to the lizardlike Basics, fighting their battles and transporting their weapons, while on the other side, transformed Basics became dragons of all shapes and sizes, geared to fight the fiercest battle their human masters could plan. The nearness of the red star Coralyne predicted the imminence of the next conflict. Joaz Banbeck readied his war dragons to meet the attack. For upon his success might rest the entire future of the race of man on his world."

Original Publication: Ace, February 1963
This Edition: Ace, February 1963
Cover Art: Jack Gaughan
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Ace Double #F-185 with The Five Gold Bands, also by Jack Vance

Review:


The Five Gold Bands

"Five bracelets of solid gold - five clues that began an interstellar treasure hunt. And as the luck of the Irish would have it, Paddy Blackthorn found himself the chief hunter - and the chief hunted. He had only the cryptic messages imprinted in the five armbands so involuntarily left him by the five planetary rulers. He had also the help of a little, black-haired Earther girl to figure out their secrets. But it was no children's game they were playing. Old Mother Earth, now abandoned by her spawn, foundered on the verge of extinction. Only the treasure Paddy sought would suffice to rescue the home planet - and incidentally to rule the rest of the cosmos."

Original Publication: Ace, February 1963
This Edition: Ace, February 1963
Cover Art: Unknown
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Ace Double #F-185 with The Dragon Masters, also by Jack Vance

Review:


Son of the Tree

"A vast, breathing, sappy mass, a trunk five miles in diameter, and twelve miles from the great kneed roots to the ultimate bud - the 'Vital Experience" in the cant of the Druids. The Tree ruled the horizons, shouldered aside the clouds, and wore thunder and lightning like a wreath of tinsels. It was the soul of life, trampling and vanquishing the inert, and Joe understood how it had come to be worshipped by the first marveling settlers on Kyril. For Joe Smith, the sight of the Tree was the beginning of an experience that would forever change his life. He had journeyed into space in search of a man, but what he found was a tree, a huge sky-dominating tree, that held the power of life and death over millions of slaves."

Original Publication: Ace, 1964
This Edition: Ace, December 1971
Cover Art: Jack Kirby
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Ace Double #77525 with The Houses of Iszm, also by Jack Vance

Review:


The Houses of Iszm

"The people of Iszm lived in homes that were alive. Their dwelling places were elaborate, lush hollow trees, wherein the very walls, floors, ceilings, and even the furniture and plumbing, were all part of the living, thriving plant. The Iszic, along of all the people of the universe, possessed the secret of cultivating such a dwelling. The result was that they were holders of a gigantic, lucrative monopoly, exporting millions of such homes to all the other worlds. For decades, aliens from other worlds, including Earth, had been desperately trying to steal a female house-seed in order to break the monopoly. The Iszic security force had squashed every attempt successfully. This is the story of yet another plot - the most ingenious of all - to carry off a prize worth billions, just one seed from THE HOUSES OF ISZM."

Original Publication: Ace, 1964
This Edition: Ace, December 1971
Cover Art: Dean Ellis
Format: Paperback

Notes:

Ace Double #77525 with Son of the Tree, also by Jack Vance

Review:


The Eyes of the Overworld

"In the dim far future of Earth, when the sun had shrunk to a small red disk in the dark sky and the race of man lived in isolated cities that echoed with the vastness of the world's history, science, myth and magic had become one. Sorcerors who read the books of ancient times held great power, and fearsome monsters created in ages long forgotten stalked the land. In this world of mystery and danger, the adventurer known as Cugel the Clever was forced to undertake a quest for lucounu the Laughing Magician - a quest that was to take him to lands stranger than any he had dreamed of, and pit his wits and his sword against powers from beyond time itself. In this long-awaited new novel of the Dying Earth, Jack Vance has written a tale that you will want to read again and again, for its marvels are unending."

Original Publication: Ace, 1966
This Edition: Ace, 1966
Cover Art: Jack Gaughan
Format: Paperback

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The Languages of Pao

"In The Languages of Pao, Jack Vance is having a good time with a fascinating concept. The Planet Pao, a world of the very far future colonized from Earth, has a stagnant sort of culture, and one language. The scientists of the neighboring world of Breakness launch a ruthless experiment, jarring Pao into a new virility by installing three class-languages, one for a warrior class, one for technicians, and one for rulers and bureaucrats. But they build into the formula certain weaknesses of their own degenerate culture....Beran Panasper, heir to the throne of Pao, has been spirited away to Breakness to save his life - and to enable the Breakness wizards to train a tool for the later subjugation of Pao. But Beran's Paonian characteristics blend with Breakness science in an unsuspected way."

Original Publication: Avalon, 1958
This Edition: Ace, 1968
Cover Art: Gary Morrow
Format: Paperback

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Marune: Alastor 933

"Man with no past.From his fabulous palace on Numenes, the Connatic ruled the sprawling Alastor Clustor.and kept track of the doings of each of his trillion or more subjects. But there was one man he knew nothing about - for the past life of the wanderer called Pardero was a complete mystery. Pardero set himself two goals. Find out who he was...and find his enemy, the person who had stolen his memory. Psychologiest deduced that his home world must be the mysterious Marune...a planet lit by four shifting suns. Pardero made his way there - and was hailed as the Kaiark Efriam, the ruler of the shadowed realm. Uncovering his lost identity had been comparatively simple. Finding his sworn enemy would be more difficult...there were so many people to chose from!"

Original Publication: Ballantine, September 1975
This Edition: Ballantine, September 1975
Cover Art: Darrell Sweet
Format: Paperback

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Review:

Typical of Jack Vance, this story reads like a mystery novel. The main character, Pardero, cannot remember who he is or where he is from. He has landed on a planet in the Alastor cluster by a circuitous route and is placed in a forced labor camp to earn his keep as no one knows what else to do with him. After a period of time, he has earned enough credit to go to a medical planet where he discovers he is a member of the race called the Rhune.

Pardero decides to travel to Marune, his home planet, to investigate his mysterious deportation and memory loss. When he arrives on his planet, he discovers he was the upcoming ruler of the Rhune people and that he had been memory-wiped and sent off planet in a coup attempt. Through his investigations, he restores himself to his seat of power and manages to identify the usurpers. He traverses their many traps and emerges victorious – a pretty simple plot with an expected outcome.

Jack Vance has created a moderately interesting race, but not interesting enough to carry the story. The front of the book states: ”His past was gone – and there were 3,000 worlds to search for it!” This implies the reader will be taken on a journey through the Alastor cluster, being exposed to varying peoples and planets as the character strives to resolve his missing past. Quite the opposite is true actually. Pardero pretty rapidly is identified as a Rhune and smoothly gains transport to his home planet. The majority of the story takes place on Marune.

This is an *ok* novel; it’s not great. Some of the behaviors of the Rhune are novel and the plot wasn’t so slow as to be boring. I doubt I will ever read it again though.


Showboat World

"The Time - Light years away, beyond the rule of terrestrial law. The Place - The innermost planet of the yellow star Phaedra. A sanctuary for fantastics where animals have evolved into strange and marvelous shapes, human creatures have escaped the bondage of conformity and Earth's law, and fabulous showboats entertain eccentric settlers with gawdy antics and grotesque display. The Story - The perilous journey of two rascally showmen who try to outwit a king instead. A mysterious blonde beauty who tricks these aging rogues to regain her inheritance. And a bizarre performance of Macbeth that precititates a series of astonishing events. The Novel - A delightfully different science fiction fantasy - madcap adventure, uncommon suspense, and macabre surprise."

Original Publication: Pyramid, March 1975
This Edition: Pyramid, March 1975
Cover Art: Vincent DiFate
Format: Paperback

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Review:

I didn't really know what to expect from Jack Vance. He has published over 60 novels- all mystery, fantasy and science fiction. Showboat World is technically a science fiction novel, though only the very basic framework is fits this definition. Mostly, this is a simple adventure story. The world is called Big Planet and it is populated by descendants of Ancient Earth. These peoples are spread out in relatively small settlements along a great river. The settlements are mostly isolated from each other and they each have their own quirks and customs, which vary greatly.

The primary entertainment on this planet is provided by showboats. These are great ships which sail up and down the river, putting on shows of various types for fees (currency takes the form of Iron Groats). There is great competition among the showboats and demand for their acts is high in most areas. The shows themselves may be humorous, dramatic, circus-like or musical.

The plot of this particular story centers on a great competition which is to take place among various showboats from around Big Planet. The showboat captains are invited to perform for a distant king and the winner is promised great reward of money and land. The main character Apollon Zamp is chosen to perform for the king. The novel covers his antics, conflicts and interactions with local settlements as he makes his way up the great river and the outcome of the competition.

Again, this is only very loosely a science fiction novel. The story is interesting and it flows well. I can imagine that Vance had a great time creating differences in cultures and responses to the programs presented by the showboats as they travel up the great river. While the main character is adequately developed, the supporting ones are pretty shallow. The dialogue is simplistic and seems "chunky," for lack of a better word. This was originally published in 1975, but the dialogue feels more aged than that. The ending - just - ugh, not great. It really felt like Vance didn't know where to take the novel. I don't quite believe that though, because the ending is supported by foreshadowing earlier in the story. I can only conclude that Vance knew how the book would end and simply made a very uninteresting and unbelievable choice.


To Live Forever

"Garven Waylock had waited seven years for the scandal surrounding his former immortal self to be put to rest. He waited patiently, concealing his identity so that he could once again rise to the ranks of those who lived forever. He had been exceedingly careful about hiding his past. Then he met The Jacynth. She was a beautiful 19-year-old, and Garven wanted her. But he recognized that a wisdom far beyond her years marked her as one who knew too much about him to live. As far as she was concerned, death was a mere inconvenience. But once The Jacynth came back, Garven Waylock's life would be an everlasting hell!"

Original Publication: Ballantine, September 1956
This Edition: Ballantine, November 1976
Cover Art: Dean Ellis
Format: Paperback

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Star King

"Star Kings were a race of aliens who disguised themselves as human. They sought only power - power over the real men and women they looked upon with both contempt and lust. Keith Gersen had been a peace-abiding man until the terrible moment when five of these Star Kings descended upon the planet and home of his parents and vicisouly wiped them out as an "object lesson." At the news, vengeance became Gersen's sole objective in existence - to seek out and destroy those five Demon Princes. First on his list was Attel maalgate. His name was probably a fake, his appearance was unknown, but his style was vicious and his appetite was for human slavery. With only this to go on, Gersen was ready to track him down across a thousand stars..."

Original Publication: Dennis Dobson, June 1966
This Edition: DAW, September 1978
Cover Art: Gino D'Achille
Format: Paperback

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The Face

"There had been five cosmic villains on Kirth Gersen's vengeance list. There were now just two left. The Demon Prince named Lens Larque was the one who next crossed Gersen's path. As each of the five planet-slayers were different from one another, so too was Lens Larque. He was personally ugly, he came from a planet with appallingly vicious culture, and he was arrogant above all others. Kirth Gersen realized that this was going to be a tough nut to crack. But would it be even possible? For Larque was not only well hidden, he had a mission of villainy that overrode all the other villainies in Gersen's file, and his personal obsession was based upon an enormous and very real foundation in sadistic power. At long last, the eagerly awaited fourth novel of Jack Vance's great Demon Princes adventures."

Original Publication: DAW, November 1979
This Edition: DAW, November 1979
Cover Art: Gino D'Achille
Format: Paperback

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Galactic Effectuator

"Meet Miro Hetzel, Galactic Effectuator. He's part gentleman, part detective, part fruad, and his trail of exploits cuts through osme of the more improbable civilizations in the universe. Join him in a trip to the planet Maz, whose natives are so fierce that they'll fight three battles before lunch and then dine on the enemy - a planet that only a man with Miro Hetzel's steely nerve would dare visit at all."

Original Publication: Underworld-Miller, July 1980
This Edition: Ace, November 1981
Cover Art: David B. Mattingly
Format: Paperback

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Araminta Station

"I, THE PURPSE ROSE SYSTEM of Mircea's Wisp: (excerpted from The Worlds of Man, by Fellows of the Fidelius Institute) Halfway along the Perseit Arm a capricious swirl of galactic gravitation has caught up ten thousand stars and sent them streaming away at an angle, with a curl and a flourish at the end. This is Mircea's Wisp. To the side of the curl, at seeming risk of wandering away into the void, is the Purple Rose System, comprising three stars: Lorca, Sing and Syrene. Lorca, a white dwarf, and Sing, a red giant, swing close together around their mutual center of gravity: a portly pink-faced old gentleman waltzing with a dainty little maiden dressed in white. Syrene, a yellow-white star of ordinary size and luminosiy, orbits the gallivanting pair at a discreet distance. Syrene controls three planets, including Cadwal, the single inhabited world of the system. The planet Cadwal is forever set aside as a natural preserve, owned and administrated by the Naturalist Society of Earth, and inhabited by a very limited number of skilled human scientists and their families. But this simple, straightforward plan has been complicated by the passing centuries, and has become a byzantine culture where every place in the Houses of Cadwal is the object of savage competition. In Arminta Station, the first volume of The Cadwal Chronicles, Vance has constructed a brilliant, complex tale of revenge and murder, of love and alien intrigue, and set it glittering among the stars of the Purple Rose System."

Original Publication: Underworld-Miller, September 1987
This Edition: Tor, March 1988
Cover Art: Boris Vallejo
Format: Hardback

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