Space Opera – Jack Vance

A young man convinces his wealthy aunt to underwrite a space yacht to bring Earth’s classical music to alien and human outposts. Vance plays on the phrase ‘Space Opera’ by offering … space opera. The result is the very definition of farce, as a well-meaning philanthropist and her opera troupe wander the stars offering a taste of Earth’s culture. The setup is decent, and the fulfillment is okay, but for me this lacked Vance’s usual…

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The Languages of Pao – Jack Vance

A science fiction examination of the Sapir-Whorf theory that language shapes thought – a neighbouring planet introduces three caste-specific langauges to Pao. I first read this book a long time ago. It was my first exposure to the idea that language shapes not just how one says things, but what it is possible to say and think. I was tremendously impressed. Vance takes that idea, and runs with it. While I wouldn’t say that this…

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The Dragon Masters – Jack Vance

Two races breed prisoners into specialized warriors. Despite being one of Vance’s more celebrated stories, a re-read didn’t really change my view. Vance starts with an interesting idea – that two antagonistic races breed their prisoners of war into specialized soldiers – and introduces it in an understated way. But the result lacks the usual Vance narrative charm, and emotionally, the story doesn’t go very far. It feels more like a sketch than a full…

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Madouc – Jack Vance

Lyonesse #3 The changeling Madouc is King Casmir’s rightful heir, but he sets a near-impossible quest for her suitors, so she takes matters into her own hands. I liked Madouc more this time than the first time I read it. Still, it failed to work the usual Vance magic on me. Effectively, it mostly provide more of the same (as was in the first two books). Usually, with Vance, that’s more than enough. I’m not…

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The Green Pearl – Jack Vance

Lyonesse #2 Aillas, King of Troicinet on Lyonesse, takes extreme steps to protect his holdings. The Green Pearl is a much better book than I recalled it being. Perhaps that’s because we spend some time in an alternate world, and Vance is thus freed from the constraints of Earth. Perhaps it’s because the storyline is simpler, following primarily Aillas and Glyneth. Aillas, King of Troicinet and South Ulfland, spends a fair amount of time haring…

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Suldrun’s Garden – Jack Vance

Lyonesse #1 Suldrun, daughter of a king of Lyonesse, is dissatisfied but unfocused. Complex events across the island lead to dark deeds and intrigue. I first read Suldrun’s Garden when it came out in the 1980s. At least I think I did; maybe it was later. In any case, I didn’t like it much. I recall thinking that it seemed like an effort to get in on the latest Arthurian craze (Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists…

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