Today is Jack Vance day on Friday's "Forgotten" Books, and while Patti Abbott takes a much-deserved week off from playing host, I'm happy to step in and serve as Vance Central for the day.
John Holbrook "Jack" Vance was an American author born in 1916 who died just this past May, at the age of 96. He wrote prolifically in the science fiction and fantasy genres, but he also penned close to a dozen mystery novels under his name and a couple of pen names, as well as three books written in the Ellery Queen franchise. He won an Edgar for the best first mystery novel in 1961 for The Man in the Cage, as well as Hugo and Nebula Awards.
The first offering in today's FFB comes via Deb, who reviews Maske: Thaery, published by the author under his own name. For all the other books, both by Vance and other authors, check out the links at the bottom of this blog post.
Review of Jack Vance's Maske:Thaery by Deb
Part coming-of-age saga, part political and religious allegory, and part spy thriller, Jack Vance’s 1976 science fiction novel, Maske: Thaery, packs a lot into its slim 180 pages (this includes a helpful glossary, ala A Clockwork Orange, and a series of elucidating footnotes, found particularly at the beginning of the book). This is the first Vance book I have read and I must admit I found it a bit heavy-going in parts. Not so much the plot, which is fairly fleet-footed, especially when Vance must include so much expository and world-building information, but the constant drag of made-up words and unconventional spellings.
Here is an example, a piece of dialog selected at random: “That is the Wael punishment. I consider them the strangest folk of Maske, perhaps of the whole Gaean Reach; they are said to derive from a union between Vile Fourteenth and a band of rogue Djans.” Whether this arouses in you a desire to know where the Gaean Reach is or to discover who Vile Fourteenth and Djans are will determine if you will want to read this book.
Generations before the start of the story, the planet of Maske was invaded by a contingent of ultra-religious Thariots who drove out the original inhabitants (referred to as Waels and Djans) and settled an area they call Thaery. A group of original invaders who did not share the Thariots belief in a specific divinity process were exiled to a rough outpost called Glentlin. The residents of this area are referred to as “Glints”—a word synonymous with boorish and crude in the Thariot language (much as the Glints take “Thariot” to mean devious or secretive).
Jubal Droad is a Glint who has the misfortune of being a second son, meaning there will be no inheritance for him—he will have to make his way in the world armed with only his wits—but of those he has aplenty. During Yallow, a traditional Glint rite-of-passage, Jubal runs afoul of Ramus Ymph, a powerful Tharion who has broken the Theary laws restricting inhabitants to their own land. Later, Jubal is employed by the head of Thearian security, Nai the Hever, and Jubal’s information about Ymph’s off-world activities results in Ymph being denied a significant government office. Ymph is a thug and a bully and Jubal now has a very powerful enemy.
While Jubal continues in his capacity as Sanitary Inspector (actually a cover for his work as a spy for Nai the Hever), Ymph seeks revenge by inducing his fiancée, Mieltrude, to sign a warrant that will result in Jubal’s being severely beaten. Did I mention that Mieltrude is also Nai the Hever’s daughter? Jubal manages to escape the punishment, but things get very complicated for Jubal, especially when his illegitimate brother murders their older brother, the head of their clan, and claims the position for himself. Jubal fights and defeats the usurper and he’s sure that Ymph had a hand in the original coup. Unable to convince Nai the Hever of the Ymph’s complicity, Jubal seizes Mieltrude and pursues Ymph across Thaery and the oceans of the outer lands.
During the voyage, Jubal and Mieltrude, like so many fictional couples who are originally antagonistic toward each other, begin to thaw. Jubal discovers that Mieltrude is unwillingly engaged to Ymph who sees his fiancée as a political tool and reserves his love for his mistress, Sune, a nasty piece of work in her own right. More adventure follows as the pursuit of Ymph exposes a whole new dimension to his greed, corruption, and cunning. Stick around for Ymph’s well-deserved and ecologically-correct comeuppance.
As I said initially, this is a dense book. It’s packed with action and adventure, good guys and bad guys, and a lovely female—almost the science fiction equivalent of a swashbuckling movie. Enjoy the book, but take my advice and keep a bookmark in the glossary—you’re going to need it!
LINKS TO JACK VANCE BOOK REVIEWS
Patti Abbott, The Last Castle by Jack Vance
Sergio Angelini, The Madman Theory by Jack Vance, writing as Ellery Queen
Bill Crider, Take My Face by Jack Vance, writing as Peter Held
Loren Eaton, The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance
Ed Gorman, Bad Ronald by Jack Vance
Jerry House has some interesting Vance notes and links
Randy Johnson, Son of the Tree by Jack Vance
George Kelley, To Live Forever by Jack Vance
Evan Lewis, Lyonesse, a/k/a Suldrun's Garden by Jack Vance
Todd Mason, The Dogtown Tourist Agency by Jack Vance
Todd Mason also posted a tribute to Vance after the author's death in May
John F. Norris, Space Opera by Jack Vance
James Reasoner, Vandals of the Void by Jack Vance
Kelly Robinson, Flesh Mask by Jack Vance
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
LINKS TO OTHER BOOKS
Joe Barone, Now May You Weep by Deborah Crombie
William F. Deeck, The Skyscraper Murder by Samuel Spewack
Martin Edwards, Found Floating by Freeman Wills Crofts
Curt Evans, The Adventures of Arthur Dawe (Sleuth Hound), by J.S. Fletcher
Roy Garraty, A Killer is Loose by Gil Brewer
Ed Gorman, The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer
Nick Jones, The Hunted by Elmore Leonard
Peggy Ann, Deed Without a Name by Dorothy Bowers
Charles Rutledge, Through the Dark Curtain by Peter Saxon
Ron Scheer, Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson
Michael Slind, The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie
Kerrie Smith, Danger Point by Patricia Wentworth
TomCat, The Cursing Stones Murder by George Bellairs
Prashant Trikannad, All the Lonely People by Martin Edwards
Zybahn, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole