Review of The Gray Prince by Jack Vance

The Gray Prince is not advanced Vance, but it fulfills many of the checklist items one comes to expect from the GM of fantasy: weird creatures, oddball characters, absurd names, made-up vocabulary, un-subtle satire, hilarious high jinx, and luscious alien scenery.

One of the most inventive pulp writers around, Vance’s slim space novels leave many of his competitors in the astral dust.

Witty dialogue, unexpected, quirky vehicles, and little to no sciency explanation for technology are all par for the course. Where this iteration lacks in plot or depth, it makes it up with gorgeous imagery and action-packed adventure. Its characters speak our language, and live lifestyles not remote from our own with the conveniences of futuristic luxury, but still hold onto the backward morality of imperialism. A few surprises are in store for the uninitiated reader, but Vance has reworked these themes elsewhere. One or another of his books are not necessary to start with. Even his series can be digested in isolated parts. Being in the company of this writer is always a singular pleasure. His concern is usually entertainment, and if he added a few political undercurrents here and there, it was only to lend his work relevance. He might have survived as a purist writer, consumed with mere aesthetic, but he triumphs as a storyteller and left behind a massive oeuvre of gemlike dream-worlds.

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