Friday, June 19, 2009

BtBG Reader - The Gray Prince, Jack Vance

Out of all the great pulp authors I read growing up, Vance just wasn't one of them. Not for lack of interest, mind you, just busy reading other stuff, I guess. At any rate, when I finally did get around to picking up the Dying Earth stuff, I enjoyed Cugel's exploits immensely, and have since picked up anything with Vance's name on it. In fact, I pick up "pulpy-looking" books every time I walk into a used bookstore, and the Gray Prince fit the bill twice over, being by Vance and quite "pulpy looking".

This book proved to be quite a surpise, I was almost instantly absorbed by the book, and read about 75% of it in one marathon afternoon on the patio with a growler of excellent IPA, finishing up the rest over two lunchbreaks.

The book is not fantasy, but science fiction. Actually it would be more accurate to call it "Sci-Fantasy" not too far-removed from the genre of Burroughs or Farmer. It involves a young woman, Schaine, returning to her home planet after being effectively exiled for five years after committing an unfortunate indiscretion. She returns to find the idyllic home of her childhood poised on the edge of turmoil, as the planet is home to several races, humans in the dominant position, with several others beneath them in varying degrees of submission and barbarity.

The cosmopolitan cities are aswirl with well-meaning organizations working towards the equalization or liberation of the most prominent "lesser" race, the Uldras, most of which centers around the enigmatic Gray Prince, a native with a shadowed and bitter history.

After what appears to be a tragic accident, Schaine, her brother, and two friends must trek across the wilderness through now-hostile territory, and discover the seeds of a potentially world-altering mystery. The unraveling of the mystery is where Vance deftly reveals his intent, with all the wry wit he is famous for. But as with all great endings, getting there is half the fun.


  1. Nice to see a comment on this one. It's not, AFAICT, well-loved even by Vance fans, but I found it a fantastic read.

    If you haven't already, find a story collection with "The Moon Moth." I just re-read it the other day; it never gets old, despite the fact that it's a mystery story at heart (set on a world with the unusual social mores that characterize Vance).

  2. I liked it a lot also and had a similar reading experience (quickly almost finishing). I just found another of his books (The Last Castle) and I like it too. Still waiting on 3rd book of Lyonesse, which really floored me. (I too am late to Vance)

  3. So what's your favorite Vance book? I must confess to never having read any of his stuff, and should probably check it out.

  4. Probably "Eyes of the Overworld" is my favorite Vance work so far, but I still have lots to read by him (which I'm looking forward to!;)



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