Planet of Adventure

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 5, 2010

Planet of Adventure by Jack Vance

This meeting at the North Village branch drew twelve attendees. Our topic was Planet of Adventure, an omnibus combining four related novels by Jack Vance: City of the Chasch, Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir, and The Pnume. They follow the adventures of Adam Reith, the sole survivor of an Earth ship sent to explore the planet Tschai. The planet is populated by three races, all dangerous to our hero.

Ten of us had read Vance previously. Ten started this book. Nine of us finished the first novel, and seven finished all four.

One reader enjoyed these stories. He felt they started quickly and showed great imagination. He liked how Vance handled social and psychological elements. He wished the characters were developed in more depth.

Another who’d read these books long ago said she enjoyed rereading them. She felt the stories held up well.

Yet another found the book was slow to get going. She felt the story got moving when the hero got involved in local politics and started trying to pull off a regime change. She enjoyed the princess, and appreciated it when she became psycho.

Another reader commented that the book felt like good space opera. The continuing series of cliffhangers gave the feeling of a movie serial.

One person in our group said he simply loves Jack Vance’s work. He said the basic framework of this book was a regency travelogue. He feels that the planet is the book’s main character. He loved Vance’s ironic footnotes. He liked how each race on the planet had a different concept of how they came to be.

A few people pointed out problems in the science of the book, particularly in issues of astronomy and physics. The big Vance fan in our group commented that “Vance is not interested in science.”

One reader that this book read like swashbuckling fantasy, and it was a disappointment as a science fiction novel.

Another praised Vance’s ambitious worldbuilding and smooth writing style, but felt the story was not compelling.

After the meeting, several of us got together for a good dinner at Casa Chapala.

—A. T. Campbell, III