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Jack Vance: Ports of Call / Lurulu

I’ve read most of the Jack Vance that’s in print in the US, and some that isn’t, which means that in order to read more I have to either track down out-of-print books or read his grade-B material. This is the latter. It’s published as two novels, but it’s really one novel ripped into two halves; Ports of Call ends abruptly, without even a cliffhanger, and Lurulu picks up where it left off. (They were published six years apart, in 1998 and 2004, which makes for entertaining reading as one watches people at the time being irritated by the first book cutting off without warning.)

It’s the last thing that he wrote, except for supposedly an imminent autobiography – he’s over 90 and blind now – and it kind of shows. Throughout most of it, a bunch of buddies planet-hop in their space-yacht without any real structure, having the usual Vancian adventures with the wacky cultures of each planet, which are distinguished from each other mostly through the color of their hats, the name of their local beer, and the relative ferocity of their haggling.

This may not sound like much fun, and most of the reviews I’ve read have been rather negative, but although not much happens from page to page, most of the individual pages are a lot of fun, just because Vance’s style is so awesome. If you’re not already sold on Vance, this is not the place to start, but if you’re already a fan, you’ll probably get more pleasure out of it than a quick browsing of reviews would lead you to believe.

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