The Alastor Series

Trullion: Alastor 2262 1973

The book has the 2262 bit, the year it was published was 1973. This is the book that introduced the kinky game hussade to the world. Someone suggested the newsgroup rec.sport.hussade as well! Trullion is planet 2262 of the Alastor Cluster and here we have twins Glinnes and Glay Hulden contending and competing over all manner of things in their island and channel demesne. Pretty standard stuff. 6 out of 10.

Marune: Alastor 933 1975

Cobbled out of an Amazing serialisation, this installment features an amnesiac left to die, and he wanders back to the eponymous planet to seek retribution and justice. Notable for its baroque feel and Marune’s strange times of day and the moods it gives its inhabitants. 6½ out of 10.

Wyst: Alastor 1716 1978

Wyst is a giant social experiment, quasi-Brave New Worldish, part job-sharing communism, all Vancian invention. Jantiff Ravensroke is the Connatic’s investigator into some stranger than usual goings-on on the planet. Annotated and footnoted as usual. A reasonable addition to the Vance bibliography. 6 out of 10.

The Lyonesse Series

Lyonesse 1983

A wondrous fantasy epic, dealing with an admittedly trite theme, but done with stupendous verve and gusto. Suldrun, the melancholy daughter of devious King Casmir, heroic Aillas, the odd Faude Carfilhiot, the suave magician Shimrod. Add to this fairies, Celts, Ska, Irish, monks, trolls and a host of preternatural nasties. A sweeping tale if there ever was one, of the folk of the Elder Isles during Dark Ages Europe. Gives the term fantasy new definition. 9½ out of 10.

Lyonesse II The Green Pearl 1985

Things begin to take shape in Hy Brasil. Plots start to firm, peoples characteristics take on hard lustres, the magic becomes more fey, dire and colourful. Prophecies start to unravel, love foments, you get the picture…​not quite the extraordinary joy the first book is, due to a drawn-out end section. Still a magnificent book by any standards and it leaves the "smiled grimly" Tolkienesque stuff for dead. A mind-bending imagination at work. 9 out of 10.

Lyonesse III Madouc 1989

An energetic and satisfying conclusion to this superb work of fantastic literature. The eponymous character is a real crotchet of a girl, as perverse as Melbourne weather with a delightful charm and she leaves grim Lyonesse to seek out her pedigree. She finds the Holy Grail along the way as well. Some very good just rewards are handed out in this book which is as fresh as the first. 9½ out of 10.

The Cadwal Chronicles

Araminta Station 1988

Back to the good old Gaean Reach goes Vance in this trilogy. This book is set on the world Cadwal, a naturalist preserve controlled by a stifling bureaucracy. Young Glawen Clattuc has a bildungsroman style life, culminating in a series of horrible revelations which prove all isn’t well in the stratified world of Cadwal and its bureaus. 5½ out of 10.

Ecce and Old Earth 1991

The worst book of Vance’s I have read for no other reason than the Vancism I have railed against heretofore: stinginess. Every soul in this sequel is a crafty miser who’ll sell their right eyeball if it gave them enough of a financial advantage. This aspect is coupled with the cold fact that the protagonist, Wayness Tamm, is a prudish and very irritating young lady. The novel is good as a travelogue, but poor as a work of readable fiction. 4 out of 10.

Throy 1993

A semi-OK conclusion to a minor series which is, more or less, a rehash of books like Emphyrio or To Live Forever. Just desserts get dealt out, plots get concluded, our hero Glawen Clattuc gets the girl, you know the rest. 5 out of 10

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