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The Jack Vance Treasury
edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan
Subterranean Press, 631 pages

The Jack Vance Treasury
Jack Vance
John Holbrook Vance was born in 1916. Over a career spanning many decades, he has garnered many honours. They include the Edgar Award in 1960, the Hugo Award in 1963 and 1967, the Nebula Award in 1966, the Jupiter Award in 1975, the Achievement Award in 1984, the GilgamXs Award in 1988, the World Fantasy Award in 1990, and the Grand Master Award in 1997. He has used many pseudonyms including Alan Wade, Peter Held, John Holbrook and John van See. Jack Vance's original manuscripts for several of his books are kept at Boston University's main library in the manuscripts department.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lurulu
SF Site Review: The Dragon Masters
SF Site Review: Lyonesse II: The Green Pearl and Madouc
SF Site Review: Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden
SF Site Review: Night Lamp
SF Site Review: Tales of the Dying Earth
SF Site Review: Big Planet
SF Site Review: Emphyrio
SF Site Review: Ports of Call

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Matthew Hughes

Among Jack Vance's devotees, the perennial question arises: of all the Master's works, what to choose when one wishes to introduce him to a new reader?

The variety of answers delineates the subsects within the broad, and occasionally genteelly contentious, universe of Vance aficionados. Those who like best his decidedly non-Tolkienesque fantasies will recommend the Lyonesse trilogy. Fans of space opera will plump for the muscular saga of revenge and retribution spread over the five volumes of The Demon Princes. Lovers of planetary romances will offer Big Planet or the four sequential novels that combine in Tschai: Planet of Adventure. Those with a taste for far-future picaresque will hold high their tattered copies of The Dying Earth. For the record, this reviewer usually recommends Emphyrio as quintessential Vance in one short novel, with a wonderfully tragic (in the real, original sense of "cathartic"), climax.

A few months ago, the Australian editor Jonathan Strahan popped up on a few discussion boards to pose a new variation on the old question. What, he asked, should be the table of contents of a representative collection of the shorter works? A lively debate immediately ensued, and it is clear that Strahan and his co-editor, fellow antipodeanite Terry Dowling (also an old friend of Jack Vance), weighed and sifted the many heartfelt recommendations carefully.

The result is The Jack Vance Treasury, and one could not ask for a more savory Vancean buffet. Cugel the Clever sidles and struts beneath the fading sun of an ancient Earth, foiling and being foiled by magicians in grand palaces and sly headmen of rude villages. Liane the Wayfarer, in the eponymous tale, ends up with his eye on Chun the Unavoidable. Magnus Ridolph (not one of Vance's own favorite characters, but well beloved by some readers), solves a mystery while getting his own back on a pair of swindling hucksters. The incomparable The Moon Moth explores in perfect Vancean style questions of identity and social context. There are even representative samples of the plain-spoken Vance of the mid-fifties, in the hard-SF stories "The Gift of Gab" and "Sail 25."

Best of all, the collection is large enough, at 631 pages, to include not one but two of Vance's grand novellas: The Dragon Masters, this reviewer's own personal introduction to the Vancean magic, and The Last Castle, in which the few remaining humans on Earth, grown effete and languid in their ultra-civilized pursuits, confront a revolt of their single-minded servitors.

All taken in all, this is a first-rate selection of a grandmaster in all the disparate moods and periods of his sixty-year career. And it comes with a bonus: the texts are not from the original printings in long-vanished pulp magazines; instead, they are taken from that grand and unprecedented effort by hundreds of volunteer Vancephiles on at least three continents, the Vance Integral Edition, which painstakingly restored his entire oeuvre. The VIE produced a definitive shelf of volumes that preserve this unique author's original vision -- before editors of varying abilities and tastes cut and altered them, often merely to fit the limited space of a magazine. Thus, true Vancephiles as well those fortunate enough to be discovering him for the first time, can read the works as they were meant to be read.

The word "treasury" in the title is well chosen. Here be treasures.

Copyright © 2007 Matthew Hughes

Matthew Hughes
Matthew Hughes writes science fantasy. His stories have appeared in Asimov's, F&SF, Postscripts and Interzone. His novels are Fools Errant, Fool Me Twice, Black Brillion, and Majestrum. The first chapter of his new novel, The Spiral Labyrinth: A Tale of Henghis Hapthorn (Night Shade Books, September 2007), is on his web page is at

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