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Night Lamp
Jack Vance
Tor Books, 384 pages

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: Tales of the Dying Earth
SF Site Review: Big Planet
SF Site Review: Emphyrio
SF Site Review: Ports of Call
Jack Vance Tribute Site
Jack Vance Tribute Site
Jack Vance Retrospective

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rodger Turner

Night Lamp An off-world couple find a young lad named Jaro who has been beaten into a coma. They take him home when no trace of his family can be found. As he grows up, he becomes more determined to discover his past and the cause of jumbled images which appear periodically in his mind. He's brought up on a world of formalized castes (the idea of success in this society is to move up the bizzare complicated status ladder) for which he gives not a fig. His status as a nimp throws him in with others like himself but most of his energy is devoted to raising the cash to search for his home world. Without the feverish devotion to the mores of the caste structure, he's often the target of bullies and swindlers trying to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of being at the bottom of society. However, he remains undaunted -- he will succeed whether it be by guile or by using whatever social weapons lay at his disposal.

Have you ever used the word, proctosculation? I haven't. But in Night Lamp Jack Vance does; indeed he describes someone as assiduous in doing it. This is why I love Jack Vance's writing. It is rare that I can recount one of his plots but I can picture his imagery, his characters, his worlds. But I don't care. His use of words make me smile, tear up, puzzle, wince, and marvel at its breadth and scope.

I don't choose quotes often, but the following is an indicator of why I think Jack Vance's prose should be required reading. To put it in context: Jaro, as part of a musical group at a festival, has bumped into Lyssel, a girl he knows from school. Soon her escort, Hanafer, the local bully, appears with the intent of driving Jaro away. Hanafer says to Lyssel:

"Ha hah! The Circle may not be everything, but it separates quality from schmeltzers, bounders and moops!"

"Surely, Hanafer, you're not referring to Jaro?"

"I am exactly and precisely referring to Jaro. I call him a cad, a gak and a peeker, and if he starts smelling around you, I'll be forced to teach him his piddles and squeaks." Hanafer alluded to the parental discipline inflicted upon an unruly child.

Sounds uncomfortable, doesn't it?


Copyright © 1996, 2002 Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time."


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