Help me build up a Jack Vance book collection.
February 10, 2011 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Help me build up a Jack Vance book collection.

I've decided that I want to build up a collection of the best-regarded books by science fiction/fantasy author Jack Vance.

I currently only own the Lyonesse Trilogy and The Dying Earth novels by Vance and am already convinced that I love this author.

First question: Which Vance books should I read first?
Second question: What are good places for finding Jack Vance books?

After looking through the entire inventory of Jack Vance books and reading about them, these are the series and non-series books that sound most promising:

Araminta Station (first book of Cadwal chronicles - the rest of the series doesn't sound too appealing but I may eventually get Ecce and Old Earth and Throy)
Alastor (omnibus)
Blue World, the
Demon Princes, the (omnibus)
Durdane (omnibus)
Hard Luck Diggings (collection of short stories)
Jack Vance Reader, the (omnibus of three non-series novels which includes Emphyrio, The Languages of Pao and The Domains of Koryphon)
Jack Vance Treasury, the (collection of short stories)
Maske: Thaery
Planet of Adventure (omnibus)
Showboat World
To Live Forever
Wild Thyme, Green Magic (collection of short stories)

Is there anything else worth getting by Jack Vance?

I'm a fan of omnibuses and will try to get every series as an omnibus. I, however, am curious about the Durdane omnibus that came out in the 80's that has the ISBN 0575045760. The Durdane omnibus must be insanely rare because I couldn't find it on Ebay, Biblio or AbeBooks. The only place I could find it on was Amazon . . . at a price of over $100 which is a steep price considering that it's just a paperback and isn't that old. Is there any place online where Vance fans would be able to sell/swap out-of-print and hard-to-find Vance books at a reasonable price? I'd love to get my hands on that Durdane omnibus.

I know that some people likely will recommend that VIE (Vance Integral Edition) books, but I don't have the cash to spare for those and they're hard to find. I'd perhaps buy VIE books if the books could be purchased individually rather than as an entire set of every Vance book. I'm not a big enough Jack Vance fan yet to buy everything by him . . . yet.

Anyway, thanks folks. Looking forward to your responses.
posted by GlassHeart to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The Demon Princes and the Planet of Adventure omnibus books are where I would start. A lot of his novels are very similar and I think those are the finest of his SF work. I think his best single novel is Emphyrio, so track that one down too.

Vance books are reasonably plentiful used.
posted by selfnoise at 8:25 AM on February 10, 2011

There are a couple of different versions of the Demon Princes omnibus: one has it separated into two books, both of which you can probably find at chain bookstores, and another from the late '80s or early '90s that has all five books crammed into one volume.

There's another omnibus that contains both Ports of Call and Lurulu that's either still in print or was in print recently enough that you should probably be able to find it in a chain bookstore as well.

I've never seen that omnibus of the Durdane books, but you can find the individual paperbacks for fairly cheap.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:30 AM on February 10, 2011

Also, I would just track down what is easiest to find first, as I don't think any of the rarer stuff represents his best work.

And the Alastor series is also one I really enjoyed. With Vance, if you like one of his books you will like most all of them.

Sorry to be terse; smartphone.
posted by selfnoise at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2011

I'm partial to his short stories (The Five Gold Bands, The Dragon Masters) and the Demon Prince novels as they are just on the edge of camp. The rest.. hmm.
posted by rr at 8:45 AM on February 10, 2011

Get The Jack Vance Treasury and Wild Thyme, Green Magic first.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:14 AM on February 10, 2011

Here's a ranking of Vance's books, from "Excellent" to "Weaker," by the most effusive Vance fan on the internet. His picks for Excellence:

The Dying Earth ("Mazirian the Magician")
The Dragon Masters
The Demon Princes (especially books 3 and 5)
The Last Castle
Maske: Thaery
posted by Iridic at 10:48 AM on February 10, 2011

Here are the Vance novels I've read so far, in approximate descending order of awesomeness:

The Dying Earth omnibus (books 2-4 especially)
Lyonesse (3 books)
The Demon Princes (5 books, collected in two omnibuses)
Planet of Adventure (aka Tschai - 4-book omnibus)
Maske: Thaery
Alastor omnibus (3 unrelated books)
Night Lamp
Ports of Call / Lurulu (2 books)
The Magnificent Showboats of the Lower Vissel River, Lune XXIII, Big Planet (aka Showboat World)
The Rapparee (aka The Five Gold Bands)
Bad Ronald
The View from Chickweed's Window
Bird Island

Some of these are out of print (probably not coincidentally, they tend to be lower down on the list). Really there is pleasure to be gained from all of them if you like Vance's writing style.
posted by dfan at 11:15 AM on February 10, 2011

Yeah, the Jack Vance Treasury should be high on your list for some short works that are not otherwise there: "The Dragon Masters," "The Moon Moth," etc. I myself am somewhat partial to the Magnus Ridolph stories, as it is about the only place that Vance's two genres -- speculative fiction, mystery -- overlap. It seems to me the Ridolph stories have been collected twice, but these are kinda rare: I have only ever seen one of the two collections, and then only once, in a bookstore, maybe twenty years ago.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:33 AM on February 10, 2011

I will recommend against The Languages of Pao, which although it has an interesting core idea, reads more like an outline for a film script than a novel; that is to say that the dialogue, characters, and their emotions are all irritatingly simplistic. I rank it amongst the worst-written books I have ever read.
posted by beerbajay at 12:07 AM on February 11, 2011

I think the collection Chateau D'If and Other Stories is worth seeking out.
posted by 6550 at 12:16 AM on February 11, 2011

That Durdane omnibus only contains "The Anome" (also called "The Faceless Man"), "The Asutra", and "The Brave Free Men", which I enjoyed plenty—don't get me wrong—but they aren't so great that you should seek them out in a rare volume.

"Emphyrio" is probably his best book, but "Night Lamp" is generally underrated for some reason, and "Blue World" is probably my favorite right now, besides "The Eyes of the Overworld" and "Cugel's Saga". I wouldn't bother with "The Dying Earth", myself: it's his first novel, and it reads like it.

Please feel free to Mefi Mail me any questions!
posted by interrobang at 12:56 PM on February 12, 2011

Here's a ranking of Vance's books, from "Excellent" to "Weaker," by the most effusive Vance fan on the internet. His picks for Excellence:

The Dying Earth ("Mazirian the Magician")
The Dragon Masters
The Demon Princes (especially books 3 and 5)
The Last Castle
Maske: Thaery

I would recommend against The Dragon Masters, especially if you want character development that isn't restricted to the protagonist. Female characters were particularly thin, as I recall.
posted by ersatz at 4:59 PM on February 15, 2011

Thin: one-dimensional.
posted by ersatz at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2011

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