One of the finest qualities of Jack Vance was his exquisite use of language and his extraordinary vocabulary. Another reasonably well regarded writer with similar credentials was William Shakespeare and here Vance has consciously created a very Shakespearian tale. A tale of rivalries, deceptions and unrequited love played out on magnificent showboats plying their trade along a river on a far flung world. The main characters end up touring Macbeth to various bemused and diverse races along the way, and there are numerous references and homages to the bard throughout the book. The ending is pure Shakespeare with all the loose ends tied up and the protagonists getting their comeupppance before the final curtain descends. It may sound a bit mundane for sci-fi but it is beautifully crafted, sublimely written in a luxurious and convoluted style, and highly enjoyable, even if you haven't read any Shakespeare. I think this book was probably close to Vance's heart and it is one of his very best books. Shame it's out of print - if you can get hold of a copy you should read it.