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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blizzard of wonder
Having been a great fan of Jack Vance I have read many of his books and recently embarked on Emphyrio for the third time. It is a gloriously simple story to read and any reader will be aware that the core of the story is the nature and power of Truth - very much with a capital "T" - and the folly of deception. Less obvious is the powerful tale of the ultimate futility of...
Published on 2 Sep 2009 by Mark A. Preston

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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SF of its time - one man saves the world whilst women are dull or manipulative
Jack Vance's Emphyrio, published in 1969, is both one of his best books and an example of the limitations of much science-fiction of that era. Dominated by male characters, few of whom have much depth to them but are more rounded than the sparse collection of clichéd females (usually unimportant, almost always dull or manipulative), the plot also relies on a...
Published on 18 Dec 2010 by Mark Pack


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blizzard of wonder, 2 Sep 2009
This review is from: Emphyrio (Paperback)
Having been a great fan of Jack Vance I have read many of his books and recently embarked on Emphyrio for the third time. It is a gloriously simple story to read and any reader will be aware that the core of the story is the nature and power of Truth - very much with a capital "T" - and the folly of deception. Less obvious is the powerful tale of the ultimate futility of hidden measures of control; powers behind the throne, puppet masters on the stage of affairs and secret rulers hidden from view are ultimately vulnerable to the power of truth.

One aspect of the story often missed is the satirical critique it offers against the ultimate in socialist welfare state mechanisms. Most of all of the stultifying effects of hyper-regulation even in an apparently benevolent society. Event the names are crafted skilfully - the father-figure of the hero is named for "friendliness" and the story tells how he became a victim of the society he was impartially observing with a friendly eye. His son, the hero of the tale, is named for guilt and together they show how obsessive regulation can inculcate guilt in the subjects of those rules.

While most of Vance's books layer such meanings into the tale, this is one of the most powerful and moving - as well, incidentally, as being one of the best written. It has long been a puzzle to me how this story could be overlooked by the awards bodies since it is by head and shoulders a greater work than many which have been credited with a raft of Hugo and Nebula awards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emphyrio Rising, 11 Oct 2011
By 
John Middleton (Brisbane, QLD, AUST) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
The city of Ambroy, on the planet Halma, is a place best described as "medieval Stalinist" with secret police, remote lords in their Eyries, powerful nepotistic guilds, and a welfare and taxation system which seems fine when you think about it, except for the fact that the game is rigged and no one is in fact paid anything like what they worth. On this world, incredible craftsmen produce priceless works of art, unknowing all the while. It's a depressing and bleak place, but that's not the worst of it, as it turns out.

You can argue that Jack Vance doesn't write "science-fiction" but rather social satire that just happens to have aliens and spaceships in it. The story here is really in the telling, and a plot summary is largely a waste of time, and probably misleading as well. Ghyl Tarvoke is our hero: we see his relationship with his father (but there is no maternal relationship at all) and how that shaped him into becoming a thief, pirate, scholar and revolutionary (remember that any plot descriptions are misleading, even if literally true).

Vance here is writing a story about human nature, people and their follies and foibles, as well as about power structures and unquestioning obediance to "how things have always been" (the religion involving "leaping" to some end never made clear, is both superb and confounding). There is action and contemplation in equal measure; one can read this on a few levels and enjoy it on all of them. This is a really accessable starting point for Vance - short and yet complex, with a style unmistakely unique that leads you deeper and deeper into the tale. Go read some of the sample above, and if you like it, you could do a lot worse than buy it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fantastic!!!, 13 May 2010
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Mr. Cj Conneally (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
What a book! I found this book totally satisfying. Sci-fi with a deep and meaningful undertone. The story is as mad as they come, but written superbly. I read it during a 2 week holiday and I didn't realise how good it was when I was reading it, even though I was gripped. It was only when I read Dune and the Stars My Destination (both V Good)later in the holiday did I realise how good emphryrio was, as that was the one i was thinking about. Totally unique.
A Highly recommended, thought provoking, piece of excellant literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, meaningful ending rewards for a steep climb, 10 Nov 2011
By 
niels (Santa Monica, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Without wanting to give away anything about the story, I have to say, during some phase of this book, it got to me so much, I had to put down the book for a while... That doesn't happen to me very often.

Of course its well written as all Vance books, and the ending is pretty amazing, its a surprise in more than one way and leaves you thinking "this wasn't fantasy, this was about reality"...
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird, but wonderful, 20 Oct 2004
By 
VicHoon "Victor Houghton" (Rayleigh, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
A swift story to read, written with that unique vocabulary that is typical of Vance, this is not science fiction in the true sense. It's a fantasy, with planets. That's a good thing, because Vance immerses you in a strange world with a stifling society that works with a strange logic. The central theme of Emphyrio is Truth - the motivation of the protagonist. The prologue is deceitful and clever, instilling the protagonist's fate with a sense of unease. I disagree with other reviewers' criticism of the rushed ending: Vance has a habit of sweeping major events at a fast pace; the ending is satisfying, and will leave you pondering the book for a long time afterwards.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vance at his best, 12 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Jack Vance is my favourite author and I hope to eventually read everything that he has written. I have started my review this way to make my bias clear. I won't give anything away about the story but will merely state that this novel is on a par with such works as Durdane, The Demon Princes, Planet of Adventure and Lyonesse.
If you have read Jack Vance's work before, you don't need to know anything else; if you haven't, this is an excellent place to start.
I'm not just giving this book five stars, I'm giving it five stars compared to the rest of Jack Vance's work.
If you are unfortunate enough to not enjoy it then you probably won't enjoy anything else he has written.
If you do, then you are in the enviable position of being able to read everything else he has written for the first time.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Ever, 8 April 2006
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Mr. M. Wass (Millom, Cumbria United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
In approximately 30 years of reading Sci-Fi this is my number 1 rated book of all time. Jack Vance is simply the greatest author out there. No Vance book will fail to impress, but this is the best. A great book to get started with the wonderful worlds Vance portrays. Recommended to anybody who enjoys great Sci-Fi.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allegory that disturbs your comfort, 20 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
This is one of the best Vance's. It involves you, grips you, takes you right into the lanscape and minds of the people. Many of his works are allegorical - this one is superb and calls you to sit up and LOOK at what is going on! We all have a choice - to "just follow orders" or to stand up and really be what a human being should be. If you have a heart and soul, this story will truly inspire you.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of his best, 5 Jun 2001
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J. Bloss "jethrox1" (Buckingham,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Definitely one of Vance's best works. It has a decent, dark storyline with a strong central character. I do agree that the ending does feel a little rushed and maybe doesn't do the rest of the book justice but I read this book originally 15 years ago and I can still recall it which indicates its strength.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Vance, 24 Jun 2014
By 
LJ (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
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Exotic and truly alien worlds, and as always Jack Vance's deliciously erudite and simple writing style makes this more literature than space opera.
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Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Emphyrio (S.F. MASTERWORKS) by Jack Vance (Paperback - 14 Oct 1999)
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