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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best SF books ever, 18 Oct 2008
By 
Mr. Peter L. Coleman (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I've lost count of how many times I've read this book. I just bought this edition second hand because my original 1966 version has become too battered to use. The Demon Princes series is undoubtedly Vance's greatest work, encompassing his usual dry humour based around the foibles of humans en masse, but given shape by an excellent plot and laced with some great action. First books in series are always the best in my view, because here we get to meet and start to understand the main protagonists. All is new. Possibly also, for me, there is an additional pleasure. When I read this book again, I know that I have the other four to follow!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Star King by Jack Vance, 14 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Star King (Demon Prince) (Kindle Edition)
The Star King is the opening novel of a five book series known as the Demon Princes—which tell the story of Kirth Gersen as he attempts to take revenge upon the five criminals who slaughtered his family when he was a child. Admittedly, the plot of the series sounds a little clichéd and even the title of the series itself probably gives the wrong impression of what lies beneath the covers. Make no mistake, this is golden-era space opera that was serialised by Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, but it soon becomes apparent that there is much more to this book that meets the eye. Those who choose not to judge this book by its cover will be greatly rewarded by something that was quite unique to similar works in the genre at the time, wrote by a skilful, inventive and confident voice.

This is the first of Vance's multi-book series—a trend that he leaned more and more towards as his career progressed—and it presents the opportunity for Vance to really develop his vision of the future—the worlds of The Oikumene and The Beyond—which later blossomed into the Gaean Reach, which is used throughout his career in most of his future works. The Oikumene is a set of colonised planets and solar systems which are centrally governed and policed, and are generally regarded as safe. Travel between these world is trivial for anyone and this has bred a cosmopolitan, forward-thinking and peaceful population. Outside of this comfortable existence, however, there are many more unpoliced planets—known as The Beyond—which are deemed unsafe and are an easy hide-out for criminals of varying degrees of evil.

Kirth Gersen—the series main protagonist—has been trained from a young age by his grandfather with the necessary skills to hunt down and kill the men who were responsible for the deaths of his family. The story begins at Smade's Tavern, on Smade's Planet—a wonderfully simple yet memorable setting—which sits somewhere between the safety of the controlled Oikumene and the lawless Beyond. It is here that Kirth Gersen meets Lugo Teehalt, a troubled Locator—someone who is commissioned to trawl through unknown intergalactic space in search of new worlds. Here, Teehalt sombrely tells Gersen that he has found out to his utter dismay that the person sponsoring him to find new worlds is Attel Malagate, also known as “Malagate the Woe”—one of the so called Demon Princes that Gersen is searching for. Teehalt has found a world which is beautiful beyond description, but his heart is torn because he does not want this world to fall into the hands of Malagate the Woe.

From the events at Smade's Tavern, the story takes on the form of a mystery amongst the stars, as Gersen begins to piece together evidence to lead him closer and closer to the identity of Attel Malagate. This serves as a means for Vance to take us on a tour of several worlds of The Oikumene as the plot unwinds. One of the interesting peoples mentioned in the book—and to which the book is named after—are the Star Kings. These are a race of people who on the surface appear to be human, but are actually a race that has evolved to compete with humans by mimicking their physical appearance.

One of the truly great aspects of The Star King—and all the books in the series for that matter—are the footnotes at the start of each chapter, which are not only a real pleasure to read, but they also flesh out the various peoples and places that are relevant to the story in an amusing and witty way which is just as enjoyable to read as the story itself.

There is an interesting cast of characters in The Star King from poor Pallis Atwrode—the seemingly obligatory love interest of Vance's stories who is thrust into danger for just being associated with Kirth—to Hildemar Dasce the “Beauty” and Robin Rampold—who have an unusual and complicated relationship displaying symptoms of both Stockholm Syndrome and pure hatred for one another. One of Vance's greatest strengths is his wonderful descriptions of these characters.

The Star King is a fantastic book, written with confidence and flare, and it sets the tone for the following books in the series. Highly recommended as starting point for those unacquainted with Vance's works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glorious, golden-age sci-fi., 1 Jun 2013
By 
Gideon Pepys (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Star King (Demon Prince) (Kindle Edition)
Lots of wonderful ideas, with broad brush-strokes applied to world-building. Very much a page-turner with a fluid, readable style. The protagonist's 'origin-story' is a bit hackneyed but then this was written sixty years ago. Otherwise, great fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved this series 30 years ago, good to read again, 6 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Star King (Demon Prince) (Kindle Edition)
Vance has created an interesting character and a great plot. I think the killing machine is the best of the series but this sets everything up and stands up well on its own
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5.0 out of 5 stars Super book if this sort of fantasy is your thing!, 12 May 2014
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This review is from: The Star King (Demon Prince) (Kindle Edition)
The Star King is one of a series of 5 books all of which exist in a very different culture to ours. He paints a universe in which a rich humanity has diversified through out our galaxy and adopted many cultural extremes including the criminal. The characters are unusual and his descriptions avoid the excessive detail so beloved of the classical writers nor does he indulge in weird psuedo science mumbo jumbo. The plot is imaginative and the path to the ending convolute enough to stimulate the imagination. All in all a darn good read though you will need to be an SF Fan.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original Science Fiction, Indespensible, 3 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Star King (Hardcover)
I am a fan of science fiction who is often distressed at the lack of intelligence in the sci-fi books I read. However a friend recently bought me some Jack Vance and I have become hooked. This is a great book, one of Jack Vance's best. The plot is thick and revealling, the characters brilliantly painted and full of flaws. This is not a perfect book, but it is fantastic sci-fi. I strongly recomend it
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