The Languages of Pao Paperback – 16 Aug 2004
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"One of the finest writers the science fiction field has ever known."
About the Author
Jack Vance, born John Holbrook Vance in 1916, was one of the greatest masters of fantasy and science fiction. He was the winner of many awards for his work and career: the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. Among his awards for particular works were the Hugo award in 1963 for "The Dragon Masters", in 1967 for "The Last Castle", and in 2010 for his memoir "This is Me, Jack Vance!" He won a Nebula Award in 1966 for "The Last Castle". He won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1990 for "Lyonesse: Madouc". He also won an Edgar for the best first mystery novel in 1961 for "The Man in the Cage." Vance published more than 60 books in his career, sometimes under pseudonyms. Among them were 11 mystery novels, three of them as Ellery Queen. He wrote some of the first, and perhaps best, examples of "planetary adventures," including a novel called" Big Planet". His Dying Earth series were among the most influential fantasy novels ever written, inspiring both generations of writers, and the creators of Dungeons and Dragons.
Vance s series from Tor include "The Demon Princes", "The Cadwal Chronicles", "The Dying Earth", "The Planet of Adventure", and "Alastor". Vance s last novels were a series of two: "Ports of Call" and "Lurulu."
Jack Vance was a sailor, a writer, an adventurer, a music critic, and a raconteur. He died in May 2013.
Born in Los Angeles in 1950, Dana Gioia attended Stanford University and did graduate work at Harvard, where he studied with Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Fitzgerald. He left Harvard to attend Stanford Business School. For fifteen years he worked in New York for general Foods (eventually becoming a Vice President) while writing nights and weekends, In 1992 he became a full-time writer. Currently he lives in California. Gioia has published three books of poems, Daily Horoscope (1986), The Gods of Winter (1991), and Interrogations at Noon (2001), which won the American Book Award. He is also the author of Can Poetry Matter? (1992; reprinted 2002). He has edited a dozen anthologies of poetry and fiction. A prolific critic and reviewer, he is also a frequent commentator on American culture for BBC Radio. He recently completed Nosferatu (2001), an opera libretto for composer Alva Henderson. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
A story of both overt and covert manipulation, this is a fine tale, rich with many common Vancian themes : an ordinary but capable hero; a convoluted and sinister plot; a malevolent and often capricious adversary.
It is doubtful if any other fantasy writer can lay claim to having fathered even a fraction of the wonderful myriad of worlds that Vance has created.
This is yet another great example of his craft.
A mad scientist wants to take over the peaceful world of Pao, by killing the ruler and kidnapping the heir. The core of the novel is an experiment to produce three different kind of tribes in Pao in order to disrupt its social structure, based on engineered languages is fanciful, nice, fantastic, baroque... truly Vance
The planet Pao is a very ordered place; it's people are very similar to one another, with seemingly no desire to stand out from one another or stray too far from a career working for the civil service. Vance attributes this to the language of Pao—which is very different to our own, as it lacks verbs and adjectives. Instead, sentences paint pictures or moods. This lack of variety in their language has bred an unambitious, homogeneous race of people who are happy to be ruled in whichever way their Panarch—the ruler of Pao and the only person who lives in luxury—sees fit. Because the people of Pao live without drive, they have no armies or scientists and thus are completely dependent on trade with nearby worlds—a fact which begins a chain of events which bring the language of Pao into question.
In sharp contrast to Pao—which Vance paints as a beautiful place—the planet Breakness is a harsh and barren world, populated by a race who have a very different outlook. Again, the notion of language influencing the ideals of the population is brought to the table. The people of Breakness are complete individuals; only concerned with bettering themselves. This is because the language of Breakness does not have any pronouns in it, and so when someone speaks in the Breakness language they are talking about themselves, which has bred a selfishness attitude in their society.Read more ›
A problem is that the castes cannot communicate very easily with each other. Behind all of this are the social manipulators who created the languages, and their motives.
It could be done (perhaps it is).
Full of Vance's subtle humor and perhaps a visionary warning. Recommended.
There are so many quirks and grey areas here that you are always a little off balance - for instance, in the opening paragraph or so we are told that on the quiet, rural planet Pao, the standard methods of population control are forced resettlement and infanticide, which is widely accepted. The story is truly about language, and how language affects the way we think, and therefore act. New languages can be created to instil desired traits in those who speak them, and a populace altered as a result.
In this frame a rousing adventure is told, of Beran Panasper, the rightful Panarch of Pao, and his conflicts with the usurper Bustamente and enigmatic sorcerer Palafox, but the theory never goes away, and nor does it cause the book to drag (although at 170-odd pages, it is only a short read to begin with).
Vance has written a truly sci-fi tale about ideas here, presented through a fairly standard storytelling medium to make it accessible. It is well written and gripping, although the dialogue is perhaps not as "Vancian" as his later works. Some scenes are striking: there is one which clearly references the appearance of the gom jabbar testing in Dune: except that Pao was written in 1958 and Dune in 1965, so it appears that Herbert likely read this story and expanded the concept greatly.