Top critical review
Okay, but I've read better
on 13 July 2013
These are the first Jack Vance stories I have read. I prefer 'space opera' to hard SF and this is what drew me to them. You can even see them as rather old fashioned mystery novels set in space, with the same tough (even indestructible) evil-battling hero, and the dames he picks up and discards along the way. The galaxy that Vance creates is very appealing, with its multitude of planets and the races of a fifteen-hundred-year human diaspora (and a few aliens) who inhabit them. However, the plots are rather dull and I wasn't terribly gripped by them. It was hard to care for or about any of the characters. It's true the characterization is better than in much of SF, but that isn't saying very much. There is also very little suspense. In fact, he seems actively to avoid it -- very odd. So many edge-of-your seat, can't put it down, chances missed! Woman in danger of Fate Worse than Death? Ah well, better rescue her, I suppose, if convenient, and move on to the next scene. In the end, you really only read on to see what strange world or character he'll come up with next. He also has an annoying habit of introducing people, places etc., all at once, as if pouring them out of a bucket. Terribly hard to assimilate. In fact, in the end the amount of sheer detail becomes mind-numbingly counterproductive.
Altogether, I suppose, not bad. But for someone who knows how to do this sort of thing and tell a story too, try Frank Herbert.