Tuesday, 13 September 2022

All of Vance's SF/Fantasy Novels - CATEGORISED!

I recently finished reading all of Jack Vance's fantasy and SF novels that I could lay my hands on. Annoyingly, there were a few I couldn't track down - The Five Gold Bands, Vandals of the Void, To Live Forever, and The Languages of Pao. But I TRIED, DIDN'T I? GODDAMIT, AT LEAST I DID THAT.

It serves no real purpose to do this, but nonetheless I thought long and hard about how one might create a taxonomy of Vancian fiction. Vance is sometimes said to have been largely telling the same story over and over again; it would be more accurate to say that his work repeats a relatively small number of central themes. You can therefore readily group his novels by theme thusly (many novels cover more than one theme and are thus placed in more than one taxon):


The Pure Comedies - Vance's books almost always have a streak of wry humour and are wittily written, but he was capable at times of writing for sheer laughs. For what it's worth, these may actually be those of his books I enjoy the most, though they are rarely mentioned as being among his 'best'.

Space Opera

The Magnificent Showboats of the Lower Vissel River, Lune XXIII, Big Planet

Ports of Call

Ecce and Old Earth


The Planetary Romances - Vance is sometimes said to have invented this genre (although it clearly predates him); I suppose you would describe these as novels in which the action mostly revolves around one particular planet, whose cultural and geographical features have an important influence on the plot. 

Big Planet

The Blue World

Maske: Thaery

The Domains of Koryphon

Night Lamp

Slaves of the Klau

All of the Durdane series

All of the Cadwal Chronicles

All of the Planet of Adventure series

All of the Alastor series


The Episodic Novels - these, as the name suggests, are books whose plots are largely (if not entirely) a sequence of discrete events (often taking place on different worlds), loosely connected by an overarching narrative. 

The Eyes of the Overworld

Cugel's Saga

Ports of Call

Lurulu

Space Opera

The Magnificent Showboats of the Lower Vissel River, Lune XXIII, Big Planet

The Green Pearl


The Bildungromane - Vance loved a good coming-of-age story, and many of his novels incorporate elements of this kind of plot. 

Night Lamp

Emphyrio

Ports of Call

Araminta Station

The Anome

Wyst: Alastor 1716

Suldrun's Garden

The entire Demon Princes series can be understood as one long bildungsroman


The Revenge Plots - Revenge is a big feature of Vance's work; these are the novels which have it as their main focus. 

Night Lamp

All of the Demon Princes series

Maske: Thaery

Araminta Station

The Domains of Koryphon

Marune: Alastor 933

Trullion: Alastor 2262


The Stranger in a Strange Land - Vance's most successful plots often feature a clever protagonist adapting to an alien environment and taking advantage of its flaws to make off with wealth, fame and/or a beautiful woman. In some of these books, the 'stranger' is actually a native of the setting in question, but is marked as an outsider (which he, again, deploys to his advantage).

All of the Planet of Adventure series

All of the Demon Princes series

Marune: Alastor 933

Big Planet

Emphyrio

The Durdane series

Night Lamp

Trullion: Alastor 2262

Araminta Station


The Multipart Epics - Vance loved a good multi-volume story; while some of his books have sequels or come in loosely connected sequences (like Alastor, the Cugel books, Big Planet/The Magnificent Showboats..., and Ports of Call/Lurulu), the true epics are:

The Planet of Adventure series

The Cadwal Chronicles series

The Demon Princes series

The Durdane series

Lyonesse


The Philosophical Novels - When the mood struck him, Vance was capable of writing philosophical novels that are at least the equal of a Henry James or Joseph Conrad, and usually much more entertaining to boot.

Emphyrio

The Blue Planet

Wyst: Alastor 1716

The Palace of Love

Ports of Call and Lurulu

I would probably also put The Domains of Koryphon in this category, although it is one of his weaker efforts. 


There are also some less common themes into which one could group certain novels; I am thinking, for example, that 'Woman of Substance' could be its own category (Ecce and Old Earth, The Domains of Koryphon, Night Lamp), as could 'Memory Loss' (Night Lamp and Marune: Alastor 933), and even 'Psychological Consequences of Long-Term Captivity' (The Star King, The Pnume, Araminta Station, and Night Lamp). 

In my next entry, I'll attempt the equally purposeless but enjoyable feat of ranking the books.

9 comments:

  1. The Languages of Pao (read many, many moons ago) is essentially a Planetary Romance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. To follow up, The Languages of Pao would also qualify as a Bilsdungroman with a Revenge Plot.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Vance's Dying Earth book (with Turjan, Mazirian, Guyal of Sfere, etc.) is not mentioned. Surely an oversight? It's one of my favorite books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a novel - a short story collection. I have read it though.

      Delete
  4. Rhialto the Marvelous? I think it's a revenge story.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would say that Madouc (3rd chapter of the Lyonesse trilogy) is a bildungroman.

    ReplyDelete