Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Further Adventures on the Planet of Adventure: Jack Vance's Servants of the Wankh

Servants of the Wankh
Tschai:  Planet of Adventure 2
Jack Vance

In the second installment of the Planet of Adventure series, Adam Reith and his companions Traz Onmale and the Dirdirman Anacho set out to return the Flower of Cath to her homeland and while there receive help in building a spaceship to return home.  Due to a convoluted standard of shame that I'm not sure I ever completely understood, she ends up jumping overboard during the voyage.

Much of the first book was a sword and planet adventure.  It may have been because I was constantly being interrupted while reading Servants over a period of days, rather than finishing it in a single day, but it seemed to me that this was more an adventure of wit and manners.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of adventure.  Our hero is stranded on the Planet of Adventure, after all.  Much of the conflict was cultural rather than physical, with wit and cunning being two of the weapons employed.  That's especially true after they reach Cath. 

While in Cath, a contract is taken out on Adam Reith with a guild of assassins.  Instead of simply letting the assassin do his job, Reith resists.  One of the companions he's picked up helps, resulting in a scolding from a woman passing by.  Seems they were interfering in the assassin's making a living.  The result of all this is a nasty letter and a fine being levied against Reith by the guild.  (The contract had been cancelled by this point.)

It's this type of humor, looking at different cultures and the strange rules they have, that makes a Jack Vance book such a fun thing to read.  If you haven't experienced it, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Receiving no help in Cath, Reith and friends decide to steal a starship from the Wankh, one of the most unfortunate choices of a name for a race in all of science fiction.  I doubt I will be spoiling much if I told you they aren't successful.  That would make the two remaining books in the series sort of pointless, wouldn't it.

In spite of the fact that it took me way too long to finish this one, it's not a long book.  The DAW edition is only 157 pages long.  There was an earlier edition from Ace, but I don't know how many pages it had.  And it's too late and I'm too tired to look it up.  My point is that this is a short novel and a good way to while away a lazy afternoon or evening.

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