Fiction Review


(2006) Jack Vance, Voyager, 7.99, pbk, 204pp, ISBN 978-0-006-48210-9

This is the 2008 paperback edition of the latest novel in Vance's Gaean Reach universe, that began in Ports of Call, and features the story of the young adventurer Myron Tany and his travels. Abandoned by his great-aunt on another world, Myron joins the crew of a freighter, Glicca, and visits the varied worlds of the Gaean Reach. On the way, the crew and passengers have the opportunity to consider their 'lurulu', a mythic concept defined as what their hearts truly desire, and Myron himself must decide what his lurulu is when his adventurer life changes dramatically. It's an easy-going novel, with a light humour and good-natured characters (even the more unscrupulous ones), and a plot that drifts along much like the Glicca slowly traverses between worlds. There is little to take offense at: the episodic story is led by the crew and their everyday lives, that is, visiting other worlds for trade and new passengers. The interest lies heavily in the varied cultures that the crew comes across, the bizarre worlds they inhabit, and the scrapes that the characters get themselves into.

It is Vance's interest in local cultures and traditions that provides the colour to his backdrop, unusual in their way of life rather than revelatory. It reads much like a travelogue at times (not least because of the frequent excerpts from the Handbook to the Planets), but the characters' interest in a planet rarely extends beyond its economy, political state, and its best taverns and hotels. But the worlds are imaginatively realised and the mundaneity of the inhabitants' lives is more real than most science fiction novels accomplish. But I cannot help thinking that there's not much of a point to this novel. Vance confesses in his preface that Lurulu came about thanks to the abundance of material he had for Ports of Call, though it provides little more than a nice backdrop to the characters seeking out their lurulu. Few of the plot's episodes, the characters' personal journeys, are especially interesting aside from Maloof's, captain of the Glicca. As a glimpse into the life of a futuristic space trader, the book effectively evokes the mundaneity and the quiet excitement in a confident way but, without any real interest in the characters, nor anything to drive the momentum of the book forward, this just feels like a forgettable collection of ideas.

Peter Thorley

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