9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 1998
This book is the first of trilogy which concerns a whole world devoted solely to a "conservancy" established to preserve the flora and fauna of the world Cadwal. The main characters are as intriguing as the subject matter, and the comings and goings of the most daring members of the families who enforce and enjoy the "Cadwal Charter" are vastly amusing. There is a little of everything in these books: science fiction, of course, but also, murder, mystery, romance, and many other things. I, myself, believe this book and the other two in the series to be the best books Jack Vance ever wrote.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2005
"Araminta Station" has a large cast of spirited characters, a plot with enough complexity to match "Dune", an array of bizarre human and alien behaviors and a tone that's one hundred percent Jack Vance. This adventure takes us to the planet Cadwal, which was permanently placed under the control of the Naturalist Society to preserve its great natural beauty. The official charter limits it to 240 inhabitants and their families, divided into six bureaus and structured on a rigid social system. Everyone knows their place, or at least is supposed to. But as usual, problems develop. A young officer named Glawen Glattuc finds himself dealing with family feuds, dangerous rivalries, political intrigue and a major crime spree while also swimming through the confusing currents of adolescent life, which remain quite similar on any planet.
Any detailed discussion would rob you of the delights of discovering this novel's twists and turns for yourself. I can, however, hit some of its main strengths. Of course at 554 pages in hardback, "Araminta Station" is longer than a typical Vance outing. Vance makes good use of this space. The plot is full of surprises, as entirely new aspects arise at the most unexpected moments. Moreover, Vance fully incorporates everything in the story. For instance we have the Yips, a race living on a remote island who perform the menial labor on Cadwal. They have a society packed with Vance-style weirdness (celebrating the foul odor known as the "Big Chife" and charging tourists money to see women doing the laundry) but also a role in the story. Yip maneuvers pop up to complicate life for the Clattucs at the most inconvenient times. (The Yip element also provides a surprising degree of relevancy in an age when we Americans all claim to hate illegal Mexican immigrants yet willingly enjoy the cheap labor that they provide.)
Dominating it all, however, is the unmistakable Jack Vance tone. Unmistakable, I say, yet who can really pinpoint precisely how Vance makes his voice so unique? We can say this much. In "Araminta Station", as in any Vance book, the heroes are a small handful of tough, intelligent, resourceful and clever individuals. Arrayed against them we find all manner of inferiors: murderers, criminals, con artists, ostentatious braggarts, political loons, religious fanatics, the petty, the weak and the stupid. A decently large chunk of the book shows us the good guys dealing with this scum. Vance's heros, if not sarcastic, are at least single-minded in the way they push through the rabble to do what must be done. The wit and wisdom of Vance lies in communication. How do people at cross purposes interact with each other? What happens when conversation becomes more like a battle? Almost every page of "Araminta Station" produces a notable quote. Here are a few:
"Whatever you have heard about me, dismiss it. I do not regard my class as a confrontation between the clear light of my intellect and twenty-two examples of sloth and willful stupidity. The exact number may be only half that, if we are lucky, and of course varies from term to term. Despite all, I am a kindly man, patient and thorough, but if I must elucidate the obvious more than twice, I often become gloomy." (p. 228)
"You are a willful young devil. If insolence were bricks and insubordination were mortar you could build a great palace for yourself." (p. 351)
Glawen said, "I believe that safety is important. It is better to arrive alive than dead."
"This is exactly my point," said Bant. "I have explained this to Esmer: what is the value of thirty minutes, more or less, to a corpse? He is already late and no longer in a hurry. The time is more useful on this side of the veil, such is my belief." (p. 491)
"The theft of this cloak from Arles' room will cause consternation but no surprise, and Arles will learn to dress more modestly in the future."
Kirdy gave a dry chuckle. "Arles might even volunteer his cloak, were he asked."
"Possibly, but when one asks permission, one often gets no for an answer. As it is, Arles has not specifically forbidden us the cloak, which is good enough for me." (p. 250)
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 1998
This is a great novel. This is the first Jack Vance novel that I have ever read, yet already I think that he is one of my top 10-15 SF authors.
Jack Vance is one of the old-timers (he's been around since the fifties), and he appears to have pefected his craf...I don't understand why he doesn't get the respect he deserves.
This novel features, rich, rich dialogue, witty and entertaining. The plotting is a marvel, flowing and lifelike. Minor characters later turn out to be important...and other minor characters seem like they also could have become important.
In many ways, this novel reminded me of the seminal SF master, Edgar Rice Burroughs (another seriously maligned character...I personally consider his writing to be great literature, comparable with Dickens, Scott and the rest). The prose has a certain old-fashioned, 19th century slant.
Vance has a serious gift for names, placenames, and memorable aliens and planets.
Vance's prose is totally fluid and engaging...this is the kind of novel that requires me to read it in one single sitting.
Another sign of Vance's mastery is his perfect ability to craft the mood of the novel...on one hand, the first 1/2 of the book is pretty entertaining, even funny. There are numerous smiling points, and even a couple of parts that induce an out-loud chuckle. Vance definately can lull you into a sense of security, as the characters happily banter along, until suddenly WHAMMO! There is a brutal scene of violence, and one of the more likable major characters has died.
In summary, this truly is a great novel, I recommend it to all. You won't be dissapointed.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2000
I have lent copies of this book to several friends and relatives who thought that they didn't like science fiction. After they read it, they loved Vance. But this isn't anaemic half-hearted SF: SF fans love it too.
Jack Vance is best known for being able to dash off an entire, bafflingly alien yet utterly logical, culture in a brief paragraph. He is also known for virtuoso use of vocabulary and for a lurid palette: a Vance description is often an interior-decorator's nightmare. If you want that sort of thing, read the 'Demon Princes' series. This Vance is different.
In 'Araminta Station' Vance turns his skills to a much smaller canvas. He proves as masterly on Jane Austen's two inches of ivory as he has already proven in brightly-coloured novel series that span planets at least. The protagonist, Glawen Clattuc, grows up in a small community: the ranger station on a world set aside as a wildlife preserve. The dozen characters who influence his life are drawn with the deftest of touches as Vance displays a previously-unexpected subtlety of dialogue, the ability to write several characters who are all witty but in different styles.
Vance uses less spectacular language in 'Araminta Station' than in his earlier books. His word choice is always perfect, but in this work he aims for a less striking effect, and proves to be as graceful a writer as you could ask for. Vance is always polished: in 'Araminta Station' he is smooth.
Don't fear that this novel will be too placid and bland for your taste. Glawen faces and endures the loss and hardship which seem to befall so many of Vance's heroes, and overcomes them by the familiar level-headedness and determination. Eventually high stakes are revealed and desperate action becomes necessary, which Glawen carries off with all the elan we have come to expect. The difference is primarily that Glawen is the Vance hero whom you will feel that you know best, and whose friends and enemies you will feel that you know best.
If you enjoy 'Araminta Station', I recommend the sequel: 'Ecce and Old Earth'. But don't race to buy the second sequel, 'Throy'. You may feel that the end of 'Ecce and Old Earth' is good enough. I found 'Throy' to be a bit of a disappointment.
I also recommend Vance's 'Alastor' novels (not a series) 'Marune', 'Wyst', and 'Trullion' to anyone who finds that 'Araminta Station' is outstanding Vance.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2012
Fans of Jack Vance will have noticed the many phases of his career. This is one of several books (along with Lyonesse and Night Lamp) that represent what I consider to be Vance's best period. These book were written when Vance entered his full maturity as a writer and had enough clout to publish something over 200 pages.
Araminta Station is one of his most coherent, tightly plotted works. Vance employs his skills as a mystery writer to construct plots within plots, all set against one of his trademark exotic cultures. Although the characters are similar to those found in other Vance novels, they are at their most breathably real here.
The one downside of this book is a de-emphasis of Vance's famous dry humor. Fans of the Dying Earth books may be disappointed by the seriousness of this novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2012
Araminta Station is the first book in one of Vance's most charming series, the Cadwal Chronicles, and is followed by Ecce and Old Earth, with the trilogy completed in Throy. The story is set in Vance's Gaean Reach and centres on the struggle over control of and title to the world Cadwal. Cadwal is a wildlife preserve with strict limitations on the number and activities of the human inhabitants regulated by the Naturalist Society Charter, in order to mitigate nuisance to the native creatures and safeguard the planet's natural beauty. However, the charter has been in force for so long that many of Cadwal's inhabitants consider it more of a philosophical quirk than a governing law. The hero, Glawen, becomes embroiled in a complex and interlocked series of crimes and schemes by groups who would rest control of the Cadwal from the Conservancy, and remake it to suit their own agendas.
The books abound with all the things that give Vance's work their timeless and much loved charm; elegant writing style, evocative yet economical description, quirky characters, charming footnotes and asides, insight into human nature and a story driven by characters rather than science fiction or fantasy spectacle. Araminta Station and its sequels are probably second only to the Lyonesse series in complexity of storyline, characterisation and beautifully absorbing realisation. Though less influential than the earlier Dying Earth stories, the Cadwal Chronicles and the Lyonesse sequence are Vance at the pinnacle of his abilities and writing career.
Araminta Station is a thoroughly enjoyable and completely engaging read, and is one of the classic science fiction works by one of the greatest writers of our time, and I commend it to you without reservation. If you've never read Vance and lean towards SF rather than fantasy, then this is the place to meet the master. If you lean more towards fantasy than SF, then consider starting with Suldrun's Garden. The chances are good that you'll end up reading and enjoying them all.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2009
Araminta Station is the first of Vance's excellent trilogy, telling the tale of Glawen Clattuc, starting with his youth at the headquarters of the Cadwal Conservancy, an organization chartered to maintain the ecological balance of an exotic world of the Gaean Reach. Glawen is witness to strange goings on involving his family, Conservancy members, their opponents in the hanging city of Stroma, and the exotic Yips, who seek land for expansion at any cost on Cadwal.
Vance's characterizations and settings are first-rate. Technology doesn't overwhelm story, as in so many lesser authors' planetary adventures. The story is set in the far future, when Earth is a bucolic backwater and mankind has spread throughout the galaxy. Interstellar travel is no more arduous or unusual than today's air travel.
Glawen's adventures on Cadwal are well told. His story takes the reader to a far flung and exotic locale, makes it real in the mind's eye, and carries us through a rousing adventure.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 1998
Here is Jack Vance at his finest! "Araminta Station" is the start of an incredible trilogy, "The Cadwall Chronicles". Once again he has constructed a world and a society utterly alien, yet so believable that one could almost pack their bags for a trip there. Glawen Clattuc is the central character, a quiet, unassuming young man who finds himself thrown into the center of controversies not of his making, the outcome of which will dramatically shape the future of not only his society, but the very planet itself. He comes into conflict with the leader of the people who act as servants to the rest of the population but who plan a rebellion, and stumbles onto an obscure fact which could result in the end of Cadwall's society if it were widely known. Jack Vance is in top form, with his vibrant descriptions and vivid characterizations. One can visualize Cadwall, smell the sea air, and taste the wine. His voice is as sardonic as ever, with razor sharp wit and eloquent commentaries on people in general. If this trilogy doesn't make you a fan, nothing will!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2013
Araminta Station has less of the wordplay that makes so many Vance books great fun to read. That's not to say it's not classic Vance - there are strict societies, dispassionate characters, and alien landscapes galore. But the verbiage is somewhat tamer than in other books. At the same time, Vance focuses more on the detective aspect than usual. In short, this is an excellent SF crime mystery handled with Jack Vance style and panache.
The hero, Glawen Clattuc, is more approachable and 'normal' than many Vance protagonists, but true normality is reserved for Eustace Chilke, a supporting character. This book establishes the setting of the Cadwal Conservancy (a protected planet) and the pressures it faces. However, the scale of the story is mostly focused on Glawen and his struggles with rivals, love, and society. It's probably more of a 3.5 than a 4 on a Vance scale, but really anything by Vance is in a class by itself.
CVIE vol IV
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2013
Wow. I don't know what to say. There's nothing I can say that will do justice to the book. I've read a number of Vance books. All of them are very good. Some are outstanding. Araminta Station is simply amazing. It's a well written novel with great character development and an intricate plot - essentially some crimes and conspiracies set to the stage of a distant outpost in the far reaches of the galaxy in the far distant future. There are a number of individuals who are typical Vance villains: completely self absorbed, without morals, committing atrocious deeds without any regard for decency and believing themselves above reproach. And there are a handful of upright, very decent and moral individuals, including the protagonist, who are not only trying to bring law and order in their official capacity as part of the government bureaucracy - but also are deeply and personally affected by the deeds being committed.
The interesting thing is that the book starts out in the younger years of the protagonist. The mood is lighter and more carefree at that time. Both his mood and that of the novel. Normally as a person goes from childhood to adulthood, things become more serious, even in the absence of tragedy. But when tragedies happen - as they do here - one grows up quickly. And when it's not just one - but a series of setbacks and calamities over a span of months and years, it's all he can do to try not become too jaded or bitter.
Of all the Vance novels, this is the one I would say is closest to being actual "literature" rather than pure sci-fi or fantasy. I say this because of the way he develops mood, thoughts and emotions of the characters. This isn't just a "fluff" sci-fi novel with one-dimensional characters and simple writing. Quite the opposite.
Regarding the writing, my mom is reading the Lyonesse trilogy and mentioned that most of the words she had to look up date from the 16th century. I noticed that here too. The interesting thing is that Vance uses these words as if they are completely natural, common, everyday words. I mean, I don't know where he acquired such a command of 16th century verbage, but I'm literally looking up one or two words every couple pages. Don't worry though. Believe me, it does not detract at all from the enjoyment. In fact it makes it better.