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I'm a big fan of Jack Vance's wild imagination and his "high-end" (his description) writing style. So, I was happy to get a copy of Wild Thyme, Green Magic, an assortment of his fantasy and science fiction tales which have previously been published in several SFF magazines and have now been compiled and edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan and published by Subterranean Press. Wild Thyme, Green Magic also includes several informative excerpts of a 1986 interview with Mr. Vance and a couple of short bios written by Norma Vance, Jack's wife.
Of the 12 stories (one is really just a glorified outline), I was completely tickled, enraptured, beguiled, or otherwise delighted by 8 of them. (None of them are bad -- all have their entertaining moments.) Most of the tales star one of Jack Vance's intelligent and capable heroes, which is one of the reasons I like his stories so well: his heroes don't whine, do stupid things without cause, or get out-smarted by bad guys. Many of them have bad morals and ethics, but they are not witless, lazy, or incompetent. (And they usually have cool names like "Magnus Ridolph.")
However, some of them are so self-righteous and snooty as to become obnoxious, and I found this to be the case with Alice, heroine of the first short, "Assault on a City," a story about the dangers of "subjectivity" and "over-civilization." While I appreciate, and even agree with, Mr. Vance's position, I felt that in this story he abandoned his usually subtle social satire in favor of a heavy-handed harangue.
The second story, "Green Magic" is a fantasy about boredom, knowledge, and the possibility that ignorance is bliss. I particularly liked this one for its imaginative elements. Next is "The World-Thinker," Vance's first published story.Read more ›
This is a nice little anthology of a wide range of Jack Vance short stories - although the best, Chateau d'If, is almost a novella. D'If is a enterprise promising the jaded unforgettable adventure - for a price which is a lot higher than it seems at first. It's a science fiction tale set in "our" future - perhaps not that far off. The other stories are sci-fi, fantasy (such as Green Magic) and one (The Augmented Agent) is James Bond spy fiction in high style. There is the rogue Cugel, private investigator Magnus Ridolph, and a host of others of varying degrees of morality and sophistication. There is even a rare appearance by a female protagonist, although not a "girly" one by any means.
This covers almost the whole range of Vance's short fiction career - from 1945's The World Thinker to stuff written in the 70's, when as far as I can tell, novels took over the Vancian output. The only thing universal about the various stories is the sly commentary on human nature in greater or lesser degree. There are a lot more short stories than those here - this is not the complete works, by any stretch - but for a lover of Vance's work, this is a must-have, for all it may merely put hardcovers around stories otherwise only available in aging paperback.
I'd read a few of these stories already in other collections, but this is a worthy addition to any shelf. Sub Press have a few Vance works out now, with the Treasury, Hard Luck Diggings, and Dream Castles being the other short fiction collections.
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