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Handbook of Vance Space Paperback – June 27, 2014
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"If you're a fan of Vance, you need this book. If you've never read Vance, or are just a casual reader, it's still fascinating. And don't worry about spoilers: the author has concealed 'sensitive information' behind a simple cipher so they can't spoil a story by accident." -Analog
"This is a massive fourfold expansion of a guide to the planets created by Jack Vance in his fiction. Some entries have just a single identifying sentence, others have more detailed information including maps, symbols....A handy companion book for Vance fans." -Critical Mass
"Given Vance's extensive body of work, and his general tendency to create new settings for a new story...it should come as no surprise that the book has entries on some five hundred planets, drawn from thirty-one novels, two short novels, eight novellas, seventeen novelettes, and nineteen short stories." -Asimov's
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Mr. Andre-Driussi manages to do something that I felt was both impossible and not actually needed, he manages to put all Vance's sci-fi into one giant future history. While the Gaen reach tales and the Alastor Cluster tales do share occasional references to each other, the universe of the Oikumene was mainly a stand alone with Earth being the only constant in all Vance's series. Various timelines connect the books including ones that appear to be stand alone such as Tschai series.
The Handbook also lists the various spacecraft that appear in Vance's fiction, although very little detail is given regarding their relative capabilities other than size and accommodations (so it won't be of much use to Traveler fans looking to set a campaign in Vance's universe LOL).
Like all handbooks or guides to an author's universe, this book reveals itself on many levels and has the ability to make one want to go back and re-read the stories set on these exotic worlds. I for one have a hankering to re-read the "Demon Princes" series and the Tschai books now that I am more conversant with Vance's fiction and language.
While Vance has always struck me as not being too concerned with any detailed back story to his many series, this book makes it quite clear that he must have written down some guidelines that certainly evolved over the many decades of writing career. While universe building has become an accepted and too frequently expected part of modern sci-fi and fantasy, this was no always such. While those who role play or miniature game expect back ground material, a good series doesn't need the level of detail that Tolkien, Niven, Anderson or Weber present their readers with. But like any good writer, Vance liked to revisit the universe that some of his better stories were written in and it never hurts to have an outline to avoid inconsistencies (at least this eliminates the need for retroactive continuity or retcon such as we see in the Star Trek universe).
Vance in his final years was more willing to discuss the creative process of this writing and with his eyesight failing, spent a good deal of time working with a group of dedicated fans to preserve and expand his future vision. This Handbook is an example of such and will enrich the reading experiences of all those who are lucky enough to fall under the spell of one of fiction's most unique authors. Highly recommended!
Cataloged also are the many space vehicles of Vance's tales, from the Ariel, a commercial descendant of the ubiquitous Model 11-B "Locator" to the commodious Teleflo, a steal at SVU 18,500.
Like I said, for the fans mostly.
If you love Jack Vance's incredibly-detailed universe, like I do, you'll want to add Mr. Andre-Driussi's Handbook of Vance Space to your collection!