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Jack Vance SF Gateway Omnibus: Big Planet, The Blue World & the Dragon Masters and Other Stories Paperback – August 29, 2013
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About the Author
Jack Vance was born in 1916 and studied mining, engineering and journalism at the University of California. During the Second World War he served in the merchant navy and was torpedoed twice. He started contributing stories to the pulp magazines in the mid 1940s and published his first book, THE DYING EARTH in 1950. Among his many books are THE DRAGON MASTERS, for which he won his first HUGO AWARD, BIG PLANET, THE ANOME, and the Lyonesse sequence. He has won the HUGO, NEBULA and WORLD FANTASY AWARDs, amongst others, and in 1997 was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America.
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Big Planet (1957) is a standalone novel. The Big Planet is much larger than Earth, but has virtually no metals. Thus the surface gravity is about the same as Earth.
Big Planet was settled by hordes of restless people looking for someplace other than the highly regulated home planet. Over four hundred years, millions of people migrate to Big Planet and find a home. The planet is now filled with thousands of small societies, who perpetuate every crime outlawed on Earth.
In this story, Pianza and Hidders are discussing the planet they are approaching. Hidders seems interested in the latest team sent to Big Planet. He wonders what they can do that previous teams could not.
Claude comes to the observation lounge just in time for the dinner chime to ring. As they leave the lounge, the ship appears to sway. Claude asks Abbigens if anything is wrong.
Then the alarms sound. Clause learns that the lifeboats have been ejected without them. The Captain and First Mate are dead and the ship is out of control.
When Claude returns to consciousness, he learns that the ship crashed. Abbigens and Hidders are missing and Corbus and Vallusser are the only surviving crew. A nun passenger is presumed dead since her cabin is at the bottom of the ship.
All of his team have survived. Claude orders them to pack anything useful for a hike and tells them to get ready to leave. If Abbigens or Hidders survived, they are probably off to fetch soldiers to capture them.
His nurse Nancy wants to go with them. Claude refuses, but says she can go with them as far as the woods. As they leave the village, the residents are dancing around them.
In the woods, Clause leaves his team and Nancy to reconnoiter. He finds Beaujolais soldiers settling in for the night. One sets up a blaster and goes back for something.
Clause settles behind the blaster and tells the soldiers to freeze. The gunner rushes him and six soldiers die. Claude calls his team and has them set guards on the soldiers.
The Blue World (1966) is a standalone SF novel. The inhabitants of the Blue World are twelve generations of convicts who escaped from a sinking spaceship. Now they live on floating plants in an endless ocean.
In this story, Skar is considering Meril as a mate. He offers to test her, but she refuses. She says that she is going to the Scrivener's Academy on Quartrefoil.
When she returns as a scrivener, she continues to refuses his offers. She says that Semm is willing to espouse her without testing. Skar offers to take her without testing, but she ignores him.
Skar tells her that Semm is too old for her and is a foolish old man who capers before the King Kragen like a fool. Semm overhears these comments and is not pleased.
Then a lesser kragen invades the Tranque Lagoon. Skar notifies the hoodwink crew and a call for King Kragen is spread throughout the floats. Skar throws a heavy joint from a plant at the kragen. When he picks up another missile, Semm grabs his arm.
Skar jerks his arm away from Semm and starts to throw the other joint. Semm steps in front of him and chides him for violating the Covenant. Semm says that other intercessors will call King Kragen to drive away the rogue kragen.
Skar pokes at the kragen with a boat hook, to no avail. The rogue knocks the pole aside. When Skar retrieves it, the hook has been knocked off, leaving a sharp point. Skar tries to puncture an eye, but the pole slides off and cuts into soft tissues.
The rogue convulses and thrusts itself out of the water. It sinks down to the net under the lagoon. Then it departs the float.
The Dragon Masters & Other Stories (2002)) is a standalone collection. It contains three independent novellas.
- "The Miracle Workers" (1958) follows survivors of a space war who land on Panghorn and forgotten by the rest of humanity. Their technology gradually fails and becomes legend. Jinxmen develop psionic abilities and the old technology is remembered by most of the population with superstitious awe.
Lord Faide is gradually conquering all the human domains. The only remainding opposition is by the alien First Men. The are determined to kill all humans on the planet.
- "The Dragon Masters" (1963) concerns other humans stranded on the planet Aerlith. Later, an alien spaceship lands of the planet. Some of the grephs are captured by the humans. They breed the grephs into various types of dragons.
Some humans join an order of sacerdotes. This group still has workable technology. Yet they are very secretive.
- "The Last Castle" (1966) starts with the overthrow of Castle Janiel by the Meks. The castles had been constructed seven hundred years before when humans returned to Earth. Meks, Peasants and Phanes were aliens transported to the planet to provide services below the dignity of a Gentleman.
The revolt by Meks was a complete surprise to the humans. Ever the experts studying the Meks has not foreknowledge of the revolt. Now minor machines are failing due to lack of maintenance or Mek sabotage.
Now Castle Hagedorn is the only remaining castle. Experts within the castle can easily repair or replace inoperable machiner if they only had someone to do the work. Claghorn suggests that the Gentlemen work for their own survival, but everybody else refuses to dirty their hands.
These tales show the versatility and style of the author. Over a period of 68 years, he wrote many SF and Fantasy stories. His early works were published in magazines during the 1940s and reprinted as short novel during the 1950s. Big Planet was first published with Slaves of the Klau as an Ace double book in 1958.
This volume is a standalone collection. However, a two volume omnibus of The Domon Princes series is also available.
Highly recommended for Vance fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of other cultures, alien planets, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin