Review – Vance, “The Face”

Jack Vance, “The Face” (1979) – In this installment of Vance’s space-detective-western series, Kirth Gessen knocks off the fourth of the five Demon Princes that sacked his home planet. Space pirate Lens Larque hails from Dar Sai, a desert planet the climate of which breeds a harsh and haughty people. Think the Fremen from “Dune.” Herbert built his worlds like an engineer, with everything serving some purpose (however obscure) or making a point (however pedantic), and his desert nomads are an austere product of pure adaptation. Vance, more of a writer’s writer, makes his desert-dwellers capricious and proudly difficult, full of orientalist filigree like special sports and mating rituals. The reader spends a lot of time on this planet as Kirth attempts to track down stock certificates for a worthless company that Larque once controls which somehow will winkle Larque out of hiding, or provide information as to his whereabouts, or… something. It’s not very clear and it even gets tedious at times, which Vance usually doesn’t. There’s some encounters, including Vance beating the Darsh at their weird wrestling-diplomacy game, and the usual love-plot, in this instance with a winsome member of an elitist society colonizing Dar Sai for minerals. This would be the least inspired volume in the series so far if it didn’t build to a very satisfying and amusing end, when we find out what Larque was up to with all of his money-making and planetary construction schemes. It’s a gesture even Kirth has to respect- after getting his man, of course. ****

Review – Vance, “The Face”

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