The Domains of Koryphon by Jack Vance

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jackvancereader.jpgConcluding my review of the three novels collected in The Jack Vance Reader, my focus will be on Jack Vance's 1974 work, The Domains of Koryphon, previously published (against Vance's wishes) as The Gray Prince


Vance sets the novel's location on the planet Koryphon, whose native inhabitants the Uldras have had their lands colonized and pretty much overrun by the "Outkers", settlers from another planet.  (Vance is clearly alluding to the displacement of Native Americans by European settlers.)  The female Outker protagonist Schaine Maddac returns to Koryphon after a self-imposed five year exile, obstensibly to reconcile with her father, one of the largest offworld landowners on Koryphon.  Reunited with her brother Kelse and bodyguard Gerd Jemasze, Schaine meets  political activists Elvo Glissan and "The Gray Prince", The latter actually her old childhood friend/servant Muffin.  Various political factions between the Outkers and the Uldras meanwhile clash over who really deserves control of the land. When Schaine and Kelse's father is found dead, the protagonists embark on an episodic adventure to trace the late landowner's last journey (during which Vance suddently and abruptly shifts from relating the novel from Schaine's point-of-view to Elvo's), resulting in a surprising and ironic conclusion (and not unlike the resolution in Vance's Emphyrio, reviewed here a few weeks back). 

After the two previous novels in this collection, Domains is surprisingly low-key in comparsion.  The shift from Schaine to Elvo as the lead character is kind of jarring (did Vance think readers wouldn't accept a female hero?) and the last part of the novel throws in some mystical fantasy elements (like the "fiaps", a kind of talsman) that seem grafted on.  I did like the twist at the end though regarding who's really indigenous on Koryphon.  (Other creatures native to the planet include the erjin, who function as a kind of horse, but may be more, and the carnivorous morphotes, the latter of whom provide some welcome but bizarre black humor.)  At times, I felt like I was reading a western with science fictional tones, particularly during the last half of the book, which involves a trek through various deserts and towns (and confrontations with various antagonists). 

The Domains of Polyphon is overall a good read.  It's not quite as ambitious in scope as the other two novels in The Jack Vance Reader, but it'll still hold your interest. 

You can reserve a copy of  The Jack Vance Reader online here.  And be sure and check out other works by the author that we carry here, including his just published memoir This Is Me, Jack Vance! (which unfortunately doesn't go in much detail about his science fiction and fantasy writing, but is still worth checking out). 

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ed published on September 3, 2009 11:58 AM.

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The DEP Provides Access To The Disabled is the next entry in this blog.

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