Books »The Demon Princes

If you don't know how much I adore the work of Jack Vance, you obviously just have not been listening to me! The Demon Princes, two volumes collecting five novellas written between 1964 and 1981, are my favorites second only to the middle books collected in Tales of the Dying Earth (the absolutely phenomenal Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel's Saga). I've only been holding off on recommending them here, on Brix Picks, until I had a chance to re-read them and write while their fresh in my mind, but over the years they've been passed around to all my friends and I just haven't had the chance.

The four novellas chronicling the vengeful exploits of Kirth Gersen as he seeks to destroy a cabal of high powered, shadowy, inter-planetary criminals known only as the Demon Princes in the wake of the massacre of his home planet match up so perfectly with this week's vengeance-based extreme movie, Oldboy, that I'm positive the authors of the Manga Park Chan-wook's film was based on were heavily influenced by Vance's stories.

Over the course of 850 action-packed pages, Gersen manages to find (and attempts to kill) each one of the gangsters on his hit list in exponentially brilliant ways that involve, among other things, a high school reunion, a planet that's turned kidnapping into a safe and reliable business, weirdo art parties on old Earth, rare and possibly deadly culinary delicacies, and a maniacal plan involving the restructuring of a moon… And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

To give away too much of the plot would be totally unfair as the real thrill of any Vance work is watching the intricate and often extremely surprising plots rapidly unfold and reveling in his witty and wildly imaginative brand of speculative social engineering. Just writing about this series is making me really want to read it again – this is one of my all-time favorites.

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Posted on September 7, 2009

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