Jack Vance mastered his craft over more than sixty years, garnering awards including the Nebula, Edgar, two Hugos, and the 1997 SFWA Grandmaster. The stories in this collection were written through the early-mid period of his career, spanning twenty years from the early 50's on.
Vance would dismiss his early work as juvenile, "gadget"-oriented, lacking subtlety and polish. Even so, these stories are hearty and entertaining. Vance's perception, imagination and eventful personal experience are all visible, staking the way for significant things to come.
Extraterrestrials are difficult to portray, but Vance takes a swing with Phalid's Fate (1951), Nopalgarth (1966), and The Narrow Land (1967).
Shape-Up and Crusade to Maxus are classic SF. The Augmented Agent and Milton Hack from Zodiac are intrigues, with recognizable prototypes of Magnus Ridolph and Miro Hetzel.
The conflict between conservers and exploiters is a theme Vance would return to with Maske: Thaery and The Cadwal Chronicles. The Gift of Gab (1955) throws in a twist: the challenge to communicate with a non-human race having no language.
Chateau d'If (1950) highlights the collection. Critics were divided on the merits of the story (originally published as New Bodies for Old) but agreed the atmosphere was the creation of a major talent. In a future city all needs are met, and the greatest threat is ennui. Seeking novelty, Roland Mario gets more than he bargained for when his mind is placed in the flaccid body of an unhealthy man, having an unhappy family and messy professional life. Inhabiting every uncomfortable aspect of the man's life, Mario determines to win back his own body. This won't be easy or quick, but he rolls up his sleeves, and the venture ultimately provides what Roland sought in the first place. In the end, he faces an unexpected choice.
Chateau d'If and Other Stories is Volume 13 of the Spatterlight Press Signature Series.Released in the centenary of the author's birth, this handsome new collectionis based upon the prestigious Vance Integral Edition. Select volumes enjoyup-to-date maps, and many are graced with freshly-written forewords contributedby a distinguished group of authors. Each book bears a facsimile of theauthor's signature and a previously-unpublished photograph, chosen from family archives for the period the book was written. These uniquefeatures will be appreciated by all, from seasoned Vance collector to new reader sampling the spectrum of this author's influential work forthe first time. - John Vance II
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About the Author
California native Jack Vance (1916-2013) was one of the greats of science fiction. He was the author of dozens of sci-fi books and fantasy novels, including the popular Lyonesse and Dying Earth series and the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning book The Last Castle. In 1997, he was honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. He died in Oakland, California.