cover image Ecce and Old Earth

Ecce and Old Earth

Jack Vance. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (436pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85132-3

Vance's rich lyrical style makes this follow-up to Araminta Station a pleasure to read. The planet Cadwal, established long before as a Conservancy--a natural preserve protected from settlement and development--is threatened by powerful factions that want to open its resources to exploitation. The threat becomes urgent when the Conservators learn that the ancient Charter guaranteeing Cadwal's status is missing and that anti-conservationists have already begun their search for it. Hoping to preempt them, two young Conservators, Glawen Clattuc and Wayness Tamm, decide to head for Old Earth. When Glawen is delayed on Cadwal, Wayness goes first, becoming a sort of country-hopping Nancy Drew as she follows the Charter's decades-cold trail around the globe. Glawen, meanwhile, armed with new information, pursues the Charter from another angle, and events carry the pair toward an exciting, climactic reunion. This intelligent, entertaining diversion is more detective story than science fiction: except for a startling lack of central government, Old Earth differs little from our day, serving as a mere backdrop for Wayness's Charter chase. But she and Glawen are likable protagonists engaged in colorful adventures. Not one of Vance's very best, but even minor Vance is provocative and fun. (Sept.)