cover image Magic Highways: The Early Jack Vance, Volume 3

Magic Highways: The Early Jack Vance, Volume 3

Edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan. Subterranean (, $45 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59606-560-4

Even a Grandmaster needs to begin somewhere. This evolving collection of 16 early SF stories by Vance, an award winner for mystery, fantasy, and science fiction, starts off with space opera in its pulpiest form—sprinkled with retrofuturism and casual racism—and proceeds to the more sophisticated vocabulary and cultured characters associated with his classic works such as The Dying Earth. The shift is best seen in the final seven stories, which feature Magnus Ridolph, “noted savant and freelance troubleshooter.” Ridolph uses wits and witticisms to secure justice for injured parties like a colony of intelligent fish (“The Sub-Standard Sardines”). When working with standards like a trip across the universe (“Ultimate Quest”) or humans kept as pets (“The House Lords”), Vance invests his characters and settings with “the ultimate grandeur” of the cosmos, adding a touch of marvel even to two-fisted tales of space pirates (“Sabotage on Sulfur Planet”). (May)