cover image Grand Crusades: The Early Jack Vance, Vol. 5

Grand Crusades: The Early Jack Vance, Vol. 5

Edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan. Subterranean (, $45 (472p) ISBN 978-1-59606-710-3

Fans of SFWA Grandmaster Vance (1916–2013) know him for jeweled language and dry wit, but this volume of five short novels brings out his two-fisted, pulp-action side. Vance’s protagonists—a failed starship engine thief on an interstellar treasure hunt (“The Rapparee,” 1950), a wronged man out to upend galactic slavery (“Crusade to Maxus,” 1951), a rebel determined to pull down alien conquerors (“Gold and Iron,” 1958)—rely on their “primitive” human dynamism to bull through against the odds. Along the way they enjoy a good quip or two, and sometimes (though not always) get the girl. The concluding “Space Opera” (1965) is a nice change of pace: a comic jaunt about an opera company bringing Earth music to various aliens, who may view performances as endurance contests or display questionable taste. Even readers who admire Vance’s literary skill may struggle to look past his sexism and racism, especially when they intersect: one female character is introduced only as “Chevrr’s small dark woman,” and two others are “quarreling bald half-breeds.” (Apr.)