Saturday, 12 January 2002
Jack Vance: Fantasms and Magics (1950-61)
Review number: 1038
What these stories, one novella and several shorter tales, have in common is an interest in the use of fantasy ideas in settings more commonly seen in science fiction. One is a Dying Earth story, appearing in that collection as well. The others have wide ranging settings, even if Guyal of Sfere is not the only story set towards the end of Earth's history. Vance's style, where things are not quite what they seem to be in a baroque world, is another constant; it is at its best in The New Prime.
The longer story, The Miracle Workers, is about the relationship between magic and science. The descendants of starship captains stranded centuries ago, the lords of the planet Pangborn utilise magic as a matter of course, while the surviving technology of their ancestors is the almost completely incomprehensible object of superstition.
The stories in Fantasms and Magics live up to Vance's inventive and well written standard and it would, as a collection, make a good introduction to his bizarre universes.