Roludo Book Club. I have read one of Jack Vance's fantasy books and am aware of his influence on the genre (and specifically on Dungeons & Dragons) but still don't quite "get" him. Some of the people over at Roludo are quite knowledgeable and I am hoping that I'll understand Vance better through their aid.
It was odd tracking this book down, because knowing that Vance is quite popular and that a lot of his books are available in used book stores, I thought I might stumble upon a nice used copy. Oddly, the first bookstore I went to had no Vance books at all. The guy there told me that someone had come in earlier that day and bought all the Vance books on the shelf! How fucking weird is that. Even weirder, at the next store, there were no Vance books and a big gap in the V section. I went to two other used bookstores and only found one Vance book. Very odd. I eventually went to Dark Carnival where there was (as usual) an excellent collection of new Vance books, incuding the Alastair omnibus which has all 3 novels and was, for some reason, marked down to $7.50. So though it is a rather uninspiring cover and in massive trade paperback form with no introduction or anything, it still was a good deal and I picked it up.
The series all takes place in a vast cluster of worlds call Alastair. Each planet gets a number and a name and while there are overarching cultural and political connections between the planets, I suspect that each story is very different and has no real connection besides that they take place in the same world of Alastair. In Trullion, a young man sets out from his tropical, idyllic world to join the military and then comes back ten years later to find his home world quite changed. Half his family plot has been sold out from under him, his older brother disappeared, his younger brother joined a cult and his mom doesn't seem to really care about any of it. The rest of the story is about his efforts to fix these things.
He is an odd writer. There is something distant about his
style and approach. Harsh things happen, close relations get into
serious conflict. Yet the whole thing is written in a matter-of-fact
style that takes the impact out of any of it. I found the family relations to be particularly distant and weird. It was serious, but nobody really seemed to freak out about anything in the way they spoke about it. Maybe this was reflective of Vance's portrayal of a super laid back society or maybe it's just his writing style, but it felt a bit unreal to me. Still, it was a cool story and I got caught up in it.