(review written Dec 24, 2015, catching up)
I picked up the entire Planet of Adventure quadrology in a single volume to read over our summer vacation in PEI. I will write a single, broad review of the whole series, because I can no longer remember the details of each volume. This is book one.
I struggle with Jack Vance. I find his writing sort of primitive and un-nuanced and yet at the same time there is an underlying sophistication and cynicism in the stories he tells. His style is like nobody else from his period or from the genre in general. I get into the unfolding of the narrative, but never feel truly connected to any of the characters. I am always slightly disconnected when reading him yet never disengaged so that I want to put it down.
The theme across all 4 books of Planet of Adventure is the competent, scientific and strategic human gradually mastering a strange environment and in doing so, the read slowly learns of this interesting world. The protagonist is a human space explorer who crash lands on the planet and has to navigate the various species and societies, which are really crazy and cool. He has his struggles, but he generally kind of dominates, which starts to feel slightly biased over time with shades of colonialist superiority. However, the portrayal of the societies and species and their power structures is rich and complex and Vance does seem to be really trying to imagine a realistic world utterly different from our own (except that women are also in subservient roles).