Visions of Paradise

Saturday, January 05, 2008

City of the Chasch

City of the Chasch is the first of four novels by Jack Vance collected in book form under the unassuming title Planet of Adventure. It is a typical Vancean planetary adventure involving an Earthman named Adam Reith who is the sole survivor of a spaceship arriving on the planet Tschai which is populated by three alien races, the Chasch, Dirdir and Wankh, plus the native Pnume and numerous sub-species of each, as well as several types of humans. Each have differing cultures, and all are at various stages of warfare with each other.

Reith’s shuttle is captured by the Blue Chasch and taken to their stronghold, although Reith escapes and sets out to recapture his ship. He joins a caravan for protection and meets a girl who calls herself Flower of Cath and who is a prisoner of a group of nuns taking her to a bizarre anti-male ceremony at which she will evidently be maimed or killed. Reith spends the first half of the novel rescuing her then, when the caravan is destroyed in an attack by the Green Chasch, Reith, the girl and two other accomplices, one human and the other a Dirdirman, travel toward the city of the Chasch.

Of course, they encounters other troubles along the way, most importantly for the storyline when a dictator of the city Pera kidnaps the Flower of Cath for his own use. The humans who live in Pera almost huddle in the city as fugitives, surviving by engaging in commerce with the nearby city of the Blue Chasch. After a series of adventures both in Pera and in the city of the Blue Chasch, Reith becomes ruler of Pera and initiates improvements in the city which incur the wrath of the Chasch who launch an invasion.

City of the Chasch is vintage Vance, featuring a well-developed exotic world populated with diverse and fantastic aliens. Tschai is the true protagonist of the novel, and the adventure plot is mostly a device used by Vance to explore the world, its population, and the relationship between the alien overloads and the underling humans. On Tschai the humans are considered submen by the Chasch and Dirdir, and live such primitive lives that there is little reason for the alien races to consider them otherwise. Reith, in accepting the leadership of Pera, determines to change that perception by helping the humans to regain their pride and improve their standards of living. We also learn more about the Chasch, particularly the sub-races Blue Chasch and Green Chasch. Presumably, in latter books we will learn more about the other various races and sub-races.

Where the Alastor and Demon Prince series feature similar color, they are primarily mysteries whose worlds are not nearly as well-developed. So while City of the Chasch has less plotting, it is more satisfying since beneath its surface plot lies an anthropological delight. I look forward to exploring more of Tschai’s wonders in subsequent novels in the series.

1 Comments:

  • "Where the Alastor and Demon Prince series feature similar color, they are primarily mysteries whose worlds are not nearly as well-developed."

    I agree about the Demon Princes, but I would argue that the Alastor series feature some of Vance's best developed societies.

    By Blogger Tim R. Mortiss, At 11:22 PM  

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