Reviews of Emphyrio (1969)
Review by ropie (2009-06-15)
Certainly not an average writer is Jack Vance. Emphyrio is perhaps the most highly regarded of his stand-alone novels. In it, Ghyl, the young hero, is on the trail of a fabled being of yore, the eponymous Emphyrio, and finds himself using the same name in a bid to overturn the wrong-doings of the revered Lords of his isolated home planet.
The novel has a pulp-ish charm to it - a simple, brave protagonist in an exotic but faintly barbaric world, where gentle craftspeople carve out an existence for themselves largely for the benefit of the upper classes. Vance weaves a delicate and enchanting society, one not without credibility and parallels with sections of out own planet (which also makes a brief appearance as a sort of legendary cradle of civilization) and knows how to raise the emotion of the reader with just a few well-placed lines. To me this is a sort of space fantasy, where 'space yachts' can skip over the light years as easily as we can walk to the shops and most problems can be resolved within a few paragraphs, but this is all for the betterment of the flow of the action, of course. I actually can't think of a bad word to say about this book and look forward to reading more Vance.