Reviews of City of the Chasch (1968)
Review by clong (2007-07-23)
A quick glance at the synopsis for this book would leave you to guess that it falls squarely within the "dated, mindless, sexist, escapist golden age scifi adventure yarn" mold. And on some level you would be right.
But there's more to the story than that. Vance gives us a protagonist with surprising depth, a cynical romantic who takes risks, worries about about making mistakes, and does make mistakes on occasion. There are no simple solutions to the problems faced by Adam Reith, and you have the sense that it is going to take every ounce of his training, ingenuity, toughness, and shrewdness to survive, much less accomplish his eventual goal of returning to Earth (he reminds me of Fleming's Bond).
Vance also gives us a world with surprising depth and a wide variety of aliens, none of which are truly alien, but all of which provide opportunities for commenting on the foibles of humanity.
I would put this in the "not a great book, but better than you might expect and well worth your time" category. The second book of the series, which I read first (not that it really mattered), is even better.
Review by ropie (2006-06-11)
City of the Chasch is a good, solid adventure tale, very much of its time (the 1960s) and populated with likeable and stereotypical fantasy characters - the resourceful hero, truculent inn keepers, a fragile and beautiful girl, etc, etc. What sets it apart, just, is Jack Vance's prose which manages to strike a balance between the thrills and spills of adventuring and intelligent insight into the world and peoples he has created.
It has not aged brilliantly but is certainly a good example of its type. If you want to read something pacey and escapist with a pulpy style, this is a good example. The first of a series too, which apparently remains consistently readable throughout four books.