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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Languages Of Pao

Copyright 1958 by Jack Vance

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Awful (1/5)

I first read this on the 5th November 2002.

Pao is an ancient planet, with an old, old human culture. For thousands of years civilisation has stagnated under a hereditary monarchy, untold generations living dying under in an unchanging culture.

Now all is in upheaval. The king is dead and his position usurped by his once-trusted advisor, Bustamonte.

Prince Beran, rightful successor to the throne, escapes to the forbidding planet Breakness, there to study the arts that will make him near-superhuman. He plans for his eventual return to his home world of Pao but as the years roll by he sees his planet changing more, perhaps irredeemably.

Still he will return, he will struggle and fight to retake his crown.

Sometimes Jack Vance writes such superb stories, but not this time. I remember reading one of his novels about a future earth's lost civilisation - it was a wonderful book. Sadly I've not the faintest idea which book from which that came. However, "The Languages Of Pao" doesn't exactly survive as a classic. It was an enjoyable teenage romp that sometimes provoked one to think about language, culture and politics. But on these subjects, perhaps one should read Noam Chomski (yes, the political activist) and Claude Levi-Strauss (no, not the jeans company) rather than "The Languages Of Pao".

So it's all rather old-fashioned, simple and enjoyable writing with some interesting but over-simplified ideas. It's not Jack Vance's best. I'd only recommend reading it you're a fan of Mr Vance, and are determined to read everything he's written.

Loaded on the 30th November 2002.
Cover of The Languages Of Pao
Cover art by Maelo Cintron

Reviews of other works by Jack Vance:
Araminta Station