The fact that I’ve been reading a lot of Jack Vance lately has nothing to do with his recent death. In fact, I started reading Ports of Call about two weeks before I heard of his death. The coincidence was still interestingly spooky.
Reviews I’ve seen of Ports of Call generally don’t recommend it as the first book by Jack Vance to read. I enjoyed it greatly, but I have to agree. The story, if you can call it that, is kind of oddly structured to say the least. I’ve also recently finished Big Planet(Kindle edition, ’cause the paperback is ridiculously expensive), and while I didn’t enjoy that story quite as well, it was probably a better introduction to Vance’s style than Ports of Call.
It’s hard to say exactly what Ports of Call is. Taken of itself, it’s not entirely fair to call it a story although it provides intriguing hooks on which a lot of stories could have been hung. There’s no overarching narrative structure or plot to the book, it is simply a series of entertaining events through which a group of interesting, erudite and sometimes sympathetic characters pass. According to reviews I’ve read, the sequel, Lurulu, ties the structure together and serves to complete the narrative as a full-fledged story. I have yet to finish Lurulu, however, so that is purely hearsay. The book itself leaves the reader hanging, not, as would be expected, irritated at the clear lack of completion of the book, as if the writer simply stopped writing when it got too long(which, according to Vance, himself, is what happened), but pining for more.
Ports of Call follows Myron Tany as he strikes out for the stars, first aboard his strange aunt’s yacht and later, after being abandoned on an alien planet by said eccentric aunt, with the crew of the tramp freighter Glicca. They see many strange worlds and encounter often stranger characters and customs, coming through sometimes harrowing adventures. Just about every character in Ports of Call is remarkably smart, erudite and… peculiar. I can only hope that Lurulu proves as entertaining as this one.
As much as I’m looking forward to the sequel to hopefully illuminate the story and tie events together into a proper plot, the book was well worth reading even in it’s strangely incomplete form. It’s not every author who can get a text as unfinished as this one published and still have readers eager to see the sequel. I regret only to have been introduced to Vance so late.
Thank you for your attention,