Victory on Janus: A weak ending

Victory on Janus by Andre Norton

Victory on Janus (1966) is the sequel to Andre Norton’s Judgment on Janus (1963). The two novels make up the JANUS duology (Baen, 2002) which has recently been published by Tantor Media as an audiobook (2021). Gabriel Vaughan, the narrator, gives an excellent performance.

In Judgment on Janus, we met Naill Renfro, who was an indentured servant on the frontier planet of Janus. After touching a forbidden “treasure,” he turned into one of the green-skinned people who used to live and thrive on Janus. This ancient race no longer exists, it seems, but humans who find the treasures become changelings who, like Naill, are equipped with some helpful ... Read More

The Killing Machine: Nobody outdoes Vance for sheer inventiveness

The Killing Machine by Jack Vance

After successfully dispatching the first of his lifelong enemies in the previous novel, The Star King, Kirth Gersen now takes on the second of the five demon princes, Kokor Hekkus, aka "The Killing Machine." The Killing Machine is even more fun than The Star King. It's full of diverse characters, exotic venues, hilarious fashions, weird food, awesome architecture, and bizarre machinery. Nobody outdoes Jack Vance for sheer inventiveness. The plot moves rapidly and contains plenty of action and suspense.

As with many of his novels, at the beginning of each chapter Vance imparts small amounts of background information in the form of excerpts from government documents, textbooks, popular sayings, magazine articles, planetary travel guides, etc. This is a clever way to give us knowledge without relying on the much maligned "i... Read More

The Black Cauldron: Mystery, suspense, adventure, and intrigue

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

The Black Cauldron is the second in Lloyd Alexander's five-part Chronicles of Prydain, and possibly the most well known. When discussing these books with other people, you'll usually get a blank look if you say "the Prydain books" or The Book of Three, but if you mention The Black Cauldron, you'll probably get a vague sense of recognition. It is a Newbery Honor book and was made into a Disney film, and as such is the most popular of all five books.

A few seasons since the events in The Book of Three have passed, and the old enchanter Dallben has called together a secret council to make war against the Death-Lord Arawn. Traveling to the small cotta... Read More