fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCity of the Chasch by Jack Vance science fiction book reviewsCity of the Chasch by Jack Vance

City of the Chasch (1968) is the first book in Jack Vance’s PLANET OF ADVENTURE series. I’m so excited that Blackstone Audio is finally getting these produced in audio format! City of the Chasch was just released a few weeks ago and the following books, Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir, and The Pnume, will be released in the next three months (one per month).

In this first book we meet Adam Reith, a scout on a spaceship that traveled from Earth to Tschai, a planet of the star Carina 4269 from which some sort of signal has been detected. When Adam is sent out on a shuttle to reconnoiter the planet, the spaceship and its crew is shot down and Adam crash-lands, leaving him alone and injured on this unknown world. He is extremely surprised to find that as well as a few alien species, there are humans on Tschai. He has no idea how they got there because there has been no known contact between Earth and Tschai.

City of the Chasch by Jack Vance

Audio version

Adam’s goal is to regain his health and to find and fix his shuttle. He wants to get off of this uncomfortable world, and he wants to tell Earth that these species exist because he has reason to suspect that they are a danger to humanity. But escaping will not be easy because, not only does Adam not know where his shuttle is and how badly it’s damaged, but the planet’s inhabitants are hostile toward him. They are divided into distinct cultures that each have their own laws and traditions, who don’t like each other, and who think of humans as ignorant slaves. If he’s going to escape, Adam will have to figure out how to overcome all of these obstacles.

Fortunately, Adam is a classic Vancean hero — tall, strong, smart, creative and resourceful. (And witty and irresistible to beautiful women.) You can expect Adam to get himself into many messy situations but to always manage to outsmart and manipulate people and events in surprising ways until he gets out of them and, usually, walks right into another messy situation. This is typical for Vance’s science fiction plots, but I never get tired of it because it’s usually surprising, clever, and funny.

Also typical for Vance is the dry humor and extensive vocabulary. Even his lowest characters will sometimes use hilariously elevated language. This is something that fans love and I’m proud to say that I’ve picked up a few useful new words by reading Vance. This style, which he’s famous for, is toned down in City of the Chasch, but it’s still obviously Vance.

The most noticeable Vancean element in this book, though, is the way that he divides the planet into separate cultures and uses this to make fun of human foibles. If you’ve read The Eyes of the Overworld and/or Cugel’s Saga (two of his more famous works), you’ll remember how Cugel travels from city to city and finds that each has some strange habit, ideology, or culture, and Vance uses this to point out the stupid and illogical things that humans think and do. He does the same sort of thing in City of the Chasch and, as usual, it’s amusing, though not quite so much as it is in those earlier novels.

I’ve said many times that Jack Vance is my favorite SFF author. If you have no experience with his work, I beg you to give him a try. His stories are full of exciting adventure, unpredictable plots, pointed social commentary, and witty humor. They’re totally original and packed with imagination. City of the Chasch isn’t his best work — it’s not as humorous and clever as we expect from Vance — but it’s still quite entertaining and most fans will enjoy it.

The audio version of City of the Chasch is 6 hours and 19 minutes long. It’s produced by Blackstone Audio and read by Elijah Alexander. Mr Alexander did a very nice job, though I thought Arthur Morey, who read the DYING EARTH books, was better at relaying Vance’s dry humor.

Tschai: Planet of Adventure — (1968-1970) The Chasch was originally published as City of The Chasch and The Wannek was originally Servants of the Wankh. Publisher: The starship Explorator IV is destroyed after entering orbit around the planet Tschai. Adam Reith’s scout ship is en route to the surface when the attack occurs, and is damaged in the explosion; Reith crash-lands and is separated from his ship. He finds a world full of violence, where four non-human races rule: the Chasch, the Dirdir, the Wannek, and the Pnume. Humans are present, but dominated by the other races. In this volume Reith sets out to regain his scout ship, and makes his way to Dadiche, ruled by the Blue Chasch and their human servants. Along the way he finds loyal friends, and challenges social inequities with the same aplomb that he rescues fair maidens — like the lovely Ylin Ylan, Flower of Cath.

Original novels:                                                                                                                     Omnibus:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJack Vance Tschai City of the Chasch (The Chasch. 1968) Servants of the Wankh (The Wannek, 1969) The Dirdir (1969) The Pnume (1970)fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJack Vance Tschai City of the Chasch (The Chasch. 1968) Servants of the Wankh (The Wannek, 1969) The Dirdir (1969) The Pnume (1970)       fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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