Jack Vance's The Star King , the first of his Demon Princes series, is quite a different book from The Dying Earth. The setting is a relatively familiar science-fictional scenario: a bunch of settled human planets (with a lawless frontier), some alien races (but no huge Galactic Civilization), and still plenty of unexplored space. In this setting, Vance gives us what amounts to a murder mystery, as our protagonist tries to track down the notorious Demon Prince Malagate the Woe.

It's all much more conventional and familiar than The Dying Earth, but far from generic. While the universe is familiar in general overtones, the rich details (and rather purple names) make it distinctly Vance's. Similarly, the style is less distinctive than it was in The Dying Earth, but nobody's going to confuse it for Asimov.

I have a suspicion that this is one of Vance's lesser works, but as light puzzle SF goes (and, as Trent recently discovered, this is a subgenre I may be overfond of), it's solid.


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