Book Review – “The Kragen” by Jack Vance

I love reading science fiction but tend to stick to a few authors. Fortunately I have an older brother who not only spreads me to further fields but reminds me of old pastures that still hold great value.

The Kragen certainly did that. I’ve read and enjoyed Jack Vance before but had read neither this novella or the novel “Blue World” that it was later expanded into. Thank you, Graeme, for reminding me of Vance’s quality. I’ll now have to ferret out some further gems.

The Kragen was out of print for many years until this recent (2007) edition from the small Subterranean Press, who seem to produce some quality volumes.

The Kragen is set on a world entirely without land, where the people feed King Kragen to keep him happy and content to shield them from the smaller Kragen. From there Vance explores a number of interesting themes. The world is certainly a believable one.

I found it well written, readable, well paced and enjoyable. A marvelous, light read, everything I want from a novella.

Discworld: The Truth

The Truth (Methuen Drama)

I’m also reading (for the second time) Terry Pratchett’s 25th Discworld novel “The Truth”.

While I do always enjoy a Discworld novel, Pratchett is certainly the most amusing writer in fantasy today, I find them starting to pall a little. I wonder if Pratchett now feels the same way, it seem to me that the end of the novel feels rushed and they seem more formulaic in “The Truth” is the unknowing attitude of deWorde to S. just a little too similar to Corporal Carrot and Angua, for example.

Let me again say that I still enjoy them, I’m not saying they are not funny and well written novels. I just feel that perhaps 25 Discworld novels may well be reaching the end of Pratchett’s interest in the series and that it is time for him to move on. The tragedy may well be that the many fans of the series will not let him, not be as accepting of his writing quirks of he tries to depart into new fields.

The Skies of Pern

by Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey is one of my favourite authors; her Pern novels, sitting between science fiction and fantasy, have been a staple of my book diet for many years. I do, however, have to admit that she can occasionally miss, and this is one of them.

McCaffrey seems to do best when she sticks to the basics of good literature; a strong central character with action allied to that character that develops them in some way. In the Pern series she has, on occasion, strayed from that strength into tales that just move the history of the planet along. This novel could be the worst of them. Compared to such gems as “The White Dragon”, “Moreta: Dragon Lady of Pern” and “Dragonsong” I find myself heartily disappointed.

“Skies” has a contrived plot, poor character development and way too much side action to the main plot. The pace is patchy, shoving you along at breakneck speed and then slowing to a crawl in the next chapter. Not one of McCaffrey’s best.

Anne, you can do better than this. Even Pern fans could probably miss this one. I’d recommend it only to those who feel compelled to have the complete Pern series.

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