Minding the Stars: The Early Jack Vance, Volume 4
Humans under the thumb of telekinetics strive for equal rights. A man builds an ark for a flood no one believes is coming. A promoter prepares for the first Miss Universe beauty pageant. A man is contracted to bring government to a city at war. Scientists trying to study the afterlife draw the attention of a religious zealot.
Jack Vance is a giant in science fiction, and deservedly so, with ambitious, raw, and engaging stories to his credit. Minding the Stars is the fourth compilation of his earliest works, and with one notable exception, this is sci-fi at its sharpest and most thoughtful. These are short stories about hard choices and sacrifice, about what people will do to truly be free, rich and colorful tales of humanity at its best and worst.
Unfortunately, the last story left a bad taste in my mouth, if only because the religious character seemed so obnoxiously aggressive. Yes, those people do exist, but it defused the story’s tension at every turn. Other stories in the collection had villains as transparent, but they weren’t nearly as offputting.
Nonetheless, Minding the Stars is a terrific introduction to a sci-fi icon, one you should definitely get to know.
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