The Lyonesse sequence evokes the Elder Isles, is a baroque land of pre-Arthurian myth now lost beneath the Atlantic, where powerful sorcerers, aloof faeries, stalwart champions, and nobles eccentric, magnanimous, and cruel pursue intrigue among their separate worlds . . . Prince Aillas of Troicinet is betrayed on his first diplomatic voyage and cast into the sea. Before he redeems his birthright, he must pass the breadth of Hybras Isle as prisoner, vagabond, and slave, an acquaintance of faeries, wizards, and errant knights, and lover to a sad and beautiful girl whose fate sets his bitter rivalry with the tyrant Casmir, King of Lyonesse. (First published in 1983)
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These are the voyages of Myron Tany. "Ports of Call" was my first Jack Vance experience, and I must say that I was impressed. It's not so much the plot or Myron's adventures that I found to be impressive, but simply Vance's prose alone. His vocabulary is exquisite, as are his philosophical musings, propounded through the vehicle of his characters. My only complaint is with the secondary novelette, "Lurulu", which is a sequel to "Ports of Call". The beginning of it was a bit frustrating. It was as a rereading of the beginning of "Ports of Call", only not as impressive as one. I actually suspect Vance started out with "Lurulu", put it aside, started over with "Ports of Call", and then stuck "Lurulu" on the end, using it as a means of resolution. I was neither pleased with how Myron's problems with his aunt Hester Lajoie resolved. It was a bit depressing, though logical. I could not help but feel the anxiety that Myron himself felt, as did his parents. How did he deal with it? He again struck out for the stars. This brings to mind the "call of the sea" spoken of in so many classic novels of sailing the seas. I could not help but conclude that Myron's adventuring will eventually lead to his demise. I'm sure his integrity will erode, and that he will end up murdered or imprisoned. What is the alternative for Myron? A mundane career which follows in the footsteps of his estranged father. What is it that Myron is searching for? What are his shipmates searching for? Myron's philosophy of life remains secret. He admits that he is both fearful and confused. He is best friends with an agnostic - Schwatzendale, an aesthete with spiritual yearnings - Wingo, and a seeker - Maloof, who is obsessed with finding Lurulu by means of his ship, the Glicca. All are intellectuals, and all are cynics who pass the time with beer and vainglorious musings which are witty and entertaining, yet void of meaning. I do believe they all need to meet women. It is obvious that all but Schwatzendale pursue the metaphysical, yet this is somewhat of a paradox since his favored company to engage in conversation with are metaphysicians. He seeks to dominate them with rationalism in the secret hope that they can provide a true challenge to his own faith - which is his faith in rationalism. I hope they eventually come upon a convent of neo-Platonist Calvanist shepherdesses who effectively dissolve their appetites for nihilistic adventuring. Ironically, I believe it would be Schwatzendale who would find the most food for thought in such a place - the Calvanists are great and engaging apologists who would clear the air of their rambling wisps of pluralistic ideological phantasms which blindly deny absolutes. There would also be tremendous sexual tension between these groups - hermetical nuns and seasoned space men.