I’ve been reading faux-Jack Vance novels lately. Matthew Hughes comes closest to emulating The Master. Last week, I recommended Ray Aldridge’s “The Emancipator” series that contained echoes of Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series. Today, I’m recommending L. Warren Douglas’ Stepwater: An Arbiter Tale which will remind some of you of Jack Vance’s Alastor Cluster series. Stepwater is the first book in a trilogy (The Wells of Phyre and Glaice are the other books in the series) which revolves around The Arbiter, John Minder, who needs to keep the peace on a thousand planets with minimum resources. Many of those planets are inhabited by genetically engineered humans who can adapt to less than Earth-like conditions. Douglas channels Jack Vance’s whimsy and diplomatic cunning in these tales. Well worth reading!