Matthew Hughes, who writes faux-Jack Vance novels and short stories has completed a “sequel” to Vance’s famous Demon Princes series. Hughes’ sequel should be published later in 2021, so I decided to reread the Demon Princes series starting with the first volume, Star King (aka, The Star King) first published in 1963. Five criminals organize a raid on the city of Mount Pleasant. Many of the citizens are killed, the rest are sold into slavery. Kirth Gersen and his grandfather are among the few survivors. They migrate to Earth where Gersen’s grandfather trains Kirth to become a skilled assassin whose mission is to avenge the deaths of his family and friends.

Tales of vengeance are a dime a dozen, but Jack Vance’s series features the solving of mysteries which make his series unique. Kirth Gersen has to find each of the five villains before he can extract his revenge. So questions of identity and strategy play large roles in Gersen’s searches of hidden meanings and sinister patterns.

If you’re looking for a series of tales with clever twists and unexpected actions, Demon Princes displays some of Jack Vance’s best writing. GRADE: B+ (for Star King)

11 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #624: STAR KING by Jack Vance

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Just reread all of thee a couple of years ago . Very enjoyable. Not quite as good as his Dying Earth series which is my favorites of his works but still a lot of fun. I knew Hughes was signed to do another book in the series but didn’t know it was already written. Good news.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, here’s what Matthew Hughes has posted: “Barbarians of the Beyond, the authorized sequel to Jack Vance’s The Demon Princes, is still in the hands of Spatterlight Press, run by Jack’s son, John. I’m waiting for a typeset that can serve as an advance reading copy (ARC), which I’ll send to some big names in the SF field who will give us blurbs to help publicize the title. I expect it will be published in the first half of 2021.”

  2. wolf

    Jack Vance, fantastic – so different from Heinlein etc!
    The Star King series like most of Vance’s books was soon translated into German and became one of my favourites.
    Funny story rather OT (or not?):
    I bought as much SF as I could afford in German in the late 60s and lent a whole box of books to a “friend” to read – who suddenly disappeared!
    A few years later (I had finished university and was working then) a colleague called me and told me that on holiday he had found a book with my name inscribed at a second hand bookstore …
    And later the guy who had disappeared came to our house and said:
    Sorry, I needed the money …
    He was a salesman for medicine now and gave us a lot of prescription pills, among them contraceptives for all the women in the family.
    I had already started then my regular shopping trips to London and bought all the Vance books in English.
    Crazy memories!

    1. george Post author

      Wolf, I have a lot of fond memories of reading Jack Vance novels and short stories growing up. How could a geometry class in High School compete with THE DYING EARTH? I used to sit in the back of the class and read while the teacher drew triangles and circles on the chalk board.

  3. Michael Padgett

    Jack Vance was pretty much my favorite SF writer, and I continued reading him after I’d mostly moved on from SF into mysteries and horror. So there’s some inclination in me to try Hughes. But I won’t, and it’s because of my belief that writers should create their own worlds and characters, not set up a colony on someone else’s work. The only exception I’ve made was in reading the Jesse Stone books by Reed Farrel Coleman because I was already a Coleman fan and his Stone books were better than the Parker originals. He’s quit or been replaced now and the series is being continued by Mike Lupica, a writer I don’t care for, so I’ll stop reading this series.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, most of Matthew Hughes’s faux-Vance novels and stories capture Vance’s style. I think you would enjoy them. Reed Farrel Coleman is a vastly better writer than Mike Lupica.

  4. Patti Abbott

    As usual I will say I wish these books grabbed me the way they do all of you, but I never can let go of reality enough to enjoy them.


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