The year is 2012. The world lies ravaged by biological warfare, its population decimated by a ferocious genetically-transmitted disease known as the organ rot. And presiding over the ruins is a ninety-three-year-old tyrant, preserved in a state of youth by a series of organ transplants: the self-styled Genghis Mao.
Shadrach Mordecai, Genghis Mao’s trusted personal physician, was a vital cog in the great machine devoted to keeping the ruler alive: linked to him by a network of electronic implants, Shadrach was able to detect and diagnose the first signs of malfunction in his lord and master. But close as he was to the aging dictator, Shadrach could not have known that events would soon plunge him into a desperate struggle – a struggle in which a paragon of idealism faced the very incarnation of evil.
When Argo, the White Goddess, orders it Geo, the itinerant poet, and his three disparate companions journey to the island of Aptor to seize a jewel from the dark god, Hama, and return it to Argo so that she may defeat the malign forces ranged against her and the land of Leptar.
But, as the four push deep into the enigmatic heart of Aptor and the easy distinctions between good and evil start to blur, their mission no longer seems straightforward. For Argo already controls two of the precious stones and possession of the third would make her power absolute. And the four friends have learned that power tends to corrupt…
This gracefully written sequel to Golden Witchbreed powerfully depicts the impact of a high-technology civilization on a decaying planet. Ten years after having served as Earth’s first envoy to Orthe, which is struggling to survive after a planetwide holocaust millennia ago, Lynne de Lisle Christie returns there as an advisor to PanOceania, one of Earth’s giant multinational companies, which is seeking to discover the technological secrets of the Goldens, the ruling race that had destroyed itself while almost obliterating Orthe. Christie seeks to help the native people, some of whom have been her friends, some her enemies, but all closely bound in her memories and loyalties. Instigated by the last of the Golden, a madwoman seeking domination, war between the poor and starving hiyeks of the Desert Coast and the land-loving telestres of the north is aggravated by smuggled high-tech weapons. Christie, while holding a dreadful secret from the Orthe’s past, attempts to mediate. Gentle creates moving, different, yet recognizable societies and people that catch the reader’s emotions as they struggle to save themselves.
For the beautiful young woman Ash, life has always been arquebuses and artillery, swords and armour and the true horrors of hand-to-hand combat. War is her job. She has fought her way to the command of a mercenary company, and on her unlikely shoulders lies the destiny of a Europe threatened by the depredations of an Infidel army more terrible than any nightmare.
Winner of the BSFA Award for best novel, 2000
Jacque LeFavre is a tamer – a member of one of the tough and honed exploration teams that, since the dramatic discovery of the Levant-Meyer Translation, humankind has been able to send to the stars. And Jacque’s first world is the second planet out from Groombridge 1618. It isn’t an especially promising place; the planets accompanying small stars rarely pan out. But the strange and mysterious creature that Jacque and his colleagues find there, with its gift of telepathy, leads to contact with the alien and enigmatic L’vrai, and confronts humankind with an awesome opportunity – and appalling danger.
‘Set a thief to catch a thief’ goes the old saying.
And when you are the richest man in the Universe and someone is systematically robbing your various banks blind you’d better set the best thief ever to catch your thief. After all, even at four million credits a day plus expenses, you can afford him. Enter Slippery Jim DiGriz.
And that’s how it all began for Slippery Jim and his wife, the ever deadly Angelina; persuaded from a life of stockmarket dabbling and picnicking by the hover tanks, hard cash and outright flattery of undoubtedly the richest and probably the oldest man alive; Imperetrix Von Kaiser-Czarski.
It would have seemed rude to not take the job and after barely four weeks (at four million a day) of watching the latest in computers (courtesy of son James) sift through the available evidence Jim has his first lead. Each time one of Kaiser Czarski’s banks is robbed there is a circus in town.
And as Jim knows full well, you don’t find out about a circus by going to it. You join it…
Sinister religions, missing physicists, super strings and retarded entropy; it’s all in a day’s work for Slippery Jim DiGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat, the Universe’s greatest ever thief and con artist. But this time the stakes are rather higher than even Slippery Jim is used to. His wife Angelina has disappeared and he has nothing to go on except a pool of blood and a severed hand (formerly belonging to a physicist of stellar repute) – and the fact that she has expressed an interest in The Temple of Eternal Truth, a cult offering a sneak peek at heaven – for a price.
But there’s a job to do and the Stainless Steel Rat is the man to do it. After all, the devil makes work for idle hands…
It was totally impossible for Cliaand to wage interstellar war…but the crazy little planet was winning, whatever the odds. And there wasn’t much the peaceful galaxy could do…except send Slippery Jim di Griz – the Stainless Steel Rat – to wage his own kind of guerrilla campaign against the grey men of Cliaand and their leader, the indomitable Kraj. But then the Rat was aided by a band of liberated Amazons and his own beloved, murderous Angelina…and they had to swing the odds in his favour.
The Nightingale was the most advanced craft in the entire fleet of Mercy ships belonging to the Gentle Order of St Francis Dionysos. On its maiden voyage, its life bays packed with refugees, the Nightingale disappeared. Despite strenuous efforts no trace of it could be found.
Then, a year later, a distress signal was heard and the Nightingale reappeared. It was damaged in ways that meant its survival in space was a miracle. But of its previous cargo of life-forms there was no sign. Only one creature remained alive within the ship, and that was its captain, Jon Wilberfoss.
Wulfsyarn is the story of the Nightingale, and of Jon Wilberfoss. It is told by Wulf, an autoscribe who has the task of observing Wilberfoss in the aftermath of his return. For the captain of the Nightingale is a condemned man: condemned by the Gentle Order, and self-condemned by a burden of guilt so intense his mind refuses to acknowledge it. Over the long period of Wilberfoss’ tortured convalescence in a peaceful monastery garden on the planet Tallin, Wulf watches and waits, recording the mosaic of Wilberfoss’ life: his childhood and adolescence, his entry into the Gentle Order, his marriage (to a native Tallin woman), and the great moment when he was chosen as captain of the Nightingale.
But can Wulf bring Wilberfoss to finally face the truth of what happened on the Nightingale’s fatal first and last journey?
Simeon Krug’s obsession is to see a tower built, on kilometre high, that will reach out to answer the voice from space. The Androids are his tools; superb, man-like creations of Man. The Androids take Krug for their God, and seek to become one with flesh-and-blood mankind through his wisdom. But Krug is not God – and it takes a God to control the terrible emotions Krug has stirred . . .
Wompler’s Walking Babies once put Millford, Utah, on the map. But they aren’t selling like they used to. In fact, they aren’t selling at all and the only alternative to winding the company up is to tap the government for a research grant. And so Wompler Research Laboratories and Project 32 come into being. The plan is to produce self-replicating mechanisms; identical cells equipped to repair intracellular breakdowns, convert power from their environment and create new cells. But suddenly the nondescript grey metal boxes start crawling about the laboratory, feeding voraciously on any metal… and multiplying at an alarming rate.
Big Planet is Jack Vance’s first major sf novel, and in the words of the Encyclopedia of SF, “provided an sf model for the planetary romance which has been of significant use for forty years”. The huge world of the title is home to a range of colourfully detailed and imaginative human societies, which Vance explores with the zest and humour which are hallmarks of his work.
All Jack Vance titles in the SFGateway use the author’s preferred texts, as restored for the Vance Integral Edition (VIE), an extensive project masterminded by an international online community of Vance’s admirers. In general, we also use the VIE titles, and have adopted the arrangement of short story collections to eliminate overlaps. Big Planet was cut almost in half for its first publication, but sadly the excised pages are lost.