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.
The Mars Probe has crashed.
A triumph of Soviet technology, the first two-way interplanetary probe performed brilliantly until the final stage of its return. Then something went wrong: rather than following its programmed course to a soft landing in its country of origin, the probe crashed in the Peruvian Andes.
Now a weird infection beyond the understanding of medical science has wiped out an entire village – except for one man, who, alone and undiscovered by medics, survives. He has awakened to find himself become his own ancestor, and a god. Suddenly the flames of an Indian revolution are spreading South America; he is the Martian Inca.
The torturer Severian continues his journey of exile to the city Thrax, carrying with him the ancient executioner’s sword and the Claw of the Conciliator, a gem of extraterrestrial power and beauty which no one man is meant to possess . . .
Winner of the Nebula Award for best novel, 1981
Matthew Flamen, the last of the networks’ spoolpigeons, is desperate for a big story. He needs it to keep his audience – and his job. And there is no shortage of possibilities: the Gottschalk cartel is fomenting trouble among the knees in order to sell their latest armaments to the blanks; which ties in nicely with the fact that something big id brewing with the X Patriots; and it looks as if the inconceivable is about to happen and that one of Britain’s most dangerous revolutionaries is going to be given a visa to enter America. And then there’s the story that just falls into his lap. The one that suggests that the respected Director of the New York State Mental Hospital is a charlatan.
Winner of the BSFA Award for best novel, 1970
It is the 22nd century. Interstellar travel is possible, but colossally expensive, so humankind’s efforts are focused on the only nearby Earth-like world. Isis is rich with plant and animal life, but every molecule of it is spectacularly toxic to humans. The whole planet is a permanent Hot Zone.
Zoe Fisher was born to explore Isis. Literally. She has been cloned and genetically engineered to face its terrors. But there are secrets implanted within her that not even she suspects – and the planet itself contains revelations that will change our understanding of life in the universe.
In a Twentieth Century Parallel world, the renegade George Washington has long been decently and quietly liquidated and Britain’s greatest colony, America, is to be connected to the Mother of Parliaments by the strongest of umbilical cords – a Transatlantic Tunnel.
This is the strange tale of Horty, a little boy who ran away from home and took refuge in the bizarre world of the carnival. With him went his favourite toy – an old jack-in-the-box whose jewelled eyes sparkled and shone, hypnotic in their brilliance.
And among the freaks and oddities of the sideshows he found friends – ‘jewel’ people like him, who tried to protect him from the terrible secret of his existence .
Duncan Chalk is a monstrous media mogul with a vast appetite for other people’s pain. He feeds off it, and carefully nurtures it in order to feed it to the public. It is inevitable that Chalk should home in on Minner Burris, a space traveller whose body was taken apart by alien surgeons and then put back together again – differently. Burris’ pain is constant. And so is that of Lona Kelvin, used by scientists to supply eggs for 100 children and then ruthlessly discarded. Only an emotional vampire like Chalk can see the huge audience eager to watch a relationship develop between these two damaged people. And only Chalk can make it happen.
First published in 1967
Thornton’s Planet is an anti-neutrino planet detected on its approach to Earth. It can be seen only through the newly developed magniluct lenses and its arrival causes a wave of panic.
When its course carries it past the earth, interest in Thornton’s Planet wanes.
Then comes news from the African state of Barandi. Miners wearing magniluct lenses have seen ghosts in the mine passages. The visit of Thornton’s Planet has had effects on Earth further-ranging than anyone could have imagined¿
During his heroic first encounter with an alien race, Dick Muller was permanently altered, hideously transformed in a way that left him repulsive to the entire human race. Alone and embittered, he exiled himself to Lemnos, an abandoned planet famed for its labyrinthine horrors, both real and imagined.
But now, Earth trembles on the brink of extinction, threatened by another alien species, and only Muller can rescue the planet. Men must enter the murderous maze of Lemnos, find Muller, and convince him to return with them.
But will the homeless alien, alone in the universe, risk his life to save his race, the race that has utterly rejected him?
(First published 1968)
The 22nd century, 150 years after the Dust War destroyed America’s Mid-West, and much else besides. California is a last outpost for survival and reclamation during a long epidemic of all-purpose despair.
The extraordinary cult of ‘Tumbonde,’ a former taxi driver its prophet and leader, predicts the imminent arrival on earth of ‘Gods’ from the stars. The movement grows daily.
Tom O’Bedlam, an apparent madman, prey since childhood to visions which seem to confirm ‘Tumbonde,’ goes even further. He can, he will, help others to make the Crossing. If the world doesn’t go too man too soon. If well-meaning ‘rationalists’ don’t lock him away . . .
Vornan-19 fell from the sky and landed, naked, on the Spanish Steps in Rome on the afternoon of Christmas Day toward the end of the millennium. And that, for Leo Garfield began an extraordinary and eventful year. For Garfield is an acknowledged expert in the time-reversal of sub-atomic particles and Vornan-19 claims to come from far in the future, a claim that has to be investigated. But the world is in a strange, edgy state as it prepares to move into the next millennium and is ready and willing to see the charming and magnetically charismatic Vornan as some kind of messiah. Even Garfield and his fellow scientists come under Vornan’s spell. But can he really be from the future? Or is he just a charlatan and a fraud?
First published in 1968