Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1969)

Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1975), cover by Peter Goodfellow.
Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1975), cover by Peter Goodfellow. An alien with a beret!

It has been a while since I last wrote a post in English. I do science for a living, so I think I can swing a fairly decent prose also in this non-native (and slightly bizarre) language when needed. That most post have been written in Swedish is because most books I read are in Swedish, either as original language (such as the case with Dénis Lindbohm books) or because they have been translated from English. Unfortunately, it is damn hard to find cheap second-hand English SF books in Sweden. But occasionally I get hold of them. The last couple of evenings I have worked my way through the Servants of the Wankh by Jack Vance, number two in his Planet of Adventure series. (The first in the series was City of the Chasch, which I wrote about here [in Swedish, he heh eh he]). As some of the magic is lost in translation, I hope to lay hands on more original English SF in the future.

So, Servants of the Wankh it is. What a title! And what a cover! Epic grandness, utterly, utterly awesome! Apparently, dear Vance (being an American) wasn’t aware of the use of wank/wanker in British English. I guess someone belatedly told him the meaning of this little word, which resulted in later editions being changed the to Wanken. My Mayflower edition from 1975, bought for a couple of pounds (or dollars, if you prefer) on the Swedish e-Bay, has the best cover of all Wankh editions. A great display item in the bookshelf. This professor is pleased.

Quick plot summary: Adam Reith is marooned on the strange planet Tschai after his earth spaceship and all crew mates were blown up by a torpedo when entering the planet system. Tschai is inhabited by four advanced, mutually hostile, alien species, the Chasch, Wankh, Dirdir and native Pnume, as well as various groups of humans. Reith has set his mind to go home to Earth, and the books in the series tell the tales of the adventures this quests bring. Our dear hero is not alone, with him travels the teenager Traz Onmale, an outcast from a nomad tribe, the Didirman Anacho, who had to flee the Didir for some not fully disclosed reason, and Ylin-Ylan, a beautiful young Yao woman whom Reith rescued from a man-hating religious sect. Quite a little traveling group!

In the previous book, Reith discovered that his space shuttle was beyond repair, butchered to pieces by the Blue Chaschs. The next part of the journey instead heads south, to bring back Ylin-Ylan to her wealthy father in the Blue Palace of Yao. On the way they meet a flamboyant suitor from Cath, who becomes a wedge between Ylin-Ylan and Reith. From being lovers, their relationship cools more and more the closer they get to Cath. When Reith is intimate with another woman, Ylin-Yland enters a rampage rage and tries to kill Reith and the others before drowning herself in the ocean.

This event doesn’t stop Reith and his friends. They continue on to Cath, to notify Ylin-Ylan’s father of her demise. They are coolly received, more out of poor manners (Yao are very picky with appearance) than the fact that Ylin-Ylan is dead. Actually, murdering rage – awaile – is a cultural custom in Cath when one’s honour has been disgraced. After some intermezzo with the assassination guild and others, Reith eventually gets a big reward and sneaks out of Cath.

Reith’s next move is to try to steal a Wankh spaceship. The attempt almost succeeds, but they are caught by Wankhmen and about to be tried for treason. Contrary to the other high races, the Wankh are governed by the humans, and not the other way around. This is unknown to the Wankh, as the Wankhmen handle all communication with their masters. Instead of being executed, Reith manages to inform the Wankhs about the Wankhmen’s betrayal, leading to the Wankhmen being expelled from Wankh land. And Reith and his crew gets away.

So first book dealed with Chashs, where Reith managed to get humans to overthrow their Chasch masters; the second book dealed with Wankhs, and an opposite pattern where Wankhmen are thrown out by the aliens. A safe bet is that book three and four will deal with Didir and Pnume.

Anyway, this is a great series for those of you who likes fantasy-stile SF and clever manly heroes. It is entertaining, but not very deep literature. I definitely will read the remaining volumes, and have my eyes set on an e-bay auction where they appear on Saturday.

 

Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1969), cover by Jeff Jones | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1969), cover by Jeff Jones | credit ISFDB. Armless dino and Conan-ish hero.
Jack Vance, Onder de Wankh [Servants of the Wankh] (1969) cover by Robert Ebell and Ruurd Groot | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Onder de Wankh [Servants of the Wankh] (1969) cover by Robert Ebell and Ruurd Groot | credit ISFDB. Well, well – nice, but not traditional SF cover.
Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1975) cover by Richard Weaver | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1975) cover by Richard Weaver | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Le Wankh [Servants of the Wankh] (1971) cover by Tibor Csernus | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Le Wankh [Servants of the Wankh] (1971) cover by Tibor Csernus | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1979) cover by HR van Dongen | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Servants of the Wankh (1979) cover by HR van Dongen | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Le Wankh [Servants of the Wankh] (1983) cover by Philippe Caza | credit ISFDB.
Jack Vance, Le Wankh [Servants of the Wankh] (1983) cover by Philippe Caza | credit ISFDB. This wankh has a little ding-a-ling.
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