Oops, I did it again! Unconsciously my hand picked yet another Jack Vance book from the shelf, despite that I had solemnly swore to put him on hold. Well, so much for promises…
The 1980 DAW edition of The Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph contains a total of eight short stories/novelettes, written in the late 1940s and 1950s. (In parenthesis, this is two more than in the first edition from 1966 and two less than in the 1984 “complete” Magnus Ridolph edition.) And as the title suggests each story retells a separate planetary adventure of the talented Magnus Ridolph, investigator extra ordinaire.
They have a similar template: Magnus Ridolph is asked to solve a peculiar case/situation, most often involving the types of problems that arise when alien wildlife/civilization/culture interfere with human interests. In the process he almost invariably crosses/double-crosses the bad guys (there is always at least one of those) in a most spectacular way, and leaves the planet with a considerable sum in his pockets (only to loose it in a bad investment somewhere else). As a reader you know what you get.
Three stories from this volume were included in the collection The Worlds of Jack Vance that I read a few months back (namely: The Kokod Warriors, The King of Thieves, and Coup de Grace) and they are shortly reviewed here. Of the remaining five, Magnus Ridolph deals with murderous and indestructible crop-eating aliens (The Howling Bounders); frames a murderer on the backwater planet Sclerotto (The Unspeakable McInch); clears a tourist facility from a sudden onslaught of ferocious gorillas, swooping dragons, and carnivorous crabs (The Spa of the Stars); interacts with mutated intelligent sardines (The Sub-Standard Sardines); lights up a nova and solves the enigma of periodic disappearance of anaeorobic aliens on Jexjeka (To B or Not to C or to D).
Maybe it is just me, but I think this is great entertainment. Seriously who can say no to fun, intelligent and rapid puzzles, set in fantasy worlds populated with bizarre creatures, and seasoned with witty dialogue? If you like Lucky Luke, P. G. Woodhouse and the Muppet Show all mixed in a bowl, well then this is the thing for you.
- The Kokod Warriors (1952)
- The Unspeakable McInch (1948)
- The Howling Bounders (1949)
- The King of Thieves (1949)
- The Spa of the Stars (1950)
- Coup de Grace (1958)
- The Sub-Standard Sardines (1949)
- To B or Not to C or to D (1950)
(4 out of 5)