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The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

The Dragon Masters  by Jack Vance
  • Author Jack Vance
  • Title The Dragon Masters
  • Category Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Subcategory Science Fiction
  • ISBN 0441166512
  • ISBN13 978-0441166510
  • Size PDF 1183 kb
  • Size FB2 1327 kb
  • Size EPUB 1890 kb
  • Publisher Ace Books (December 1981)
  • Language English
  • Rating 4.8
  • Votes 724

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Reviews about The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

For so short a tale, the enjoyment it offered was disproportionate to its length. While "The Dragon Masters" contained rather less Vance-esque prose than I had hoped, it did not disappoint. The story was concise, the characters were singularly identifiable and subject matter was both interesting and intelligible. The story makes a great allegory of slavery (of self to ones nature as well as one being to another), the clash of different cultures, and the ever present concern of war. I was not surprised to learn this story was written in the early 1960s. ;-)

Some quotes, for good measure:

"Carcolo was a distraction most unwelcome at the present time. There would be no tolerance when Carcolo was finally brought to account. A light step behind him, the pressure of fur, the touch of gay hands, the scent of incense. Joaz’s tensions melted. If there were no such creatures as minstrel-maidens, it would be necessary to invent them."

And one more:

“The Basics were here already,” said Givven with unwelcome rationality. “We could have done nothing since we had nothing to do with.”

TL,DR: Fan of Vance? Check it out. Fan of sci-fi? Check it out. Even though this edition does not include "The Last Castle", the story is still worth picking up.
This was the first Jack Vance book that I read. Although it's not his best, it was still a worthy introduction.

The edition that I bought has two stories: Dragon Masters and The Last Castle. Personally, I liked The Last Castle better, but both are good. Both stories are, fundamentally, about humans subjugating other species and the consequences of doing so.

Dragon Masters is somewhat pointless as a story. The plot seems to exist only as a vehicle for the exposition of an interesting science fiction idea. Since it's short, though, it works well enough. I don't want to say more about what it's about, since the way the story is spun is part of its charm. (Also, ignore the cover blurb, it is not very representative of the book.)

The Last Castle is a bit more engaging, the story is more personal and the scenario more thought-provoking. I would also say it is more characteristically Vancian.
The title would make you think it's a fantasy, but it's actually a sci-fi. Unlike a lot of other Vance books, this is a pretty straightforward sci-fi story, without a lot of the usual Vance peculiarities and oddities, so in that sense it is probably accessible to a wider audience, but if you're a Vance fan (like me) you'll still enjoy it. It's a thoroughly enjoyable, pretty quick read. Interestingly it's not clear where or at which point in the timeline of Vance's universe this story occurs, the characters seem to believe they are the last humans in existence but it could be they are just isolated in some remote corner of the galaxy without any knowledge of other populated worlds.
It is a good read and it shipped fast. It is not Jack Vance's best work, but it is thought provoking. It was a reading for a local book group I belong to and the ideas in it sparked a lot of conversation. It's worth a read. I did wonder why it won the Hugo in 1963, until I saw it won for best short story. Apparently the categories of novellete and novella had not been included in the Hugos in '63. Biggest criticisms of the book--it reads like the outline of a novel and I wish Vance had fleshed it out more; and the characterizations are also somewhat weak and dated. Biggest plus points are the ideas, the plot twists, the fact other writers, especially those who developed the Borg in Star Trek TNG doubtless borrowed from this story, and that Vance, even in '63 was working with the ideas of genetic engineering and the rise and fall of civilizations.
About thirty years ago, I saw this paperback in the throw-away box in front a bookstore on 57th street in Chicago, and picked it up on a whim. A few days later, I opened it up...and didn't close it again until I had absorbed both stories, as well as neglected a meal or two and a few important errands. In half a century of reading sf, these - and Sturgeon's Microcosmic God, remain my favorite sf "stories". Jack Vance is a gifted storyteller...a true artist, with your imagination as his canvas. These are parables of pride, greed, ambition, small-mindedness and hypocrisy, and their consequences in two possible future worlds. Not aimed at hard sf junkies, perhaps, but sufficiently plausible to keep one aboard. With stories as well-crafted and entertaining as these, the ride is good enough for one to forget his critical faculties, and just enjoy!

I loaned my copy of this book to a friend many years ago, and have no idea why it took me so long to think of looking for another on Amazon. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of a small package in a few days....
this is what Jack Vance is all about - style, wit, irony, action, mystery and exotic world building at it's best. Doesn't matter who or where or what is going on Vance is always holding a mirror up to us, right now, so we can see our foibles and our humanity.
Such a classic: has everything-- conflicted hero, alien menace, lovingly written dialog, cool characters, exotic lost empire setting, interspecies combat
Very good story for the time it was written. The conflict between 2 groups of men in the midst of an alien invasion shows how stupid people can be. If they had put aside their differences, they would have beat the alien handily. There were a number of other notable elements that made the story not just good, but very good. I plan to read more of this author's work.