The Dragon Masters

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 Recently  Pardero posted a book review of  Emphrio by Jack Vance. In my comment I mentioned that there was a time, some time back, somewhere between  biographies of the founders (joke), classical american literature, followed by horror, followed by small scale farming, american history, central asian history,  followed by my illuminati huntings, that I became interested in Fantasy Literature.   I read Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and the Hobbit in the early 70s and enjoyed them but when a group of us heard that they were going to make a three part movie of  LOTR and it sounded like it might be taken seriously, we all agreed that we would read it again. And read it again we did and it provided this group of scientists extremely interesting lunchtime conversations for quite some time.   


At over 1100 pages, when I started get to around page 1000 I started to get very concerned that this adventure appeared like it was going to actually terminate, so I began a quest for fantasy literature with the standard that is should be on par with LOTR. This was no easy task. To make this long story very short I found  a few interesting items, many of which i did enjoy,  but one of the few that I found on par with LOTR was Ursula Le Guin’s  Earthsea Trilogy beginning with the Wizard of Earthsea


One of my memories of her books was the way dragons appeared. The scant but intense imagery is still with me to this day. Pardero, in his response told me of a book by Jack Vance called The Dragon Masters. I have just finished reading it and would like to make a few observations.


The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance is a short 137 small paper back novel. The first thing that strikes you is the elegance of the prose and the vividness of the imagery. This is a colorful world with a real sense of beauty about it.  Moreover, the character development is quite good for such a short piece. Indeed, there be dragons here; Spiders, Tamergants, Fiends, Juggers, Murderers and Blue Horrors just to mention a few. They are not described in detail but they are interesting and pleasurable to pay attention to.   They are no match for Earthsea dragons IMHO. My only criticism of the book is the battle scene at the end is a bit long.


But what struck me, much in the same way as I was struck by The Earthsea Trilogy, is that there is something real here, something moral or spiritual, I can’t really put my finger on it, but whatever name one puts to it, it is intriguing and stimulating. I will not ruin this story for those who will read it, I will only describe a tidbit.


 On this planet there are men(?) called sacerdotes who appear to be bound to tell the truth and are also bound by a code of passivity. So when you want to get some information from a sacerdote you ask it questions but if you dont ask it properly you will get either that they dont understand your question or a truthfull answer that you were not looking for. This is primarily because you havent asked a proper question. For example,


Joaz: Why do you come to my study?

sacerdote: your language is vague, I am confused and must not respond.

Joaz; let me try again. Did you have impulses which you can explain to me, which pursuaded or compelled you to come to my study?

sacerdote” Yes.


As Joaz learns how to asks good questions, he learns how to get the truth that he seeks out of the sacerdote. As Joaz approaches  the answers to questions about sacerdotes social secrets, the sacerdote collapses and dies.


Here is  an exchange between two leaders of different groups on the planet.


Carcolo: Am i given to understand that you consider me rash, ineffectual. callous to the interests of Happy Valley?  Alvonso admitted that you used the word “blunderer” in reference to me.


Joaz: (smiling slightly) Sentiments of this sort are best transmitted through intermediaries.


Other than the too long fight scene, I found this book very stimulating. It was a pleasure to read with excellent phyiscal and mental imagery, and as I said there is something very real here.   I do recommend it.







Mustafa Kemal Added Jun 24, 2018 - 6:50pm
Sorry folks, I couldnt get the link to Parderos book review working
Stone-Eater Added Jun 25, 2018 - 1:32pm
I've never read a fantasy book before, I kind of thought this is kiddie stuff. Then, we had a German apprentice in Dakar who brought LOTR in German with him, and I hadn't any books to read there, so I tried. I fought with the first 100 pages, and then it caught me. These poems which are included made the difference. And finally I read the whole thing in 3 days on the beach.
And I thought: What a fantastic book.
Mustafa Kemal Added Jun 25, 2018 - 2:52pm
Stone Eater,
re:"What a fantastic book."
Indeed it is.  Ergo the pain in discovering that there is little out there that compares.
The creation of a whole nother existence with laws, ethics,  and and languages to boot. A place of both beauty and ugliness , darkness and light. 
I kind of identify with Gollum:
what has ye got in zie pocketses? Handses!
Mustafa Kemal Added Jun 25, 2018 - 2:53pm
GW, keep your eyes peeled. He'll show up somewhere
Jeff Michka Added Jun 25, 2018 - 5:21pm
"Who's Pardero?"  Who's "Bush League", and moreover who cares? 
Katharine Otto Added Jun 26, 2018 - 2:25pm
Also based on Pardero's recommendation, I just finished two books in Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth" series, wrested from my public library.  I'd put the book(s) on hold a month before, but could not finish all four because someone else had put a hold.  I'm a sci-fi but not necessarily a fantasy fan, although I read "The Hobbit" years ago and liked it.
I also read a couple of Ursula Le Guin books just after she died, but haven't read "The Earthsea Trilogy."  Based on your recommendation, I will (try to) check it out.
I, too, was impressed with Vance's colorful imagery, vivid imagination, and vocabulary.  I had to keep a dictionary nearby to look up all the unfamiliar words.  I liked the character Cugel, in the second book, "The Eyes of the Overworld," because he was so humorously amoral and indeed very clever in extricating himself from many untenable situations.  Overall, though, I found the books too "busy" for me, with things happening so fast that it was exhausting.
I haven't been reading fiction much lately but feel I "should," and maybe I "should" give fantasy a fair chance.  Thanks for the tips.
James Travil Added Jun 26, 2018 - 11:48pm
I read LOTR and the Hobbit back in my teens, in the 80's when I had time for such things. I also greatly enjoyed Token's Silmilrilian (I'm sure I misspelled that), and Frank Herbert's first four Dune books, and a few of the Conan the Barbarian short stories. Looks like Dragon Masters may be a good thing for me given I don't have a lot of time now a days. That said I intend to read the entire Game of Thrones books once the show wraps up next year. Talk about some seriously interesting dragons!
Mustafa Kemal Added Jun 27, 2018 - 12:12am
James, I too also enjoyed the Similliaian (sp) and the Dunes. Conan the Barbarian was exceptionally good. 
BTW, Game of Thrones appeared to provide a solution to my problem of how to write a screenplay about Mustafa Kemal using Turkish without using subtitles. i was going to use their model. In fact, I almost sent my screenplay  the Game of Thrones guy, but chickened out at the last minute. I was afraid he would accept and I would have to give up my current job. 
Pardero Added Jun 27, 2018 - 2:21am
George Bush-League,
Hi, dude!
Ward Tipton Added Jun 27, 2018 - 2:30am
Only partially related, but perhaps from the same source given the propensity of my grandmother to read ... when I was growing up, she noted ... not altogether wryly, that if you wish to truly irritate people ... simply answer the question they ask. 
In example: 
Q: "Do you know what time it is?"
A: "Yes I do." ... and then walks away without revealing the time. 
The only bad thing about it that I discovered, was people were so intent on what they meant to say, that they could not even realize what they had said and why it merited the response given. 
Pardero Added Jun 27, 2018 - 3:06am
Mustafa Kemal,
I am really glad that you enjoyed it.
Vance is known for vivid imagery and the elaborate speech of his characters. He won awards for his detective stores, and many of his fantasy and sci-fi stories involve mysteries.
It sounds as if Katharine Otto appreciated Vance, though she felt the plots were too "busy." I suppose Vance was sort of an action-adventure type writer.
The Cadwal Chronicles  and the Lyonesse Trilogy have complex plots that develop and are resolved over the course of 3 long novels, and may be the best choice for those that are put off by Vance's fast moving shorter stories. Most of The Dying Earth began as short stories originally published in pulp magazines, and were purpose-written for that niche.  Vance developed into a capable novel writer, after that period. Except for his tremendous vocabulary, they are easy reads.
A favorite of mine, that is somewhat epic, though hilarious, is Showboat World, also known as The Magnificent Showboats ...
Anyone who loved Cugel will love Showboat World.
The spells and elaborate language of Dungeons and Dragons was largely influenced by Vance. Some of the verbal exchanges between characters will have you chuckling out loud.
I always look for used Vance paperbacks when I check used bookstores, and have some spare copies. If someone has trouble locating Vance books, or their budget does not allow them to hunt them down on ebay, I can supply some readable copies. I can locate about 20 without looking hard, and have another box full of them in storage. Amazon offers many titles, most from the definitive author-approved Vance Integral Edition series, but prices are high. I only ask that my semi-anonymity be respected, if I mail a few books. 
James Travil,
They are easy reads, and perfect escapism. If you are not satisfied, getting word meanings from context, you might need a Chambers dictionary, as they specialize in uncommon words. I also have a spare Chambers dictionary, if anyone is strapped for cash.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 27, 2018 - 3:27am
I really struggled through the first Lord of the Rings Book, and told myself I wouldn't start reading thousand page novels again. But I was a kid then, and now I've just become addicted to Game of Thrones. Clearly I need to go back and try again.
Pardero Added Jun 27, 2018 - 3:33am
Ward Tipton,
If your busy schedule allowed some escapism, I know you would be entertained by the banter in Vance's novels. Imprecise language leads to many untenable, and sometimes hilarious, situations, that fantasy stories are perfect at illustrating.
Ward Tipton Added Jun 27, 2018 - 7:49am
I have written a lot of Science Fiction, but never mastered the art of Fantasy outside of some slightly fringe Sci Fi and perhaps a little bit of Steampunk. I have always enjoyed reading it however. Unfortunately, access to books is very limited here. 
Mustafa Kemal Added Jun 27, 2018 - 9:11am
Pardero, i definitely did and, for such escapes will definitely consider more Vance in the future.
James, this was  perfect if you dont have much time. Short, pleasurable, stimulating read.
Ward, regarding answering the question people asked, yes, that example was one which  they used to train us to answer the question that they meant when you want to be polite.
Would you like to stay or leave?
can be very irritating.
But when being interrogated under oath, such techniques can be useful.
Mustafa Kemal Added Jun 27, 2018 - 9:12am
Mark, you indeed might want to try again. As I said, I wished it never would have terminated. The endless novel!
Ward Tipton Added Jun 27, 2018 - 9:38pm
Maybe once I get my house rebuilt enough where I can pull them out without losing them to the weather, I will transpose some of my Sci Fi and post it, though I have never really written Fantasy at all. 
Ward Tipton Added Jun 27, 2018 - 9:39pm
I have never actually had the pleasure of being interrogated under oath. I have a great deal with the government right now; I leave them alone and they leave me alone. Not ideal but ... could have been worse I suppose.