Ports of Call

By Jack Vance

New galaxy-hopping, picaresque adventure from a master storyteller.

Sf grand master Vance’s latest is a tongue-in-cheek swashbuckler about a young man, Myron Tany, who has taken a degree in space studies but has much to learn when he first boards a ship. Myron is in thrall to his zany aunt, who has heard of a faraway fountain of youth and sets off in her space yacht to find it. Her captain flatters her agreeably, and when Myron points out that the man is a swindler, she won’t hear of it and maroons poor Myron on an inhospitable planet with barely his passage home.

Luckily, the tramp cargo vessel Glicca is just then in need of a supercargo, and Myron signs on with cool, competent Captain Maloof, Chief Engineer/gamblerSchwatzendale, and Chief Steward/photographer Wingo. The four enjoy a string of rare adventures on a spectacular series of planets.

They acquire as passengers a group of pilgrims (and their mysterious luggage), or rather, pirates masquerading as religious pilgrims, and engage in to-the-death struggles with the pirates’ pursuers; on Terce, Myron narrowly avoids being skinned (there is a flourishing trade in human skins) and eaten.

Finally, they encounter a Swiftian, legalistic planet on which one may be punished or betrothed for the slightest whimsical offense. Myron is bound to commit one…