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The Languages of Pao

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  692 ratings  ·  44 reviews
The Panarch of Pao is dead and Beran Panasper, his young son and heir, must flee the planet to live and avenge his father's death. It is at the secret fortress on the planet Breakness that Beran discovers the dreaded truth behind the assassination of his father-and much more. The people of Pao are a docile lot, content to live in harmony with the rest of the cosmos, but th ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 1st 2004 by iBooks (first published 1957)
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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyI, Robot by Isaac AsimovThe Foundation Trilogy by Isaac AsimovThe Martian Chronicles by Ray BradburyStarship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Classic Science Fiction - 1950-1959
53rd out of 139 books — 116 voters
The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. TolkienThe Two Towers by J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King by J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
GRRM Recommends
52nd out of 100 books — 12 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,116)
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Metaphorosis
I first read this book a long time ago. It was my first exposure to the idea that language shapes not just how one says things, but what it is possible to say and think. I was tremendously impressed.

Vance takes that idea, and runs with it. While I wouldn't say that this is a complete examination of the concept, he does apply it with a certain amount of rigor, and the result is striking.

The setting is typically Vancian, if a bit less overt than usual, and a little more on the adventurous side. W
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Ian Cunningham
Sometimes I think Jack Vance couldn't write a truly bad story if he tried. A bog-standard 'prince is exiled, prince is raised by evil wizard, prince returns to his kingdom, and after some setback, defeats evil wizard' plot combined with a science fiction hook of "what if the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is correct?" should not result in such a breezy, fun read. This is a three-star book if you're not a linguistics nerd nor apt to view no-to-low alien settings through a Warhammer 40,000 lens, and a two ...more
Brian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fantasy Literature
Jack Vance is known as a master stylist who, at his best, has an exquisite way with the written English language, a tribute in many ways to his idols P.G. Wodehouse and the unjustly forgotten Jeffery Farnol, among others, but Vance is also a writer of thought-provoking and unique ideas. The Languages of Pao is Vance at the top of his game as far as exploring unusual concepts. The premise of the story is based on a theory known as “Linguistic Relativity” or the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis” and in lay ...more
Justin Howe
I can’t help but read this as “The Languages of POW!”.

Vance has fun in this novel playing with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but really that’s the side attraction to the usual Vancian loopiness where everything important gets done with “punctilio”. Also present are the standard “elite of amoral supermen” that were so popular in 1950s SF. Vance deflates his supermen, making them rather silly, kind of like Gandalf by way of Hugh Hefner. (I’d posit that Hugh Hefner was a huge influence on 1950s and
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Ryan Curry
I really enjoyed this book in general! It's my first foray into Vance's sci-fi and I'm well, fucking excited! To read more that is!! The concept Vance brings up in the novel is incredible!!!!! I loved it, picked it up this morning and couldn't stop! I recommend this to everyone!!
Jay
Nice sci-fi Neo-Whorfianism. I sort of doubt the ending because they overvalue the power of language on behavior and undervalue the power of culture. But still, a fun fairly quick read.
Matthew
The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance

The Languages of Pao is a thought-provoking, and thoroughly original science fiction novel with a central theme that speculates on how language can sometimes influence and shape the behaviour of a population—which is a linguistic theory known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

The planet Pao is a very ordered place; it's people are very similar to one another, with seemingly no desire to stand out from one another or stray too far from a career working for the civil
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Ellen
Uh, wow.

I learned of this book from Aliens and Linguists, a round-up of linguistic subjects as used in science fiction. It's a fascinating book, but it's also old, so the works it mentions are correspondingly old.

The Languages of Pao tackles the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which (briefly) postulates that language affects thought. I am generally in favor of linguistic theories being the basis of science fiction, and this particular hypothesis is close to my heart. However, "if we make this passive ci
...more
Dan
Mar 30, 2007 Dan added it
Recommends it for: N/a
This book was a stinker. And boy does the new cover art blow. Look at that shit pile.

Anyway, it's about this boy who would be king (imagine that) and he has a suragate Dad, who, get this, he later has to defeat.

Now, I know, star wars came out later. But star wars comes from the reaping of a long tradition of this borring obvious get little kids to read and kill there parents tradition. You know it, you've read or heard about smith what's his name and the faces of a hero or whatever.

Anyway. Back
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Jade
Generally, I quite enjoy Jack Vance’s work, but I’m afraid that I consider The Languages of Pao to be one of his lesser works. It has an interesting premise and build-up, but it never really breaks through in terms of development and execution. The characters are flat and without development, the plot too simplistic, the dialogue too banal, and the story failed to elicit a strong emotional response from me.

The basic premise of the story revolves around the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which basically
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Esteban Ruquet
Una excelente novela de uno de los cuatro pilares de la fantasía heroica, en esta novela de ciencia ficción blanda clásica Jack Vance hace uso de la teoría de Sapir-Whorf de la sociolingüística para construir un universo ficcional sin precedentes, en el cual la reflexión lingüística brilla pero sin entorpecer la trama de la obra. Como detalle "negativo", una persona acostumbrada a la colorida narrativa de Vance, en este libro se puede encontrar con una novela mucho más experimental y menos "pint ...more
Christy
I have only two things to say about this book.

1. Vance's central contention, that language shapes culture, is a good one and worth exploring, which is what he does here. He writes, "Each language is a special tool, with a particular capability. It is more than a means of communication, it is a system of thought" (45). And he then goes on to illustrate the truth of this by showing how the political and cultural landscape of one planet, Pao, is altered by consciously and deliberately altering the
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Craig Smith
Being a Jack Vance fan, it was good to return to his work after some time away. As with most of his work I've read there's always a chance the story will go off at a tangent and that's what I like about his work, there's always the chance of something unexpected. Not that it doesn't make sense when it happens it lends that air of mystery that keeps you hooked to the end.

At 153 pages this book is short, but packed with so much it feels like something more epic. Vance could have milked this into
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Thomas Fortenberry
I had to reread this. Loved Vance as a kid, so it is a pleasure to return. Vance is one of the few master craftsmen at work in speculative realms. I have rarely read any author with his command of language. He puts it to great use in this work.

The Languages of Pao is the premiere book about linguistics baselining society. Much as Orwell made famous, It shows how controlling langauge controls culture, politics, people. You control thought itself if you can control the words people use to think wi
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Pablo Flores
Nothing like what I had imagined, and regrettably too dependent on a fairly extreme version of a discredited hypothesis, AND YET - as always with Vance, masterfully composed, efortlessly flowing prose and a very entertaining plot.
Andrew Higgins
The next in my cycle of reading books that feature elements of language invention. This brilliant work plays out the Whorfian hypothesis by showing how a race can be changed by introducing a new language into the evolutionary track of a race. Vance is a great story teller and secondary world (s) builder.
Jocelyn
Sep 26, 2010 Jocelyn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in language
I went the the Science Fiction museum in Seattle a few months ago and took photos of the books that sounded worth reading. This was one of them.

This book answers the question "What if language shapes who we are?" It's an interesting question and a short book. I found it kind of hard to follow as many of the groups and armies had similar-sounding names and were poorly introduced; once I stopped trying to figure out who was who it became much more enjoyable. Overall, it wasn't a fantastic book, b
...more
Jared Gullage
I am just now finishing this book. I like Jack Vance's steady and straightforward clip. He makes telling the reader about things still compelling. The book moves right along and does not seem to really get bogged down in introspection or moral ethics. He just tells you what happens, mostly. Some of the characters of the novel, however, fail to connect with the reader in that much of their lives are glossed over.
Luke
This is the one Vance book I tried to read and quit partway through. When I was a teenager. I was expecting to have to wade through some boring language monologues (which are what made me quit on the first attempt). I was pleasantly surprised to find a few fascinating passages on language in a quite compelling story. Not what I expected at all. Quite good.
Fredrick Danysh
On the world of Pao, there is uniformity and little violence under the ruler's brother assassinates the ruler and tries to kill the heir apparent. The heir is wisked away to another world while Poa is invaded by a third world and uniformity starts to splinter. There are many differnent schemes afoot and the rightful heir must make decisions.
Toby
Brilliant.
Neale
This early Jack Vance book is not exactly one of his best, but it stands out from his remarkable body of work as perhaps the most original, the most purely 'Vancian': because it is about the power and philosophy of language - a rare and wonderful thing in classic sci-fi - and what was Jack Vance about, if not language?
Nawfal
Of the three Vance novels I have so far read, this one exceeds the others by a large margin. Tremendous use of vocabulary and concept of language. Not once overbearing or droll. "Dune-like" in its political scheming combined with a not-overdone dosage of advanced technology.
Andrew
The themes in this book are the change of culture by language and social engineering. Vance does a good job of incorporating them into an action packed novel. It's very short and took almost no time to read but like most of Vance's stuff - it is a good read.
Neil Roseman
Disappointing. Expected more from this, as I remember reading Vance with fond memories. However, this just didn't work for me. Reads like a fairy tale or fable in tone, but not really very imaginative. The world-making is pretty weak I thought. Not recommended.
Roderick Mickle
Can't remember too much of the detail of this book but I do remember that it was a great concept where the world is divided by occupation and each area has it's own language specific to that occupation. The underlying story was just alright.
Charlotte
The Sapir-Whorf theory set in sci-fi.
Meg
Overall, it just seemed undercooked. There's an interesting concept in this novel, but it's struggling against jargon and weak character development and emotionlessness to make itself heard. Also, the sexism is kind of irritating.
Laurence
Les Langues de Pao. De quoi donner à réfléchir sur l'importance des langues, des cultures, du rôle de la langue dans laquelle nous sommes éduqués et forgeons notre personnalité ... et des traducteurs et interprètes!
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5376
Aka John Holbrooke Vance, Peter Held, John Holbrook, Ellery Queen, John van See, Alan Wade.

The author was born in 1916 and educated at the University of California, first as a mining engineer, then majoring in physics and finally in journalism. During the 1940s and 1950s, he contributed widely to science fiction and fantasy magazines. His first novel, 'The Dying Earth', was published in 1950 to gr
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More about Jack Vance...
The Dying Earth (The Dying Earth, #1) Tales of the Dying Earth Suldrun's Garden (Lyonesse, #1) The Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth, #2) The Green Pearl (Lyonesse, #2)

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