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The Killing Machine

(Demon Princes #2)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,207 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Having brought arch-villain Malagate the Woe to justice, Gersen now sets his sights on Kokor Hekkus, another of the Demon Princes. The name Kokor Hekkus, which means "killing machine" in the language of the planet Thamber, does not refer to Hekkus's own predilection for homicide, but to his fondness for horrific and murderous devices, including the giant robotic executione ...more
Paperback, 158 pages
Published June 5th 1984 by DAW (first published 1964)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  1,207 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Jack Vance was to other science fiction writers as Radagast was to Gandalf – a respected, if often misunderstood peer, worthy of respect but following his own rules and powerful in his own way.

Vance created his Demon Princes stories in the mid 1960s, relating the quest of hero Kirth Gersen who avenges his people on the five criminals (collectively the Demon Princes) who destroyed them. Gersen, the sole survivor, is fueled for revenge and each novel deals with his confrontation with each criminal
4.5 stars. This is the second book of the Demon Princes series and shows Jack Vance at his best. A terrific, fun read. Classic SF at its best.
M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
This was a chance find at a Little Free Library, and although this is second in a series, it stands out decently enough on its own that I could understand the world and the motivations of the main character. This is pretty old (published 1962) but it's a fine example of classic sci fi. ...more
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First time in Swedish translation
Second time read in Orbit omnibus (legimus)
This series belongs to my absolute all time favorites. I think I've read these books ten times or more and they are still interesting, great to read and fun.
For people who would like to try and start reading science fiction: please choose something by Jack Vance.
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
A good example of why Jack Vance is one of my favourite authors.
Kat  Hooper
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

After successfully dispatching the first of his lifelong enemies in the previous novel, The Star King, Kirth Gersen now takes on the second of the five demon princes, Kokor Hekkus, aka "The Killing Machine." The Killing Machine is even more fun than The Star King. It's full of diverse characters, exotic venues, hilarious fashions, weird food, awesome architecture, and bizarre machinery. Nobody outdoes Jack Vance for sheer inventiveness. The plot moves rapi
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Killing Machine is the second novel in the five book series by Jack Vance called The Demon Princes. It was first published as a novel in 1964 and is still in print. My copy is 136 pages long, making it the shortest book in the series. I read it several years ago and rated it a 4 but after reading it a second time I am rating it a 5. It remains my favorite of the first three books of the series.

This time Kirth Gersen is looking for the star king named Kokor Hekkus, one of the five star kings
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: science-fiction
I recorded all of Jack Vance's Demon Princes books in 50-55 minute episodes for Golden Hours, my local radio service for blind and reading-impaired listeners. Too bad I didn't make CD copies for myself, since the radio station broadcast the tape versions and then erased them too reuse.

I guess I'll have to re-record them for Golden Hours and this time keep a copy, since Jack Vance has a wicked and sardonic sense of humor that I really enjoy, and this series of books is his absolute best.

I especia
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
The second in a series of five called The Demon Princes, this is 1960’s science fiction at its best. Kirth Gersen’s family and friends were killed by a group of five horrendously terrible men, and Gersen is on a galaxy-wide rampage to track down and eliminate them, one by one. In this instalment, his target is Kokor Hekkus, who is hiding in a far remote planet that is known only in legend. Well-written, imaginative, engrossing, fun -- everything a gal needs to remove her from the stick-in-the-mu ...more
Florin Pitea
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Two down, three to go.
Joe Santoro
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard_sf
I actually struggled to get through this one.. while there were some imaginative ideas as far as concepts go (I did like Interchange)... it's really just a string of adventures where the lead character goes through each type of archtype that is popular in turn.... he's a detective, and engineer, a con man, a warrior, etc.

The main character was far too good at everything, and, of course, he gets the girl in the end. Very disappointing with all the positive vibes Jack Vance gets.
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Killing Machine is the second novel in the five book series by Jack Vance called The Demon Princes. It was first published as a novel in 1964 and is still in print. The text is 178 pages, making it the shortest book in the series. I read it several years ago and rated it a 4 but after reading it a second time I am rating it a 5. It remains my favorite of the first three books of the series.

This time Kirth Gersen is looking for the star king named Kokor Hekkus, one of the five star kings who
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Julian introduced me to Vance's Demon Princes series. I found the first book, The Star King, witty and erudite, and so was quick to pick up the second and third volumes from the used-paperback section at Uncle Hugo's.

The Killing Machine is not quite as sharp as the first volume, and the analog space noir seems more quaint this time around. Vance is at his best when the prose is terse and the dialogue is clever, and when his hero Kirth Gersen relies on his wits instead of his brawn. The action mo
Jim Mcclanahan
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The second of Vance's Demon Princes series, this one is a rootin' tootin' space opera recalling elements of other such tales from the golden era. Our anti-hero, Gerson, is hot on the trail of Kokor Hekkus,another of the villains responsible for the killing of his family. As usual with Vance, the narrative is literary and detailed. The characters are larger than life, yet still believeable. Central to the plot is the creation of a giant "fort" in the shape of a monstrous centipede, i.e., the kill ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: space-opera
The Demon Princes series is turning out to have more in common with a mystery than a space adventure. Kirth Gersen's tasks so far have been to track down and identify the villains. The path do doing so is delightfully roundabout, and Girsten might be monomaniacal about vengeance upon the Demon Princes, but his methods can be subtle when necessary.

Vance is no technologist and no futurist: amidst the intersplit FTL drive and projac pistols, the characters use paper money, handle photographs, and r
Chris Gager
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stayed up a bit late to finish this one, the sequel to "The Star King" and prequel to three more. More extensive review under "The Demon Princes". ...more
Jul 24, 2020 rated it liked it
I liked more than I disliked in here, and I definitely went in knowing that mid-20th-century science fiction rarely presents believable female characters.

+: A really interesting economy around the independent settlement of kidnapping. It's not super well-developed, but it's fun and believable enough.
+: One of the more nail-biting conflicts in the story comes down to contract negotiations.
+: The protagonist is rarely sure whether the individual he fights / negotiates with / captures is a represen
Alfonso Cavarero
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The second chapter of the "vengeance race" against the 5 more terrible criminals of all the Oikumene..the Demon Princes!
This second installment take us in a plethora of new worlds and beyond and introduces us to Interchange,the first nearly legal outlaw market of the Universe,where every kidnapper can bring his victims to rescind his fees,even being helped closing the negotiations in order to satisfy both the parts!!
As usual,the imagination and inventiveness of the author transport the reader in
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Vance has this effortless capacity to create remarkably diverse, exquisitely imagined universes of bureaucrats, outlaws, monsters, engineers, adventurers, and so many more. In this, the second volume of the Demon Princes series, Vance's transactional drama puts on many stages for its readers: in part, this is a story about the finances of kidnapping; but also, this is a story about a fantastical planet being used for the entertainment of a monomaniacal villain. The male protagonist is little mor ...more
David McGrogan
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is oddly paced (the final Act really wraps up far too quickly) and at times disjointed, but it's still classic Vance - a pulp adventure which gradually reveals genuine depth and insight into the human condition, not to mention rare stylistic genius. This series is less sardonic and arch than Vance's other works; while one would hesitate to call it 'heartfelt', it is certainly more directly emotional than what is normal for him. ...more
Stephen Simpson
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I wish there were half-star options on Goodreads, as this would be a good example of a 4.5-star book. Very very good, but not quite perfect. The story is better than Star King (the first of the series); more coherent and with more drama and reversals. The protagonist arguably has it a little too easy (thus 4.5 and not 5 stars), but it's a very solid story. ...more
Frank McGirk
Sep 06, 2020 rated it liked it review of the first book in this series was lingering in "draft form" and this one seems to be missing.

But I enjoyed this less than the first volume, though I did enjoy the "detective work" of this one as well as it's creativity in landscapes, etc.

Kirth Gersen remained fairly flat as a character himself though.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
He creates whole worlds but his writing is rushed. He doesn't have time to realize the latent potential of his stories. His daemon princes are echos of what they could have been. The hero too simple. Not bad. ...more
Anne Schelhorn
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Witty dialog, imaginative setting, and sympathetic hero.
Jeroen Van de Crommenacker
Second of the Demon Princes, and continuing the unrelenting chase of Kirth Gersen. It doesn't let up and it is great. ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loving this series!
Dec 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1964, sci-fi
Less mystery than the 1st book. Lots of fun though. The whole idea of a planet exclusively for kidnapping and ransoms is amusing.
Allan Claydon
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Relatively predictable Sci fi, nonetheless a fun romp
John Kirk
The basic premise of this story is that the protagonist is hunting down 1 of the 5 "Demon Princes". It tells a complete story, but at the end of the book I concluded that the author had written this with sequels in mind. Going online, I discovered that this is actually the 2nd book in a 5 part series; that might have been useful to know before I started reading it! In fairness, it stands up fairly well on its own, but I'd have liked some kind of prologue/recap. I haven't read the 1st book, so I ...more
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Aka John Holbrook 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 g

Other books in the series

Demon Princes (5 books)
  • The Star King (Demon Princes, #1)
  • The Palace of Love (Demon Princes, #3)
  • The Face (Demon Princes, #4)
  • The Book of Dreams (Demon Princes, #5)

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