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The Demon Princes

(Demon Princes #1-5)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  648 ratings  ·  45 reviews
This 2005 SFBC Edition contains all 5 of the stories previously printed in
Vols 1 & 2 : 'The Star King' , 'The Killing Machine' , 'The Palace of Love' , 'The Face ' , 'The Book of Dreams'
Hardcover, 965 pages
Published by Tor Books -Science Fiction Book Club (first published 1986)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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Phil Tucker
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, favorites
Absolutely five stars. Jack Vance has the deftest touch, and when it comes for intricate plotting, brilliant dialog, dry wit, and unbounded imagination he can't be beat. He's in a class of his own, and this collection of the Demon Princes is him at his best. There are very few novels that I find an absolute delight to read, where I am so comfortable and eager to just sit back and enjoy the tale, that stumbling across this series made it an absolute pleasure.

I'll skip the summary, since that shou
4.0 to 4.5 stars. This omnibus collects all 5 volumes of the excellent, and under-rated, Demon Prince series by Jack Vance. Kirth Gersen is the sole survivor of the "Mount Pleasant Massacre" that was perpetrated by five arch-criminals known as "the Demon Princes." Each book follows Kirth as he tracks down and gets revenge on one of the Demon Princes. I have reviewed each of the individual installments elsewhere so I will just reiterate my basic impression of Vance as a writer in this series.

Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I would like to review each book individually at some future point, as it's something I intend to re-read soon. For now though, I can't hold back from offering some general commentary on what is, in my view, one of the most rewarding multi-volume sagas in genre fiction.
Revenge. We're told from a young age these days that it's not such a noble motivation. Nevertheless, society counters this by making revenge the theme of hundreds of movies, books and shows. Some of these are undeniable classics,
Jun 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Jack Vance’s ‘Demon Princes’ series, written over almost twenty years, is an amalgam of the three styles at which he excelled. And a curious hybrid beast it makes, perhaps the most distinctive example of Vance's always distinctive style, if not always the best of his books.

The books are nominally science fiction, and scrupulously observe all of the tropes of the genre. It is great fun to see how Vance obeys the rules while blithely doing his own thing – no professional genre writer was ever less
Chris Gager
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Jack Vance died recently so I thought I ought to devote some reading time to him. Apparently a lesser known but highly regarded Sci-Fi writer. I know I've read some of his short stories but this is the first novel-length book for me. It's actually 5 books in one stretching from 1964 to 1981.

Started last night and already happy with my choice. It's a fairly standard quest/revenge tale set in the future of humanity in and on new worlds in "outer space", but very literate and well written. Notes:

Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Demon Princes (#1-5 omnibus)

This edition contains all 5 of the Jack Vance's The Demon Princes series: The Star King, The Killing Machine, The Palace of Love, The Face , and The Book of Dreams. Star kings are nonhuman, asexual, alien beings who have changed their appearances to look like men. When our main character, Kirth Gersen, was a 9 years old, five of the star kings organized an attack one of the colonies on a planet where all of the people, including his parents, were killed or enslave
Muhammad Rasheed
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: influences, re-read
Jack Vance is my favorite writer, and my number one biggest creative influence. It's hard to name a favorite character of his that stands out. There's a bunch of characters of his that are absolutely wonderful to me. There are types of characters that he created that influenced almost everything I write.

After his truly great magicians from The Dying Earth and Lyonesse, my next favorite character types of his that Vance was really good at creating were his villains, the best of which were feature
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
Can't remember the last time it took over a month to finish a work of fiction-of course collected all together this saga is about 1000 pages.

Vance's best work after his two Cugel novellas.

An interesting dynamic is at play with these stories. The protagonist is nothing but a cypher, a type of everyman version of a badass. He investigates intergalactic criminals who once wronged him and ends them in fitting ways. But the real stars of these novels are the villains he must learn the weaknesses of
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
There was some imaginative world-building and fascinating inter-planetary societies in these interrelated stories, but I found that the pacing of the narratives wavered. Many of the stories tried to draw suspense from narrative twists that were too predictable and at times, I found the endings anti-climatic, too "pat" for the kind of morally grey world that the Oikumene seems to be. The treatment of the female characters also annoyed me - for the most part, they felt like flat characters there t ...more
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the collections that established Jack Vance among the all-time greats of science fiction. This Omnibus of five novels follows Kirth Gerson as he gains his revenge against the five villains who massacred his planet. Vance's greatest achievements for me are the ways he invokes so many different human cultures with telling detail that ties directly into the plots. Characters speak using terms that Vance gives wonderful twists that heighten the feeling of 'being there.'

This collection is 'mu
John Cesarone
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My favorite series by Vance. Works great as action, science fiction, mystery, and psychological thriller. And I love the double meaning of the "demons" that torture the hero.
Silas Sparkhammer
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Five stars are not enough.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jack Vance is extremely underrated, as a Sci-Fi/Fantasy author, and as a writer in general; indeed, his command of the English language ranks him among the most eloquent English language authors of all time.

The Demon Princes is a story of revenge. Kirth Gersen (yep, this series is packed with Vance’s patented weird and awesome names) hunts down the 5 Demon Princes (i.e. notorious criminals) to exact revenge for the massacre and enslavement of his family and entire town. Only Gersen and his gran
John Burns
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jack Vance and James Bond fans
Shelves: novels
This is Jack Vance's attempt at doing what Fleming did with James Bond. There are lots of references to exotic locations; the protagonist regularly indulges in luxury hotels, the finest clothes, bizarre foreign delicacies etc. There is a different villain for each novel, each with his own seductive blend of vices and charms, and at least one - sometimes several - intoxicating women who are invariably attracted to our stoical protagonist.

If I compare it to the other Vance sagas I've read; it's no
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ah, Jack Vance.

So this is a bunch of short novels in a shared setting, focused as much on the setting as the characters or plot. The setting is, at the surface, generic Golden Age science fictional: a core of relatively civilized worlds with a wide expanse of lawless territory. The tech level is bog-standard Astounding Stories- FTL, anti-gravity and rayguns butting up against punch card computers, though Vance is a bit more prescient on the nature of information networks than his contemporaries.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
There's a total of five books in this series. Let me sum up every single one in a single review:

Manly Man Hero goes looking for Bad Guy who killed his family. Manly Man Hero meets Love Interest who's being held captive, raped, or threated with rape. Manly Man Hero rescues Love Interest and is then rewarded when she sleeps with him instead, because nothing screams "romance" like being rescued from sexual assault. When he's not being distracted by his exploits, Manly Man Hero is still searching ou
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Vance might be best author ever.
To me only 3 contend:
AE van vogt
Michael moorcock when hes on
Robert E howard

Demon princes should be 5 movie film masterpiece like lord of the rings.
Its slightly pro capitalism tiny makes education and democrat media hide jack vance or he would be assigned in all the lit class.
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love these books; they're some of my favorite SF. The world-building, the characters, and the insane situations are all pretty great.
Each one is a bit formulaic and it would have been nice to have a little more variety. The last novel struck me as "off" but perhaps it was just Vancian fatigue on my part.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Feels like I read the same story 5 times, the inserts of essays and doodlings before each chapter grew pretty thin as well.
The ending after 6, albeit short books, is also way too abrupt for such an investment of time I felt.
All in all, there are some interesting hijinx and descriptive landscapes but largely it's quite a formulaic series I grew tired of about 2/3 of the way through.
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
my favorites are still the dying earth series, and the planet of adventure series are good too... vance is a great writer if you can overlook some of the less-modern tropes and just enjoy it for what it is.
Ken Boorman
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read from one of the Masters. It took me a few pages tp get started, but I soon grew accustomed to Jack's style and thoroughly enjoyed this omnibus edition of some of his best books.
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This volume is a collection of five books originally published between 1964 and 1981. The flavor of the stories changes a bit as they go on, but the overarching themes of vengeance, redemption, and space adventure stays pretty consistent even though the stories were written across a nearly two decade period. To be fair to the individual stories I'll do a short review of each book contained in this collection.
The Star King: This volume sets the stage and introduces us to our protagonist and to th
Erik Nygren
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
At a young age, the small settlement where Kirth Gersten lives is raided by the five infamous demon princes and him and his grandfather barely escape with their lives. In this five book saga he seeks revenge on each one in turn.

Vance has a strange way of writing, the books feel very detached and unemotional. On one level it feels a bit boring, but at the same time it seems congruent with Gersten's damaged upbringing. The many worlds described by Vance are great, the universe he describes is imp
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Things to help you read Vance:

His characters are beside the point -- they are not bourgeois exercises multi-dimensional, versimilitudinous(sic) character. Rather think of what it would be like if Henri Mattisse and Gustav Klimt got together one day to do some cut-outs for their backyard kabuki theater.His protagonists are cardboard by design, pure functionality to drive you through his world.

His plots are quite another -- he didn't win a nebula and an edgar for nothing!

underlying all of this is
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Demon Princes is similar to Lyonesse and Planet of Adventure/Tschai in that it's a collection of novels featuring a continuous story that becomes stronger with each part, the first few novels being considerably weaker than the latter. As such, just like The Dirdir was the third and best part of Planet of Adventure, so too the stories of the takedown of the last couple of Demon Princes are far more compelling than the first few. I found they were compelling enough however to justify a five st ...more
May 10, 2010 rated it liked it
The Demon Princes is a more conventional story from a less conventional author. It keeps Jack Vance's signature style, but tones it down a bit and applies it to a procedural story. It's a fun read, but I doubt anyone will list it as their favorite of all time. If you want an easy way to get acquainted with Jack Vance, and a Sci-Fi spy story sounds good to you, then check it out. If you really want to get to know Jack Vance though, go read The Eyes of the Overworld.
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Five different novels dealing with the same theme, revenge of the Demon Princes for killing his family.

I made the mistake of reading the first three novels back to back to back. During the third I could feel myself losing interest as the stories were too similar to allow that kind of reading.

So, I spaced the 4th and 5th novel out months apart, and was I rewarded. Jack Vance's descriptive style of writing, his world building and narrative style proved interesting and entertaining.
jana lafleur
Mar 24, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not worth $20

This was a horribly boring book. I lost interest in book 4 and put it down for a month. Picked it up again but really skimmed through. The excerpts at the beginning of every chapter were annoying as were the many * throughout. The ending was so abrupt it left me angry. I at least wanted to know what Gerson did with himself after everything happened. Im a big Jack Vance fan but this book is a flop and definitely not worth $20 for an ebook.
Jul 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I read the first two books of the omnibus. I enjoyed the first book quite a bit, but by the end of the second the intentional lack of characterization of the main character was getting to me and I petered out in the third. I get that the most interesting people were supposed to be the demon princes but most of the action of the book takes place away from them. I wanted more demon princes!
Jun 17, 2008 marked it as taking-a-break
Star King - 4 stars
The Killing Machine
The Palace of Love
The Face
The Book of Dreams

A little dense and hard to get through way back when I was reading it.

Began reading The Killing Machine when I stopped.
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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 Killing Machine (Demon Princes, #2)
  • The Palace of Love (Demon Princes, #3)
  • The Face (Demon Princes, #4)
  • The Book of Dreams (Demon Princes, #5)

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