Read The Languages Of Pao by Jack Vance Online


Divide and conquer galactic scaleOn the remote bleak planet of Breakness, far from his own people, Beran heir to the Panarch's throne on Pao was brainwashed.Palafox omnipotent Dominie of Breakness Institute was the half mad egoist responsible for the kidnapping and implantation of Breakness's totally alien thought patterns in to the mind of Beran. Palafox planned far aheadDivide and conquer galactic scaleOn the remote bleak planet of Breakness, far from his own people, Beran heir to the Panarch's throne on Pao was brainwashed.Palafox omnipotent Dominie of Breakness Institute was the half mad egoist responsible for the kidnapping and implantation of Breakness's totally alien thought patterns in to the mind of Beran. Palafox planned far ahead Beran's future was to be shaped to server the Dominie's ends: Total Universal Conquest. But Berna with the vestiges of Paonese had his own ideas ......

Title : The Languages Of Pao
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780583123075
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 157 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Languages Of Pao Reviews

  • mark monday
    2019-02-02 20:00

    if a world can be described in a word, then the word for Pao is passive. language has helped make the Paonese content but also ill-equipped to handle invasion and other forms of aggression. the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis posits that "the structure of a language affects the ways in which its respective speakers conceptualize their world... or otherwise influences their cognitive processes" (thank you, Wikipedia)... linguistic relativity can mean that the way different cultures talk impacts how different cultures act. or as the character Finisterle notes: "every language impresses a certain world-view upon the mind."this is the chilliest Jack Vance novel that I've read to date. all of the Vancean virtues are present - sly, almost subliminal wit; elegant prose; absorbing world-building; an illustration of how easily monstrous egos can blossom into actual monstrosity - but Vance seems disinterested in providing a way for the reader to connect with the story on anything except a purely intellectual level. I am the sort of under-evolved reader who needs an emotional connection for me to truly enjoy a work. there is much to fascinate within its pages. but the bland protagonist, the casual and vague handling of a pact that includes sex slaves to be exported, a narrative full of suspense that lacks much narrative drive, and especially a debilitating ending that illustrates the need to give in to physical force... all of that contributed to a detachment I felt throughout the experience. this is not a bad book by any means and there is much that provided food for thought. it has a cerebral quality that makes it in some ways a superior book to other, more shallow Jack Vance adventures. overall I liked it. but it is perhaps the first book by the author that I am disinclined to ever read a second time.

  • Lyn
    2019-02-01 00:52

    SF Grandmaster Jack Vance first published Languages of Pao in 1957, during the Cold War and this political climate serves as a behind the scenes guide to the message Vance imparts.Vance possesses one of the most gifted and subtle sense of dry humor amongst any group of writers, but this book made me think he is akin to Kurt Vonnegut in that regard. This novel contains Vonnegutesque humor, like a Kilgore Trout fantasy, that is almost Seussian in it’s simplicity yet pregnant with allegory and double meaning. Like Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, The Languages of Pao features a power play that is unreliable as the action goes in different, non-formulaic directions.I give high praise for originality and Vance here demonstrates his unparalleled imagination. On a planet that is a caricature of moderation, compliance and passivity, the introduction of a likewise absurdly extreme culture of individuality and solipsism presents a unique exploration of sociological and cultural elements. I read recently that Vance was best friends with fellow speculative fiction writers Poul Anderson and Frank Herbert. This, of course, made me like him all the more. Whereas Vance fantasies like The Dying Earth and Suldrun's Garden resemble Anderson’s work, this is more like Frank Herbert. Elaborate and byzantine world building and complex, multi-layered characterization with a deep backstory are themes in which both writers excel.A cerebral and inventive SF gem.

  • TJ
    2019-02-11 19:46

    How much does our language shape our cognitions, behavior and even sensory perceptions? Can changing a language dramatically alter a society? As one of the characters in this novel states, "Language controls the mechanism of your mind. When people speak different languages, their minds work differently and they act differently." In The Languages of Pao, Vance explores such pscholinguistic and semantic issues, especially the "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis."The people on the planet Pao are very docile and resistant to change but hard working. They are taken advantage of by other planets that have a strong military or experienced traders with fleets of ships. The absolute ruler of Pao wants to create a military so he will not have to pay tribute to other planets. He also wants to develop direct trade so the Pao are not constantly cheated. In order to create weapons and merchant ships he needs technology, something the Pao are painfully lacking. He consults with a leader on another planet who tells him this can be done but that, "We must alter the mental framework of the Paonese people, which is most easily achieved by altering the language." Thus begins a massive social experiment that dramatically alters Pao society.Millions of Pao citizens are displaced to set up three different centers, one for the military, another for technical research and production and a third for trade. Over many years each group is taught a different language created to favor their specialty. "To the military segment, a 'successful man' will be synonymous with 'winner' of fierce contest. To the industrialist it will mean 'efficient fabricator.' To the traders, it equates with 'a person irresistibly persuasive'.” Pao is able to develop a strong military, an industrial base and merchant trade but there are consequences so that much of the population is isolated from the three elite groups and is unhappy. How can the Pao maintain most of the advantages of this tremendous social experiment while improving things for the average person?The Languages of Pao is an early, interesting novel by Vance written in 1957. It is a novel of ideas with the plot and characters being of secondary importance. I have loved semantics ever since I began reading Hayakawa, IA Richards and others back in the 1960s so was initially quite excited with this book. But a mere 157 pages does not allow for the epic depiction of such social and psychological changes and the main ideas can only be briefly sketched. Although Vance gives it a good try, this book will probably appeal mainly to Vance fans. My rating: 3 "Liked it."

  • Metaphorosis
    2019-01-20 20:37

    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. Women barely get a look in, and the one woman who does is to some extent a loose thread.I didn't like the book as much this time around, but I've left the rating untouched because of its initial impact, and because it's one of the few examples of Vance preferring concept over mood and setting.All that sounds a bit gloomy, but the fact is I thought this book was tremendously powerful on first read, with a concept that I thought about for years. Beyond that, it's a well-written Vancian adventure, and that's always worth reading. Recommended.CVIE V

  • Ian Cunningham
    2019-01-24 16:34

    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-star book if you're NOT enchanted by Vance's style, but I can't for the life of me figure out why this book has been out of print for so long. It's fun, intelligent pulp, just like the doctor ordered.

  • Brian
    2019-01-29 21:37

    Here’s the short review: if you’re into sociology-porn, if the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is the sort of thing that gets you all hot and bothered, sure, look this one up. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time.The “hero” of the tale is Beran Panasper, whose father is Panarch of Pao. The Panarch is the absolute ruler of the world, and his rule is facilitated by the culture of Pao. The people of Pao number in the billions, and all share a unified culture. The dislike change and violence, and prefer conformity and stasis. Their idea of a national sport is to gather in huge crowds and perform “drones”, chanting for hours in unison. When faced with adversity, the Paonese response is passive-aggressive. This makes it easy for the Panarch if, for instance, he has to murder a few million of his subjects in order to stave off an impending famine.Beran’s uncle decides he’d make a better Panarch than Beran’s father, so he murders the current Panarch. The visiting techno-wizard Palafox spirits Beran away before he, too, can be murdered by his uncle, and hides him on the world of Breakness. Beran is enrolled in a course of education on Breakness while his uncle faces a passive-resistant revolt on Pao, and then invasion by a neighboring world of warriors. In desperation, he turns to Palafox for help.The prescription suggested by Palafox is a remolding of the Paonese culture. Palafox designs a program to transform the Paonese from passive, bucolic serfs centered around changing their language. He creates three languages for Beran’s uncle, and they set about using these languages to create three new cultures on Pao. One, speaking Valiant, are warriors who are eager to die for glory. Another language is created for engineers, which inspires them to build and design and improve. Finally, a third language aimed at cogitation and planning (and based on the language of Breakness) is introduced to inspire the creation of a supervisor caste. Entire populations are uprooted and moved around as territories are marked out where only the new languages are to be spoken. It’s impossible to read about this massive social engineering program and not think of the Cultural Revolution. And, indeed, millions are displaced and hundreds of thousands die in the chaos the results. Beran hears about these horrors and, as the rightful Panarch, feels some obligation to “set things right”, which, to his mind, means returning things back to the way they were. Thus begins a three-way conflict between Beran, his uncle, and Palafox, who has his own megalomaniacal plans for the Paonese.Now, I suppose we’re supposed to root for Beran because he’s the viewpoint character, but really, he’s extremely hard to like. The fact that he wants to be an absolute tyrant over a world of listless ciphers hardly makes him loveable. You can’t root for his uncle because, in addition to being a murderer, he’s singularly incompetent, and behaves stupidly throughout the book. And Palafox is a manipulative bastard. If the book wallowed in the wickedness of the characters, that might have been a fun read, something like a sci-fi sociology-porn version of Karl Wagner’s Dark Crusade. Unfortunately, I was never quite able to dislodge the feeling that Beran was, in fact, meant to be a hero, and not an anti-hero. Maybe I’m dense and missed the intended satire? As our three main characters clashed in their attempts at social engineering on a grand scale, the primary emotion I felt was tepid revulsion at their banally vile behavior.So I really can’t recommend this book, unless the idea of using language as a tool in massive social-engineering projects tickles your fancy. Otherwise, there’s little here to enjoy in The Languages of Pao.

  • Isaac
    2019-02-01 16:52

    This is Jack Vance for linguists.The Languages of Pao features a whopping 7 (or maybe 8?) fictional languages. Vance goes in to great detail, and readers unfamiliar with langauge terminology will be utterly lost. "Paonese" in particular reminded me of Japanese, with it's fondness of the passive voice and subjectless sentences. However, everything is in English in the book, so there is no heavy decoding expected of the reader. The nuances of the various languages are explained in dialogue, narrative exposition, and in Terry Pratchett-esque footnotes (or should I say Vance-esque, since Vance came first?).Admittedly, the skeleton of the plot is dissapointing. Any storyline involving a usurped prince fighting to regain his throne is going to get eyes rolling - my cliche detector went off big time!But, the plot structure devlops in very unusual ways and is undeserving of scorn of readers. As usual, Vance's prose is excellent, concise, dryly humerous. There are exotic locales, and vivid descriptions. The Science Fiction element is also very good. His inventiveness is brilliant and reminds me of the Dying Earth series in the magic-esque power of the technology in his future setting. In particular, I enjoyed the description of a tongue touch pad for computer inside the cheek of the mouth - something that I read was being developed for dissabled people in the New Scientist magazine! Not bad for a novel written in 1958.In conclusion, this is early Jack Vance at it's near best. The characterisation is unsympathetic, and the plot skeleton is an overused one, but those are my only criticisms. The book is great Science Fiction.

  • Fantasy Literature
    2019-01-29 20:56

    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 layman’s terms it basically means that the language a person speaks shapes human thought patterns and behavior, in both individuals and societies. Vance has here taken the theory to its logical extreme conclusion in a far future time, where a group of “wizards” use the method to attempt to change the mindset of an entire planet to suit their own agenda.Young Beran Penasper is heir to... Read More:

  • Christy
    2019-02-02 23:53

    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 language.2. Aside from this point about language, there's little to be gained from this book. The plot is essentially Hamlet sans the introspection and the death of all the characters at the end. There is little character development, little innovation in plot, and little of stylistic interest. At least, for better or for worse, because of its familiarity and simplicity, it reads quickly.

  • Joe Santoro
    2019-02-05 23:51

    At first glance, there's not a huge amount to this book.. the plot is pretty basic... displaced royal son has to learn the ways of the world to reclaim his birthright. There's alot going on underneath, though. Considering when it was written, I think you could definitely take the stoic, communal, rustic Paos as Soviet Communism taking to the extreme, and the 'wizards' (really cyborgs) of Breakness and their hyper individualists as American Capitialism to the opposite one. That the Paoese where the good guys makes me wonder if Mr. Vance got a call from Joe McCarthy at some point. The language thing was pretty interesting, his theory being that the language of a society is part of it's nature, and is part of the brain's development, then puts that theory into practice in the story. I'm not sure I believe it, but it made sense and made for apretty interesting story.

  • Justin Howe
    2019-02-04 00:36

    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 60s SF.) Also short. Have I mentioned how much I miss the 50,000 word novel?

  • Ryan Curry
    2019-01-24 17:59

    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!!

  • Florin Pitea
    2019-01-21 18:42

    I liked this one better than the series of the demon princes. Details soon to follow on my blog.

  • Jay
    2019-02-13 20:42

    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.

  • Smetanka
    2019-01-25 00:48

    Un excellent Jack Vance !On y retrouve ce qui fait tout l'attrait de cet auteur : des planètes étonnantes, des cultures étranges et insolites, des mentalités tellement éloignées de la notre que l'on a du mal à les concevoir. Mais ici, une nouveauté : la linguistique. L'auteur s'intéresse à l'utilité de la langue, à la façon dont le langage façonne une culture, au pouvoir des mots. Pour un linguiste, cette analyse peut sembler assez faible car comme toujours Jack Vance reprend les bases et n'embrouille pas son lecteur, il fait dans la simplicité, mais justement, j'ai adoré voir intégrer cette discipline dans un roman de space opera.Sinon, que dire de plus, c'est du pur Jack Vance, rien de bien nouveau à l'horizon, l'histoire est peut-être un peu trop simple, mais, après-tout, le principal intérêt de cet ouvrage n'est pas l'intrigue mis plutôt le méta langage derrière ;)

  • Átila Cézar
    2019-02-05 21:38

    I really liked the way this guy Jack Vance writes (will search for more of his work), even though some scenes may seem too much detailed there isnt unnecessary info at all, everything seems to find its space amongst the narrative. Especially cause the edition that i just read is translated to my mother language (portuguese) i got to come across a lot of new words and meanings. And this narrative in particular is a smooth ride all along, with some trill bumps on the way that make you eager for more, but thats all that it is, cause after that initial shock and surprise theres nothing more, you find yourself constantly waintin for more and you end up kind of disappointed, at least I was, especially at the end. Its a pleasent reading, gets you out of the box, out of the so called reallity that we immerse ourselves, its really a chance to examine our behaviour and actions as humans compared to these fictional civilizations that are portrayed in this piece, they tend to opt for a rational judgement at all times, each character only concerned about his actions and objectives, playin with what the game gives instead of trying to control the game itself. really deep thoughs are displayed here, very introspective.I ended up enjoying more the actual reading than the story itself. Nevertheless I strongly recommend for those who are eager to find new words to add to their grammar and new angles to add to their views.

  • Matthew
    2019-02-19 23:01

    The Languages of Pao by Jack VanceThe 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 service. Vance attributes this to the language of Pao—which is very different to our own, as it lacks verbs and adjectives. Instead, sentences paint pictures or moods. This lack of variety in their language has bred an unambitious, homogeneous race of people who are happy to be ruled in whichever way their Panarch—the ruler of Pao and the only person who lives in luxury—sees fit. Because the people of Pao live without drive, they have no armies or scientists and thus are completely dependent on trade with nearby worlds—a fact which begins a chain of events which bring the language of Pao into question.In sharp contrast to Pao—which Vance paints as a beautiful place—the planet Breakness is a harsh and barren world, populated by a race who have a very different outlook. Again, the notion of language influencing the ideals of the population is brought to the table. The people of Breakness are complete individuals; only concerned with bettering themselves. This is because the language of Breakness does not have any pronouns in it, and so when someone speaks in the Breakness language they are talking about themselves, which has bred a selfishness attitude in their society.Any collections of persons, no matter how numerous, how scant, how even their homogeneity, how firmly they profess common doctrine, will presently revel themselves to consist of smaller groups espousing variant versions of the common creed; and these sub-groups will manifest subsub-groups, and so to the final limit of the single individual, and even in this single individual conflicting tendencies will express themselves.Unlike Vance's earlier novels, The Languages of Pao is a very character-driven book, with three central characters: Beran Panasper, the rightful heir to Pao's throne; Bustamonte, his power-greedy uncle who has taken advantage of his duty to act as a steward to his young nephew; and Lord Palafox, the mysterious Breakness wizard who becomes entwined in Pao's fortunes for his own personal gain. The story then, is a battle of wits between these three characters and their differing view of language and the the future of Pao, and it is fascinating to see how the events pan out.“Let us put ambiguity aside.”“Gladly.”“I control Pao. Therefore I call myself Panarch. What do you say to that?”“I say that you have performed an exercise in practical logic. If you now bring Beran to me, the two of us will depart and leave you to the responsibilities of your office.”The Languages of Pao is very enjoyable novel with some fantastic ideas, which builds to an intriguing and satisfying climax and leaves the reader with plenty to think about after the final page is turned. Highly recommended.

  • Jade
    2019-01-30 23:52

    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 boils down to the fact that language affects the way we act, the way we think, and the way we perceive the world around us. In The Languages of Pao, this is explored by the invention of three different languages that are introduced to three equal parts of the same population; the population of Pao, people who are generally bland, abhor violence, and show passive-aggressive behaviour. Of course, these three languages completely change the three population groups, leading to general anarchy and troubles for the main character(s) of the book.Like I said, I think that’s an interesting premise that shows promise, but it’s simplified way too much. The three population groups change quickly, drastically, and unrealistically, and therefore I don’t really consider it to be an honest exploration of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.As far as Pao, its inhabitants, and the main characters (Beran, Palafox, and an uncle of Beran’s) are concerned – everything and everyone is so terribly, terribly bland! There’s no colourful descriptions, no characterisations, no development at all. I consider this to be quite odd, since I’m used to Vance’s novels having imaginative, detailed descriptives of different alien cultures.I would recommend this for people who are looking for an easy bit of sci-fi pulp, but, unfortunately so, expect nothing more from this story.

  • Esteban Ruquet
    2019-01-30 01:01

    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 "pintoresca".SinopsisEn Pao se habla un idioma pasivo y estático, que refleja perfectamente las características de su pueblo: unido, conservador, pacífico, trabajador, pero pobre, estático y deficiente en capacidad de abstracción o creación. Tras un asesinato dinástico, el nuevo Panarca decide lanzar, con la ayuda de los "magos" del planeta Rotura un plan de reformas sociales muy ambicioso, que permitiría a su planeta natal ser independiente de los mercaderes y técnicos extranjeros, y defenderse de los saqueadores y guerreros alienígenas. Pero Beran, el legítimo heredero, se forma en Rotura y tiene como propósito devolver a Pao a su estado original, con la eventual ayuda de Palafox, un preceptor rotureño con una agenda propia. Sin embargo, ninguna de las tres agendas saldrá indemne en esta novela.Una excelente novela para cualquier persona interesada tanto en la ciencia ficción como en la lingüística.

  • Dan
    2019-02-16 19:44

    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 to the book.The battle scenes are absolutely convoluted and unconviencing, the dialog is super trite, and abysmially small minded, especially when it comes from people who have unlocked 100% of thier brain's power.Golly, I forgot about how lame that one off was. They don't go into any of the science, and the drama leads to sentinces like, "He killed Bustamenate with one bolt from his finger."Beran is trying to kill Bustamante for 99 pages of this 150 page pile, and he goes down in a sentence. That's it. Game over. No body armor. No guards. The idea that we are shaped by language is interesting enough, so, I recomend you read the title of this book and nothing else.Three turtled dicks for languages of pao by jack vance.

  • Ellen
    2019-01-24 16:49

    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 civilization learn a new language they will become warriors!" is not a logical extension of it. Sloppy linguistics is the first thing wrong with this book, and yes I am a snob.There are many other things wrong with it, but I'm only going to pick on one other here, because I think it's an important one: oh my god the gender politics. I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but at one point it's state that Pao (vs. another planet) treats women and men exactly the same and gives them the same opportunities. It should probably not be a surprise, then, that all but two of the female characters in this book (only one of whom has any speaking lines, as I recall) are concubines. The other two are "serving maidens." Golf clap, Jack Vance.B for effort, D for execution.

  • Adrienne Ross
    2019-02-05 21:02

    "The Languages of Pao" is my first exposure to Jack Vance, and like many here, I found much to respect. When Vance is strong, he's very strong: his use of language, chilly wit, clarity of plot (what there was), and brevity of words and gestures that can convey worlds of meaning. I think "The Languages of Pao" shows its age and not in an admirable way. If Vance had written it today, he probably (hopefully) would have added on a few hundred pages, strengthened the roles of the women (I hope, I hope - - at least he didn't romanticize sexual slavery), and gone deeper into the protagonist's struggle to understand people and power as his mindset changed through the use of language. Alas, said protagonist was passive at the very end, and the book's final scene was less than realistic (which I suspect Vance knew - - clearly he was no stranger to human nature). If I find another book by Vance, I'm sure I'll take a chance on it.

  • Richard
    2019-01-20 16:48

    Not sure how I feel about this one. Vance explores the idea that language heavily influences thought, turns it into a short story, and kinda leaves it at that. It's been months since I actually read it, and almost all of the scenes from the book have flooded from my mind, so I wouldn't think this is a particularly memorable book.I recall a young prince being deposed, escaping, learning tricks with language, coming back, and teaching subjects other languages in order to influence their behaviour. In the end he gets his revenge. I'm not a linguist, so it's difficult for me to pick out the negative aspects, but I feel like I wouldn't be able to enjoy this if I were more familiar with linguistics.It's a short, easy read with some interesting ideas about language. Very little character development and very few memorable scenes and settings.

  • Craig Smith
    2019-01-24 22:47

    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 a trilogy, but he didn't and I really appreciate that. Not that the book doesn't have flaws. Quite a few times the book jumps from place to place abruptly where a few more moments of explanation would have been good. I was also sad to hear of his passing over the weekend. A great loss to the community. A true grand master indeed.

  • Thomas Fortenberry
    2019-01-30 18:36

    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 with, remember with, communicate with.This masterful study of linguistic impact is made even more poignant in our current climate, what with PATRIOT ACTs against citizens and Freedom Fries for all. There is a profound lesson to be learned here.

  • Jocelyn
    2019-02-10 18:35

    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, but worth the short time it takes to read.

  • Helen Hed
    2019-02-03 16:43


  • Jared Gullage
    2019-02-01 22:00

    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
    2019-02-07 23:01

    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.

  • Neale
    2019-02-03 22:36

    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?