I recently read Cugel’s Saga by Jack Vance. Thoughts:
1. This is a direct sequel to The Eyes of the Overworld and literally picks up exactly where the previous one left off. The result is more of the same, really: Cugel travels through a variety of strange locales and gets involved in a disconnected series of misadventures during his quest to get back home and avenge himself on the wizard Iocounou. Virtually no character development occurs and Cugel (and the rest of the characters, really) remains vile and unsympathetic.
2. Vance’s ability to crank out consistently high quality prose and catty, hyper-sophisticated dialogue while describing a vividly alien world continues to impress me. There’s never any moment where my eye starts to glaze over the page and I start to wonder when things will pick up. The man is one of the most competent writers I know.
3. Although at first glance there doesn’t seem to be much going on beneath the (incredibly well done) surface, there is a very scathing sense of satire running underneath the kaleidoscope of human awfulness on display. All the subtle cruelty, callousness, stupidity and pretentiousness we find around us is just amplified and put in an alien backdrop. The naked cynicism of it all constricts what Vance can thematically wrestle with. But it seems like Vance wants to resist SF’s tendency to pontificate, so perhaps I shouldn’t accuse the book of trying to be something its not.
4. Yes, it does contain that famous line.
5. Is the ‘g’ in Cugel pronounced hard or soft?