Friday, September 24, 2010

City Of The Chasch by Jack Vance

Blue Chasch, not as giant as displayed
Someone sent distress signals to outer space from the planet Tschai. It was Adam Reith's misfortune to be sent from Earth to investigate. Because when his ship came close to Tschai, it was torpedoed... and Adam escaped to the surface with his life and nothing else.

“Tschai was a vast planet and previously unexplored. Adam, taken as slave by humans, learned that there were four other intelligent but non-human races dominant on that strange world. And to find the mystery of the distress call and the vicious attack, he would have first to gain his freedom and then find a safe way to pass the city and the alien Chasch and their treacherous cousins, the Blue Chasch.

Jack Vance's Tschai novels are considered his masterwork, a constantly changing epic canvas of weird peoples, exotic lands, and surprising extra-terrestrial adventures.” –The Back Cover

Copyright 1968, my copy is a 1979 press. $1.75 cover price. 156 pages.

I got exactly what I was looking for when I picked up the first Tschai, Land of Adventure book—space travel, sword battles, colorful malevolent alien races, and plenty of beautiful women in need of rescue. The City of the Chasch is a very sixties sci-fi actioneer that fit perfectly with this blog, and was a nice reprieve from the massive amount of work being thrust at me from 9-5. I look forward to finding the other three books of the series, each of which follow a different alien race found on Tschai.

Adam Reith and Paul Waunder, scouts on an interplanetary expedition, are looking into a centuries old distress signal originating from a sector of unexplored space. Each is highly trained in survival on harsh planets, linguistics and the theory of language, and a number of combat methods. Unfortunately for Reith and Waunder, their mothership is destroyed as soon as they disembark for Tschai. All they see is  a violet 'torpedo' of light before the ship explodes, which sends them on a crash course for Tschai's atmosphere.

Adam Reith then witnesses the gruesome death of his partner while suspended from a tree in his parachute, where he remains for days until some rather antagonistic, tribal humans cut him down and take him as a slave, but not until after he watches some blue chitinous aliens make off with his scout vessel.

It doesn't take long for the interplanetary scout to make out the common language of Tschai, which enables Reith to gain the trust of a few tribesman—notably their "Onmale" Traz, a sort of temporary chieftain, who helps him to escape to one of the trading caravans that travels from city to city.

The rest of the story is chock full of dangerous encounters with numerous hostile races of Tschai, who all seem to be at a stalemate in their perpetual warring, consequently taking out their frustrations on the scattered humans of the steppes. Reith meets most alien life by either lopping off a limb with a sword he picked up, shooting them full of holes with his 'needler,' or vaporizing them with the seemingly limitless power cell from his emergency pack. 

One odd part of City of the Chasch involved a cult of females who burned off their breasts and were about to castrate Reith and have his space-babe raped by an ogre sized man, but that was the only hiccup in an otherwise very enjoyable story. 

City of the Chasch is the first entry of the series, and reminds me strongly of The Suns of Scorpio by Alan Burt Akers, which was also a blast. I would recommend it to people who, like myself, are fans of completely implausible action-oriented science fiction.

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