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The Pnume by Jack Vance

The Pnume (1970)

by Jack Vance

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Tschai, Planet of Adventure (4)

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Showing 5 of 5
  rouzejp | Sep 2, 2015 |
I liked ' the silent critic ' pnume ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
The Pnume may offer a bit less action, and a bit more of a sense of looming peril, than the previous volumes but it’s essentially more of the same. So if you’ve gotten this far, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Castaway Earthman Adam Reith is back, and somehow it's not terribly surprising when sudden events disrupt his plans to return home on his newly built, almost completed spaceship. After all, while he’s penetrated the mysteries of and (barely) escaped from the clutches of three of the four nonhuman races on Tschai, Reith has yet to confront the enigmatic Pnume.

These books have the feel of a long running serial. They move from episode to episode in a way that feels largely random, with each episide offering a bit of a mystery to solve or a danger to overcome, and little sense of any overarching storyline. When the books work, it’s because Vance’s episodes are cleverly constructed and the narrative effectively told. More often than not, they are. By this point, nobody should be surprised that Reith’s romance with the barely sketched love-interest Zap 210 is far from convincing (but Vance does get extra points for her crazy name).

I have enjoyed many of Vance’s novels, but I often have a sense that he was writing to a word count target. A reasonable amount of ingenuity is expended on episode after episode, dragging the story forward until that magic word count is attained, and at that point he tacks on a very sudden conclusion, drops it in the envelop, and off it goes to the publisher. This book (and by extension the series) definitely had that feel. ( )
  clong | Jan 16, 2010 |
This is the fourth, and final, volume of Vance's Tschai (Planet of Adventure) series. In 'Dirdir', the action was fast and furious; 'Pnume' turns down the speed and turns up the suspense...

NOTE: if you have not read the previous books in this series and don't want me to spoil them for you, stop reading now (grin)! Read my review of 'City of the Chasch' or... read the book!


ONCE more, Reith and his companions have been thwarted in their goals: the evil Dirdirman and crime-boss, Aila Woudiver, has seriously damaged Reith's efforts to finish the spaceship Reith desperately needs to escape Tshai.

And things quickly get worse: the imprisoned Woudiver manages to betray Reith to a group of outcast Pnumekin (called 'Gzhindra'). The Gzhindra in turn wish to deliver to huge underground museum/historical record called 'Foreverness', where Reith will be encased in crystal as a specimen for the Pnume race's collection.

Reith escapes from his captors, but is hopelessly lost in the vast underground realm that the Pnume have created over the tens of thousands of years of their exile from the surface. With some luck, he manages to steal a master-set of maps, but without a guide these are of small help. After further wandering and some near-misses with patrolling Pnume and Pnumekin, he manages to repair the situation.

He kidnaps a young Pnumekin woman, a teacher of young children, and coerces her into helping him find a route of escape; after several more close calls, in which she cannot disguise her complicity with Reith, she reluctantly joins him in his quest to find a way to the 'ghaun' (the surface).

The Pnume use draconian measures to keep the Pnumekin from over-populating their underground realm; the social structure is regimented to an extreme, and a substance contained in a confection called 'diko' inhibits the fertility of young women. Only 'mother-women', which Pnumekin are told belong to a seperate race, are allowed to have children. The girl's name is nothing more than a description of her work group, followed by a number indicating her rank; Reith rather whimsically abbreviates it to 'Zap 210'.

At last they emerge; Zap 210 is terrified by the cold, bright, windy environment of the ghaun. She is also increasingly ill through the lack of 'diko', but decides to continue on with Reith.

They have emerged hundreds of miles from Sivishe, where Reith's half-finished spacecraft lies; after many more adventures and more close calls with Gzhindra, they at last return there. After some trouble Reith finds Anacho.

Anacho tells him that Aila Woudiver is no longer a threat; the Dirdir have taken him for their own purposes. The ship was finished in Reith's absence, and in order to avoid more trouble Traz has taken it to a place that Anacho cannot betray, leaving only the mysterious clue 'Onmale'.

Reith believes he knows where Traz is, but before he and Anacho can make further plans, he discovers that Zap 210 has been re-captured by the Gzhindra and (presumably) returned to the realms of the Pnume. He decides he cannot abandon her, and his possession on the master-set of maps gives him some leverage.

He has several copies made, and then manages to blackmail the Pnume by threatening to give a copy of the map to the Dirdir. The Pnume know that the latter race will immediately start a war of extermination against them, and reluctantly release Zap 210 and give up their attempts to collect Reith as an exhibit for "Foreverness".

Reith, Anacho, and Zap 210 travel across the ocean in a captured Dirdir sky-car; they reach Traz's homeland, where they discover Traz and the secreted ship. Reunited at long last, Reith and his companions depart on the long journey to Earth. ( )
1 vote wyrdchao | Aug 21, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Vanceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Goodfellow, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, JeffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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