REVIEW SUMMARY: A non-traditional book that was very fun to read.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Myron has been cast about on a sea of change. He floats from place to place encountering very different points of view and a story in every port.
PROS: Vance’s command of the language is subtle and fun. Non-traditional conventions, interesting characters, and good storytelling. Almost reads as a collection of short stories.
CONS: Neither a linear story nor a character study, this book may turn some readers off. Booksplit somewhat by accident (according to the author.) Light on sci-fi elements.
BOTTOM LINE: Fun set of stories that chronicle the travels of a young man adrift in the big universe.
Myron Taney is a bright young man who wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he grew up. He was prone to flights of fancy as a boy, and continues that into young adulthood. He didn’t study a traditional subject in college but had enough classes on space travel to end up in space. He travels from planet to planet as part of the crew of a small cargo ship and has interesting experiences along the way.
This book is part Canterbury Tales and part Gulliver’s Travels. Some have defined it as a space opera, but that’s patently unfair to the potential reader. This book has space in it, but no opera. Instead the book is almost like a collection of short stories or vignettes that follow Myron as he encounters the different cultures and different people that live in the vastness of Vance’s universe while also learning about the crew and passengers aboard his ship.
Vance isn’t a Grand Master for nothing. The man can write, and he defies convention in this book so many ways. The book has a very dialog heavy narrative, with colloquial speech patterns and a preponderance of exclamation points. He exposes the characters beliefs carefully through their action and words, and not through exposition paragraphs. And there is very little science in this book – they are on a spaceship traveling to different planets, but beyond that there is little else. But that’s OK because it’s hardly needed in this tale of ideas and adventures.
The book was split – not because it was too long but because Vance said he got to the end and realized it wasn’t done. I’m not sure how different that is, but he does a decent job wrapping it up and leading you towards the second book.
I found Ports of Call to be very enjoyable to read while sitting in my study bundled up agains the cold New England winter, but it would be equally enjoyable on a mild summer day at the lake. Like Myron’s life, the charm of this book is in the journey, not the destination.