The novel continues the story of Adam Reith who is marooned on the planet Tschai where four major, intelligent civilizations exist, each ruled by a different species and an enemy of the others. They are the Chasch, the Wankh, the Dirdir and the Pnume. Each of these considers itself superior to others and has humans as servants. The humans try to resemble their masters by through the use of costumes, headgear, props, surgery and perhaps genetic manipulation.
These human underlings are called the Chaschmen, Wankhmen, Dirdirmen and Pnumekins. Each group considers itself to be the only real humans.
There are other creatures such as the crazy Phung, tall, powerful grasshopper like creatures who wear black hats and capes. They are always alone, dangerously unpredictable and thought to be related to the Pnume. There are also various enclaves of free humans who are not servants, but they are referred to as sub-men and are considered inferior to all others. In the first novel Reith interacted mostly with the three types of Chasch.
In Servants of the Wankh he engaged mostly with the Yaos in the city of Cath and then with the Wankh and their underlings the Wankhmen. Now he encounters the Dirdir, the most unpredictable and deadliest of the four species.
Reith's main goal besides surviving is to steal or build an airship to escape Tschai and return to Earth. He wants to alert humans on Earth to the presence of the four advanced civilizations on Tschai and inform them that humans, originally from Earth, are being kept as servants and slaves.
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He is also concerned about the safety of humans back on Earth because both the Dirdir and now the Chasch have spaceships and know about Earth and the humans who reside there. All four of the Planet of Adventure novels are difficult to review without revealing spoilers. In The Dirdir we have almost constant suspenseful action as the Dirdirs hear about Reith and decide that they want to track him down, interrogate him and then kill him.
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Reith is in a human Lokhar village but flees. Anacho is very helpful to Reith because he is a renegade Dirdirman and has a deep understanding of the Dirdirs and their culture and behavior. But Reith, as usual, meets danger head on by confronting it. Not only does he decide to try to outwit and defeat the Dirdirs who are pursuing him, but he makes plans to build a space ship by purchasing parts from the Dirdirs to assemble one. Unfortunately this will be very expensive, and he has no funds so must come up with a plan for finding money or sequins.
The currency on the Tschai planet consists of different colored sequins. Each color is worth a specific amount.
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These sequins actually grow as crystal like nodes from the chrysospine plant in a large uranium enriched valley called the Carabas or the Black Zone. Humans, human hybrids and others travel to the Carabas to try to gain wealth by locating sequins. Unfortunately about a third who visit there are killed and eaten by Dirdirs because Carabas is the Dirdir Hunting Preserve and is used as a sports hunting grounds by the Dirdirs. Although they are a highly intelligent, technologically advanced species, the Dirdirs are also fierce predators who love to hunt for sport and have a special fondness for human flesh which they compare to pork.
When the Dirdirs hunt they switch into the primitive predator portion of their brain and become vicious killers. Anybody who is able to get in and out of Carabas with sequins may keep them but very few become rich this way. Reith carefully calculates the chances and decides that he has to develop some sort of innovative plan to turn the odds to his advantage. After being both hunted and a hunter in suspenseful engagements in the Dirdir hunting grounds, Reith has to deal with a scoundrel of an innkeeper who tries to steal from him and who betrays even his own neighbors.
Then he elects to hire Aila Woudiver, a want to be Dirdirman, who is deceitful, cruel and unethical but seems to be the only one able to coordinate the assembling of a spaceship. Reith has the good fortune to meet an honest, industrious person, Deine Zarre, whose integrity and good deeds bring him only misfortune.
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We also encounter the Glass Box hunting complex in the Dirdir city where Reith's friend, Anacho, after being captured, is to be hunted in a public sporting event. Reith plans to enter the complex and to help his friend escape while armed with a power gun, explosives and a rope. Dirdirs think that any living creature that is not a Dirdir is not worth consideration. They feel that they are superior to all other intelligent species and they view humans as vermin. The other dominate species on Tschai feel the same way about themselves. Their human servants are treated as inferiors and these servants in turn think that free humans are subhuman and not real human beings.
There are times in our own history when one group of people considered another group to be inferior or of lesser value and all societies seem to have criteria for social status and prestige. And humans obviously treat other species differently than their own. What would happen if we encountered nonhuman alien beings? We might respect them and treat them as equals, but they could be thought of as subhumans or nonhuman animals.
I imagine their level of intelligence would be a major consideration, but religious beliefs, military strength, wealth or other variables could be deciding factors. These aliens might be far more intelligent and advanced than us and consider us as inferiors or even as pets or slaves. We clearly make distinctions between humans and other animals and between animals such as dogs and others such as insects. Among persons, groups and societies there are often attitudes and judgments about prestige, status and social worth.
Vance creates unfamiliar worlds where there are many unclear social, cultural and other boundaries among and between species. Many different, often unfamiliar, values and other considerations are used in these worlds to make judgments and determinations. Vance does not offer us solutions, but he does prompt us to look at ourselves and our religions, laws, customs, ethics, values, cultural biases, belief systems and social structures.
But even if anthropological, and psychological issues are of no interest to a reader, even if a reader wants pure entertainment and nothing to think about, Vance still creates fascinating, imaginative, engaging worlds with almost non stop action, much suspense, amazing dialog, ironic humor, dazzling linguistic flourishes and more substance in just over a hundred pages than many other writers provide in many hundreds of pages with less humor and imagination.
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Of course curiosity and sense of humor will greatly enhance a reader's understanding and love of Vance's writings. I don't know how Vance creates so much in so few pages. In The Dirdir he demonstrates imaginative, creative world building at its finest. Reading Vance is somewhat like eating chocolate. Not everybody loves it, but those who do love it can become pleasantly addicted. Imagine the finest Belgian or Swiss chocolate and you have a taste of Vance.
Aug 30, Johnny rated it really liked it Shelves: science-fiction. As covered in earlier reviews, marooned spacer Adam Reith was forced to crash land on the planet Tschai, and undergo several pilgrimages in his obsession to get back to Earth. Unlike John Carter of Edgar Rice Burroughs fame, he knows how to get back; he just needs a space-worthy ship to get him there.
The problem is that the alien races who control the planet consider him to be a sub-species and they think that his talk of Earth is heresy, that he is a madman. In an epic journey of stymied efforts and, sometimes, tragic encounters, Reith has visited most of the civilizations on the planet. In so doing, he has encountered betrayals, ambushes, injustice, and more. Yet, his creative mind has, thus far, met the challenges. As one joins Reith on his journeys, the most enjoyable part of the story at least for me is the world-building, both ecological and cultural, that Vance does.
In The Dirdir , we only meet one new creature, the smur , a sinuous half-reptile beast pp. On the cultural front, however, we not only discover the strange anatomy and social customs around Dirdir mating and procreation [starting on p. At one point, Reith is observing a local folk dance in which it originally appears to have very little variation in movement. This must have been wild reading in when the book was originally published and transsexual operations less prolific than today. I enjoyed The Dirdir more than the second volume in the series Servants of the Wankh.
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Motivations and events made better sense for me—even when betrayal was in the offing. As usual, Vance surprised me with imaginative world-building and clever turns of phrase. To me, this one practically stands on its own. Sep 06, David McGrogan rated it it was amazing. This is a beautiful, funny, moving, sad and wonderful book, and a real testament to Vance's emotional range and the fertility of his imagination. Everybody knows Vance was a master of efficiency in his prose; everybody knows he had a fabulously sardonic wit.
Both of those qualities are much in evidence here. But this book carries an emotional heft that goes far beyond what one would normally associate with his work. The three main characters are so likeable, their relationship so convincing, the This is a beautiful, funny, moving, sad and wonderful book, and a real testament to Vance's emotional range and the fertility of his imagination.
The three main characters are so likeable, their relationship so convincing, their conversations so endearing. The villain, Aila Woudiver, is so brilliantly nasty and so deliciously hateful. And the world of Tschai is so cleverly realised and imaginative - it must surely rank up there with the most convincing and interesting settings in the genre - that you actually really do come to care what happens in it.
The entire Planet of Adventure series is a joy, but it just gets better and better with each volume. May 01, Derek rated it liked it Shelves: sword-and-planet. What becomes apparent as the series progresses is that Adam Reith embodies the essence of John Carter from Burroughs's Barsoom series: in matters of general combat and here expanded to wit and deviousness , he has no equal. When it comes down to an actual fight, the outcome is rarely in doubt, and part of the deliciousness of this series is how Vance seems to accept this as given and veer Reith away from outright battle and into situations which require more from the hero.
As usual, What becomes apparent as the series progresses is that Adam Reith embodies the essence of John Carter from Burroughs's Barsoom series: in matters of general combat and here expanded to wit and deviousness , he has no equal. As usual, Vance constructs a race of textured aliens with a unique biology and society, and motives drawn from a barely-scrutable psychology.
I'm not sure that the Dirdir would withstand close examination in terms of realism, but the portrayal is interesting enough and Vance writes them well enough that this would be sheer nitpicking. I would like to know why the Dirdir allowed humans--Dirdirmen--into their society. Unlike the Chasch and Wankh of the previous books, this seems without motive.