The Face

by Jack Vance
Series: Demon Princes 4
Reviewed date: 2010 Apr 26
Rating: 4
224 pages
cover art

Warning: this book review contains huge spoilers.

The fourth of the Demon Princes book is my favorite. In The Face, Kirth Gersen hunts Lens Larque. Gersen first attempts to ferret him out by impounding one of his spaceships, the Ettilia Gargantyr. To do so, Gersen undertakes an enormous charade: he poses as Benchmaster Dalt, a newly appointed circuit judge. As the Benchmaster, Gersen demands that the owner of Ettilia Gargantyr appear in person to answer certain charges levied against the ship. Gersen expects that the value of the spaceship is large enough that Lens Larque will be forced to appear rather than risk losing it.

Lens Larque is not so foolish, however. In one of the jokes that Lens Larque is famous for, he blows up the Ettilia Gargantyr rather than answer the charges in court, and collects the full value of the insurance money--from a company owned by Gersen.

Having lost this lead, Gersen turns elsewhere. Using linguistic clues to the origin of the name Lens Larque, Gersen travels to the planet Dar Sai. The native Darsh people mine their world for black sand, a valuable kind of duodecimate* ore. The black sand trade is controlled by the Methlen, bankers from a nearby planet. Gersen learns that Lens Larque is Darsh, and that he is connected somehow to the Kotzash Mutual company. Kotzash is worthless; it is a failed attempt by the Darsh to wrest control of the duodecimate trade from the Methlen; Yet Lens Larque is buying up shares. Gersen decides to buy shares too, and eventually becomes majority owner of Kotzash.

Meanwhile, Gersen strikes up a romance with Jerdian Chanseth, the daughter of a Methlen banker. Through Jerdian he learns that Lens Larque once tried to buy the estate next to hers on Methlen; Jerdian's father Adario Chanseth ran him off, saying he didn't want to see Larque's "great Darsh face hanging over my garden wall." Using this lead, he tracks Lens Larque to the planet Methlen, where it turns out Kotzash Mutual has an office.

On Methlen, Gersen discovers that Kotzash Mutual is mining the moon Shanitra. There is nothing of value on Shanitra, so it is strange that Lens Larque is spending millions of SVU in a worthless endeavor. Gersen attempts to continue his relationship with Jerdian, but her father Adario Chanseth rebuffs him.

Gersen confronts Lens Larque and kills him with poison. Then Lens Larque's greatest jape is revealed: the tunnels on Shanitra have been rigged to explode. When they do, the surface of the moon Shanitra shatters. What is left is an image of Lens Larque's face. Gersen calls Chanseth and informs him that there is a "great Darsh face hanging over your garden wall."

* Duodecimate; a stable supermetal with an atomic number greater than 120. Duodecimates are valuable and rarely found in nature, but are relatively plentiful on Dar Sai.

Archive | Search