I just found “Jack Vance and the Medium Future” by Robert Gibson. Gibson suggests that, “The ease of interstellar travel has the effect of retarding other types of scientific advance.”
I suppose the idea is that in the Vance Universe it becomes easy for people to ride a spaceship to another world and live happily without any need to develop advanced technologies such as robots with human-like intelligence. Sorry, but that just does not do it for me. Even if 99.99% of humanity was content to live a bucolic existence on worlds such as Trullion, all it would take is that other 0.01% to keep pushing the envelope of technological development.
Gibson also mentions, “the deliberately anti-progress organization called simply the Institute, which is rumoured to use unscrupulous means to suppress inventions that might free mankind from toil”. I think that the kind of technological stasis that is seen in Vance’s “medium future” would only be possible if there was an active mechanism for the prevention of technological innovation. In the Demon Princes series, Vance carefully developed the Institute as a powerful force, with some even fearing that the Institute might soon start placing limits on space travel.
At the end of The Book of Dreams, the status of the Institute is very uncertain. The new head of the Institute is shown as being unsympathetic to the “secret” of the former leadership. Alice Wroke’s father is revealed to have been a member of the ruling council of the Institute.
I think it would be a tribute to Vance if a sequel to “The Book of Dreams” was written. The sequel could explore the mystery behind Howard Alan Treesong’s rise to rank 99 within the Institute. Why did Alice Wroke’s father avoid the banquet where the rest of the Dexad was poisoned? What new directions are taken by the new leadership of the Institute? What will Gersen and Alice do after leaving Bethune Preserve?
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