Ecce and Old Earth by Jack Vance

Ecce and Old Earth by Jack Vance (Italian edition)
Ecce and Old Earth by Jack Vance (Italian edition)

The novel “Ecce and Old Earth” by Jack Vance was published for the first time in 1991. It’s the second book of the Cadwal Chronicles and follows “Araminta Station“.

The information obtained by Glawen Clattuc lead him to begin a rescue expedition to the continent of the planet Cadwal known as Ecce. It’s a particularly dangerous place because it’s the wildest with its jungles and swamps inhabited by animals, however they’re not the most deadly predators ready to kill those who come unprepared.

After discovering the danger hanging over the Conservation created by the Naturalist Society of Earth to preserve the resources of Cadwal, Wayness Tamm went to the Old Earth to try to save it. She has to rely on all her wit and resourcefulness to find the lead and at the same time avoid the dangers coming from the intrigue that have as their stakes the control of Cadwal’s Conservation.

The Cadwal Chronicles are centered around a planet discovered by a member of the Naturalist Society of Earth, which has established precise rules to preserve its nature. They’re part of a fictional universe known generically as Gaean Reach but the various cycles and single novels set within it are completely autonomous.

In “Araminta Station” Jack Vance told about both the beauties and the dangers of the planet Cadwal but that was only the first part of the struggle for its resources, fought on different levels that also include more personal feuds such as the one within the Clattuc family. “Ecce and Old Earth” continues the story on both fronts but in a different way, with Wayness Tamm even more protagonist than Glawen Clattuc since her journey to the Old Earth is what makes most of this second novel.

The Cadwal Chronicles trilogy is set in a distant future where interstellar travel is common but in many ways the Old Earth hasn’t changed and above all human beings are still the same, even in their oddities. In the course of what is a sort of treasure hunt, Wayness Tamm has to handle herself in her contacts with erotic art fans, capricious countesses and other quirky characters using various tricks to get the information she seeks.

That part of Wayness Tamm’s research is basically a science fiction comedy with a large component of humor that makes it very funny. That part contrasts with the more dramatic initial one in which the author tells about Glawen Clattuc’s journey. However, things change when Wayness Tamm arrives in Trieste and even that subplot takes on dramatic tones, reminding us of the importance of the stakes.

The result is a decidedly shorter novel and in some ways more light-hearted than “Araminta Station” for the greater humor but in my opinion well balanced in the different tones. It’s more focused on the subplots about the two protagonists with adventures that cover a much shorter period of time than the first novel. The two novels are in some ways very different but together they form a single great story and this also means that they must be read together.

“Ecce and Old Earth” is a sequel that first of all makes sense since it concludes the subplots that were still open at the end of “Araminta Station” and is developed with Jack Vance’s usual remarkable imagination. The protagonists’ continuous journeys and adventures together with the intrigues existing behind everything keep the pace quite fast in a novel worthy of the previous one. For these reasons I think these are two must-have novels for science fiction fans.

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