Jack Vance’s book series of Tschai Planet of Adventure and Demon Princes are long winding journeys that end abruptly and in an anti-climactic fashion.
(Spoiler alert for those who need them for books from the sixties.)
Adam Reith arriving at the empty steppe to find a working spaceship, rubbing some dirt between his fingers and Tschai “exhibiting its rotundity” before it vanishes.
Kirth Gersen arriving to find that Howard Alan Treesong, the weakest of the series’ villains, has already been immobilized by his victim’s parents only to have him commit suicide and then complaining in a brief scene with Alice Wroke, who like Reith’s Zap 201 is really the latest girl he has ended up with, though Alice at least shares his passion for revenge, that he has been abandoned by his enemies.
Kirth and Adam are only truly alive on their quests. Adam frequently debates whether he will even be able to leave Tschai. Kirth becomes progressively more ruthless and yet unwilling to kill his enemies. He misses Lens Larque twice and misses Howard Alan Treesong. He complete Lens’ revenge for him coming close to crossing into the dark side.
After defeating the Demon Princes, with his skills and endless fortune, Kirth faces the same crisis as the demon princes who were undone by the need to find pursuits, grand or petty, to match to their vast power. It’s not unlikely that Kirth will become a demon prince.
Adam’s skill set as a scout is only truly of use in a place like Tschai. There’s no room for men like Kirth and Adam on civilized worlds. And they are too empty to live on them.
Kirth Gersen has few interests. He buys a chess playing toy toward the end for the novelty. He considers settling down on Methlen yet knows it’s nothing but a fantasy. Adam Reith is even more of a cipher. Nothing is known of his past. His profession requires him to tackle dangerous worlds. He’s only truly alive on Tschai.
A conventional author would have written of Anacho, Traz and Zap 201’s responses to encountering human worlds and the Federal service’s war with the Dirdir, but topics like that did not interest Vance. The abrupt departures and conclusions of both series is Vance closing the door once there is nothing of interest to write about.
Vance, a tourist in real life, was also the author as tourist, laying out the fanciful wonders and baroque irritations of strange places and turning away when it was time to go home and there was nothing more to say.
Adam Reith and Kirth Gersen are tourists with incredible skills who are vehicles for exploring strange imaginary worlds. When the tour ends, the air leaves the balloon and the story ends. Reith and Gersen are driven by the plot on a quest that will destroy the purpose of their journey. Their journey is their destination and their destination ends them.
Their mission is the self-destruction of the animating force that gives them purpose and meaning.