In Yana, the Touch of Undying Critical Essays

Michael Shea


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Shea somewhat shocked the fantasy world in 1974 when he continued the adventures of Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever in A Quest for Simbilis. Since then, the shared-world concept has become commonplace in fantasy, but Shea was criticized for daring to imitate the master. His efforts at invoking Vance’s Dying Earth were, however, admirable, and showed a considerable talent for characterization, humor, imagery, and especially vocabulary, as he demonstrated he could turn a phrase with the same effrontery and creativity as Vance. Shea was able to prove that this was not a one-off, as both Nifft the Lean and In Yana, The Touch of Undying could be considered companion novels, set in a similar dying Earth. The same larger-than-life characters with the same selfish desires rise from the page. This is not to say that Shea is capable only of sustained imitation. He is working in a field that has had very creditable ancestors, including Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith. Shea continues the tradition of the extravagant, exotic, baroque fantasy. Hex could as easily be Cugel, though he is less cunning and far less the likable rogue. Indeed, Hex becomes an increasingly unlikable character as the book unravels, with the reader (and most of the characters) wishing he would meet his comeuppance. This is a deliberate tactic by Shea in order to develop the novels climax, though he succeeds almost too well, as it is difficult to sustain an interest in...

(The entire section is 489 words.)