Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers

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Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers

Postby DavidTate on Saturday, 21 November 2009, 11:26 pm

At long last, I have now read the Villiers novels of Alexei Panshin. I'm tempted to say "Villiers Trilogy"; it's pretty clear that the series can never be continued, simply because Panshin is no longer the author who wrote the first three, and the time is not the time that made the first 3 possible. (They were written in 1968-9.)

I call them novels, but by modern publishing standards they are not. The three of them combined would not approach the total length of any of the last 4 Harry Potter books, or a recent David Weber doorstop. Star Well and Masque World are both 156 pages in my mass-market paperbacks; The Thurb Revolution (the middle book) stretches to 214. No publisher would touch a novel at that length today; you can't sell it for enough money. At best, the three would have been packaged into a disguised omnibus, marketed as a single novel from the start.

I will say up front that I have an extreme weakness for "science fiction of manners", and the Villiers novels always make the short list of notable works in this category. I was charmed by the digressions of the omniscient author, the modesty of the ambitions of the plots, and the ubiquitous touches of gentle irony and outright farce. Not every attempt was successful, but the vast majority of them were. I surely wish someone were still writing such books, be it Panshin or someone else.

For better or worse, I think the revelation at the end of book three makes not so much a cliff-hanger, as a catharsis. That may be making a virtue of necessity, but it is certainly not as unsatisfactory a place to stop as (say) Patrick O'Brian left us with. For small favors, we give thanks...
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Re: Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers

Postby owlcroft on Tuesday, 24 November 2009, 10:09 pm

But from bits and pieces I have read, I get the impression that the manuscript of the fourth book exists, possibly even in complete, final form, as written back then. There may even be written sketches of the projected further novels (rumor says there were to be six in all, as best I recall). I think the only reason Panshin hasn't long since submitted the fourth for publication is either a general snit or a feeling that he has "outgrown" such petty stuff (I blame his wife's influence for that attitude), or a mix. Sad, very sad. But his choice.

(It could be worse: think of Avram Davidson's uncompleted series; when I do, I almost cry.)
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Re: Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers

Postby DavidTate on Tuesday, 13 August 2013, 5:03 pm

For those who Kindle, there is an omnibus of the three short Villiers novels now available as a Kindle book. The title (for unfathomable reasons) is New Celebrations, subtitled The Adventures of Anthony Villiers.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004I6EIPK/ref=pe_245070_24466410_M1T1DP
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Re: Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers

Postby owlcroft on Wednesday, 14 August 2013, 7:23 pm

I recognize the doctrine that authors do not "owe" their readerships anything; but I will still never forgive Panshin for just dropping this series (which, I am fairly sure, was successful in a publishing sense).
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