I've read this book many times, both in Italian and in English.
I've always liked it even if I don't consider it a masterpiece.
First, let see the bad things.
It's difficult to consider the story 'scientifically accurate'. The Rigel Concourse in itself is something yet to be seen, and has very low statistical probability (26 inhabitable planets around the same stars? - In this case Vance shields himself quoting some theories that the planets might have been arranged by some intelligent species, but it's just a tiny shield and doesn't cover much).
The main character is "a knight in shining armour". Even when he's taken by surprise, he learns his lesson and recover, gaining the upper hand at the end.
His being a mono-maniac is stronger than anything in the universe (he spent lot of time with one of the most beautiful, intelligent and tender woman in the galaxy, and he prefers to wander off to kill his enemies? come on!).
All his relationships are platonic or even less than that.
The story of each episode is only marginally different from the others.
I just consider the stories to be a valid excuse to paint the landscape, which I think is the strong point of this book (and of his fellow one).
The enemies, Daemon Princes or common villains, don't seem so formidable after all.
It doesn't take Gersen a lot to get rid of them, and once they lose their mysterious identity, they have one foot in the grave.
On the sunny side, to me this book contains one of the most comprehensive array of invented planets, tied in a well thought universe, with an escape valve in the Beyond (which is kind of sci-fi Far West, just boundless).
The worlds, although improbable (as I said before) are enjoyable and I'd like to go to Alphanor, on the Esplanade, or to Aloysius, just to name a few.
Compared to other invented planets, like Arrakis from 'Dune' for example, they are more exotic and less carefully planned, but they're are definitely more real than many others.
And they are many, with different people, customs, legends, traditions .. This is the first universe where you see a whole universe, not just one planet (Dune come back to my mind: only Arrakis is really a landscape, the other planets are only briefly shown and forgot)
4 stars is too much, but 3 would be too less...Continua