Overall, I quite liked the book. It had solid storytelling with engaging characters. True, some of the characters were a bit cliched, even for the 70's, but I don't consider that a major drawback. The story and atmosphere take precedence over the science, which I don't really mind. The story could have easily taken place in 19th C. Britain as it could in any number of other places - and why not?
Vance, like Bradbury, is not interested in the science per se. He is very much interested in people and cultures. He was a merchant seaman during WWII, and traveled all over the world, continuing this travel until he went blind in the eighties.
To get to Clash's questions:
1. Yes, I noticed the distinctive style. I liked the style. It's possible that I'll start to find it irritating if I find that it carries over from book to book, from world to world, as it did with David Eddings, but for now I'm fine with it.
Eddings, IIRC, is a devotee of Vance, as is Gaiman.
2. It's neither intriguing or off-putting. There's no reason for the two not to co-exist, and in fact in a high-technology world I can easily see people 'going back to the land' as it were. I noted it, but didn't really find this all that remarkable.
That is my feeling, but some people have other opinions.
3. Both, but I'm rather inured to this kind of thing since I'm always trying to think of things to shock my players. I think we've seen worse in previous club books, and will see worse un future club books, too.
Probably. The Trills are a genial folk, but they have a nasty side which comes out here.
4. Hussade was cool. I'd love to see some games - surprised there isn't a league somewhere. I wasn't bothered by the 'treatment' of the shierl. In a generally promiscuous society it seems like a non-issue, and in fact I think certain aspects of society make far too much of nudity.
The "ravishment" of the Shierl may be different in other worlds. In Wyst: Alastor 1716 it is far nastier and more literal. Here it is more symbolic.
5. I didn't think it was an important movement in the book. It was all rather just a flash in the pan, in my view. A bunch of people want to make names for themselves, piss everyone off in trying to do so, and never really accomplished anything. They forgot that their goal was to do something worthwhile, and instead focused on getting themselves ready to do something worthwhile. It reminds me of the people who work their asses off all their lives, and then on their deathbeds wonder where all the time went. They've forgotten that the goal of work is to make a life for oneself.
Ha! Good assessment!
6. Why would it be offensive?
To me it isn't, but it is very difficult to offend me outside of deliberate rudeness.
7. I wouldn't have said that either party was happy with the arrangement, but rather accept it as status quo. Does it work for me? Not really, but I don't live there.
Jut Hulden, Glinnes' father, hunted merlings until he was killed by them. Most Trills seem to take it more philosophically than I would. OTOH, the Merlings were there first.
8. The Trevanyi are portrayed entirely from the Trill point of view. Is that point of view racist? probably. It certainly isn't even-handed. This has nothing to do with my view of the book. For me to judge alien cultures by my own standards would make me a racists. Strange question.
Is it? It's one that gets thrown about quite a bit these days. I am entirely of your opinion, BTW, but others are different.
9. All of the characters in the book generally seem to be this way except for the Connatic, who seems to be at least fair and possibly altruistic. The next book, Marune, has a number of characters who are more generally helpful and less selfish-seeming.
True. The main character in Marune meets a number of exceptional people. It is part of what changes him. This is not typical.
10. Personally, I don't think the Connatic would have time as an individual to do all the travelling he's credited with, thus it is certainly a conceit. I don't find it realistic, but nor do I find it silly.
The Connatic - while demonstrably traveling incognito per the books, most likely is "seen" in a hundred places he never went for every world he does visit. This is probably a good thing.
11. I think it has to do with the degree of fleigle.
Possibly... Academics may cavil and assert otherwise. I withhold judgement.