Ah, a Vancian
Cugel the Clever is a hapless
, amoral, and infinitely vain comic antihero
. I'd also say "picaresque
", if I had room for another adjective.
The template for a Cugel story is simple:
- He hatches a bold and elaborate scheme to defraud somebody;
- The scheme goes well for a while; the reader begins to notice that there's somebody in the action smarter and more subtle than Cugel;
- Cugel is too overconfident and narcissistic to perceive the obvious and quit while he's ahead;
- The scheme ends in disaster; Cugel flees, emptyhanded.
This sounds like the stories would boil down to a single joke repeated ad nauseam
, but Vance
has such an inexhaustible and delightful imagination that it's not an issue: Somebody's always saying something wonderful, and there's always something new and fabulous to gawk at. Vance's plots are rarely more than a thin substrate for a wealth of improvised detail.
Cugel appears in the second and third volumes of the Dying Earth
Series (and IIRC briefly in the first). The Dying Earth Series is as follows: