The Five Gold Bands

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The Five Gold Bands
Five Gold Bands.jpg
Cover of 1963 Ace paperback First edition
Author Jack Vance
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Toby Press
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 128 pp

The Five Gold Bands is an early science fiction novel by American writer Jack Vance, first published in the November 1950 issue of Startling Stories magazine. It was published in 1953 as a separate book under the title The Space Pirate, and in 1963 it was paired with Vance's Hugo Award-winning novella The Dragon Masters in the form of an Ace Double.

Plot summary[edit]

Picaresque Irish adventurer Paddy Blackthorn is caught attempting to steal an interstellar space drive and is sentenced to death by the ruling council of mutant humans. The mutants' creator bequeathed them the secret of the drive, and with it a monopoly on space travel, which allows them to dominate normal humans.

During his escape, Paddy discovers that the knowledge of how to manufacture the engines has been stored in five gold rings, one for each mutant race. The rings are hidden in five secret locations for safekeeping. With the help of a beautiful human secret agent, Fay Bursill, Paddy searches the home planets of each of the mutant species, in the hope that Earthfolk will be able to resume their rightful place in space.

Major themes[edit]

Cover of the 1953 Toby paperback 1st edition

Although one of Vance's earliest efforts, The Five Gold Bands exhibits many of the stylistic elements that would come to characterize many of his later works: a colorful protagonist who unintentionally achieves the greater good in a frantic and desperate attempt to save his own life (and fortune), numerous exotic locales populated by equally exotic sentient species, and the theme of a treasure hunt. It also introduces another frequent theme of Vance’s work – that the environment of an alien planet will change any human colonists within a few generations to the extent that they will scarcely be recognizable as human.


  • Underwood, Tim; Chuck Miller (1980). Jack Vance. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company. p. 227. ISBN 0-8008-4295-2. 

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