City of the Chasch is the first of four novels in Jack Vance's Tschai, Planet of Adventure series.
A human spaceship traces a signal to a previously unexplored star system 212 light years from Earth. Scouts Adam Reith and Paul Waunder are sent to investigate, but their mother ship is destroyed by a missile while they are en route, and their damaged boat crash lands on the planet. To Reith's amazement, a band of primitive humans arrives at the crash site. They kill Waunder, but then advanced alien airships appear bearing two rival alien species, the Chasch and the Dirdir. The Chasch ambush and drive away the Dirdir ship, then carry the wreckage of the human boat away. Reith, too injured to survive alone, lets himself be captured by the tribe.
After Reith recuperates, he escapes, taking along Traz Onmale, the young boy who is nominally the tribe's leader (the priests actually rule, and would have sacrificed him to their gods whenever misfortune next struck). Reith then saves the life of Ankhe at afram Anacho, an outcast Dirdirman (a human servant of the Dirdir). Joining a human caravan, Reith rescues the beautiful captive Ylin-Ylan. When they reach the ramshackle human city of Pera, Ylin-Ylan arouses the lust of its brigand leader, forcing Reith and his two companions to overthrow him.
Reith sneaks into the nearby Chasch city, but is detected before he can find his boat, and has to flee for his life. He returns to Pera, only to discover the grateful residents have made him their new ruler. When the Chasch try to capture him, Reith defeats the Chasch forces twice. He leads the victorious humans into the now defenseless Chasch city, but finds his boat has been taken apart. He gives the city to the human Chaschmen residents after showing them how they have been deceived into believing they transform into Chasch after they die.
Ylin-Ylan persuades him to take her back to her technologically sophisticated home city, where possibly a starship could be built.
Best part of story, including ending:
Vance has a knack for constructing bizarre alien societies that make internal sense. In each book of the series, he does so with a different alien species, plus various human ones as well.
Best scene in story:
Reith's interactions with Anacho are amusing. Anacho considers himself a superior being, but Reith continually mystifies him by revealing nothing of his background, and outdoes him at every endeavor.
Opinion about the main character:
Adam Reith is indomitable and resourceful in the face of tremendous odds.