The Dirdir is the third of four novels in Jack Vance's Tschai: Planet of Adventure science fiction series.
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Determined to return to Earth, stranded spaceman Adam Reith decides to attempt building a starship from scratch. However, that will take an enormous amount of money. There is only one way to get that much quickly: risk the Carabas. The Carabas is a region containing the mineral nodes from which sequins (the currency of the planet Tschai) are made. However, it is also where the sentient spacefaring race the Dirdir hunt (and eat) any desperate or greedy enough to gamble their lives.
Anacho, one of Reith's companions, is appalled (he knows the Dirdir well, having served them his entire life until he was exiled), and even more so when Reith explains that he doesn't intend to mine sequins, but rather ambush Dirdir hunting parties and take the sequins they have gotten from their unfortunate prey. The plan works.
Reith and his two loyal companions, Anacho and Traz, then travel to the city of Sivishe. Only Aila Woudiver, an underworld figure, has the resources to build Reith's spaceship. After Woudiver's exorbitant demands eventually exhaust all the money they have, Reith has to retrieve a cache they left behind in the Carabas. He returns to Sivishe, only to discover that Woudiver has betrayed them all to the Dirdir. The only thing Reith can do is call for Dirdir arbitration, which cannot be denied. When the judgment goes against him, he fights hand-to-hand (or rather talon) with the arbitrator. He is victorious and, by Dirdir custom, he and his friends are absolved of the "crimes". They still need Woudiver, so they take him prisoner.
Best part of story, including ending:
Vance brilliantly invents the bizarre yet internally consistent Dirdir species.
Best scene in story:
The hunt in the Carabas is tense.
Opinion about the main character:
Reith turns the tables on the avaricious Woudiver, charging his prisoner high prices for food.