My avatar isn’t really a character in Jack Vance’s novels; he’s a fictional literary source. His words appear as citations in footnotes, or in lengthy quotes used as chapter headings.
Baron Bodissey discourses at length on science, medicine, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and anything else that strikes his fancy. Here’s a quote that’s appropriate to Gates of Vienna, taken from Baron Bodissey’s monumental work, Life, and cited in Book Four of the “Demon Princes” pentalogy:
From Life, Volume 1, by Unspiek, Baron Bodissey:
The evil man is a source of fascination; ordinary persons wonder what impels such extremes of conduct. A lust for wealth? A common motive, undoubtedly. A craving for power? Revenge against society? Let us grant these as well. But when wealth has been gained, power achieved and society brought down to a state of groveling submission, what then? Why does he continue?
The response must be: the love of evil for its own sake.
The motivation, while incomprehensible to the ordinary man, is nonetheless urgent and real. The malefactor becomes the creature of his own deeds. Once the transition has been overpassed a new set of standards comes into force. The perceptive malefactor recognizes his evil and knows full well the meaning of his acts. In order to quiet his qualms he retreats into a state of solipsism, and commits flagrant evil from sheer hysteria, and for his victims it appears as if the world has gone mad.
— from The Face, by Jack Vance, p. 51 (DAW edition)
Keeping in mind that all are sinners it’s worth remembering that this particular trap isn’t limited only to the villains. I haven’t forgotten that at the end of the series Keith Geirson (As I remember the hero’s name), after finally achieving his quest of vengence upon the Demon Princes, lamented the fact that he had been deserted by his enemies. ^_^;
The protagonist is Kirth Gersen, and yes, you are quite right. One of the subtexts throughout the series was Gersen’s occasional musings on what would happen if he ever achieved his goal.
Sure enough, at the end of the fifth book, after he had revenged himself on all five of the Demon Princes, he was left with an inner emptiness and absence of purpose.
Jack Vance’s characters do a minimum of inrospection, but the moral issues are always there as a part of the story.