Sunday 9 July 2023

Book review: The Anome / The Brave Free Men / The Asutra

PXL_20230709_095959527~2 I've decided that The Anome is the archetypical and perhaps best of Jack Vance's stories. I've just re-read the Durdane series - the same paperbacks that I've had forever.

It is archetypical in that the setup - a young man growing up in a strange world, and then going off to explore that world - fits many of Vance's books. There is the colour symbolism, nicely expressed in the pink-black-azure-deep-greeners. There's the balloonway, which recurs in variations. And the language.

The central word, Anome, is lovely. As are the Cantons of Shant. One reads it for this, and the colourful landscape, and the interest of the plot.

In a way the book is an exploration of, and a rejection-in-favour-of-freedom, of central coercive rule. But while that forms a theme, or backbone, for the book it isn't in the foreground for me; the backbone supports the flesh but is clothed by it.

D replied that Emphyrio is his best. I like that too, but find the denouement somewhat outre, words I was happy to surprise D with. I think the Anome fine; the Brave Free Men is good; the Asutra I am less happy with; it somewhat trails off; while the ending sort-of has a nice twist, it is a twist that makes half the book pointless.

I venture to suggest that the political system described would be unstable. The chances of an Anome choosing a poor successor are too high; the chances of someone managing to identify the Anome are too high; the torc-technology would be too dangerous and prone to misfire or duds or being spoofed; in an intersting way it effectively prohibits technological development. And anyway the entire idea of maintaining order centrally by killing without any further process anyone who violates rules is too prone to mis-reporting and too knife-edge. Oh, and I don't think the "indentures" stuff is really thought through either.

Here are the covers all together; they form a landscape, as you observe.

PXL_20230709_095959527~2 PXL_20230709_100012073~2 PXL_20230709_100029407~2

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