Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I've like Jack Vance's weird blend of fantasy and science fiction since I was a teenager. He presents cultures and worlds with this air of stagnation and byzantine flamboyance that is unlike any othe writer. Emphyrio is a perfect example of this - it's a science fiction, but set in a strictly controlled medieval world where every person is required to follow their parents' career path, and respect the strict control of the Welfare Agency. As such, it feels more like fantasy than science fiction, probably deliberately so.

The protagonist, Ghyl Tarvoke, is a carver who dreams of great things - mainly, freedom and financial independence, and he stands up to the Lords and Ladies of his world to fight for it, with a range of unexpected consequences. As the story unfolds, it turns into a space opera, with Ghyl uncovering the mysteries of his home world. It's an interesting take on a possible future, emphasizing the diversity of governments and societies that are likely to evolve is we ever manage to get off Earth and spread ourselves across the galaxy.

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