Review of Jack Vance's Maske:Thaery by Deb
Part coming-of-age saga, part political and religious allegory, and part spy thriller, Jack Vance’s 1976 science fiction novel, Maske: Thaery, packs a lot into its slim 180 pages (this includes a helpful glossary, ala A Clockwork Orange, and a series of elucidating footnotes, found particularly at the beginning of the book). This is the first Vance book I have read and I must admit I found it a bit heavy-going in parts. Not so much the plot, which is fairly fleet-footed, especially when Vance must include so much expository and world-building information, but the constant drag of made-up words and unconventional spellings.
Here is an example, a piece of dialog selected at random: “That is the Wael punishment. I consider them the strangest folk of Maske, perhaps of the whole Gaean Reach; they are said to derive from a union between Vile Fourteenth and a band of rogue Djans.” Whether this arouses in you a desire to know where the Gaean Reach is or to discover who Vile Fourteenth and Djans are will determine if you will want to read this book.
Generations before the start of the story, the planet of Maske was invaded by a contingent of ultra-religious Thariots who drove out the original inhabitants (referred to as Waels and Djans) and settled an area they call Thaery. A group of original invaders who did not share the Thariots belief in a specific divinity process were exiled to a rough outpost called Glentlin. The residents of this area are referred to as “Glints”—a word synonymous with boorish and crude in the Thariot language (much as the Glints take “Thariot” to mean devious or secretive).
Jubal Droad is a Glint who has the misfortune of being a second son, meaning there will be no inheritance for him—he will have to make his way in the world armed with only his wits—but of those he has aplenty. During Yallow, a traditional Glint rite-of-passage, Jubal runs afoul of Ramus Ymph, a powerful Tharion who has broken the Theary laws restricting inhabitants to their own land. Later, Jubal is employed by the head of Thearian security, Nai the Hever, and Jubal’s information about Ymph’s off-world activities results in Ymph being denied a significant government office. Ymph is a thug and a bully and Jubal now has a very powerful enemy.
While Jubal continues in his capacity as Sanitary Inspector (actually a cover for his work as a spy for Nai the Hever), Ymph seeks revenge by inducing his fiancée, Mieltrude, to sign a warrant that will result in Jubal’s being severely beaten. Did I mention that Mieltrude is also Nai the Hever’s daughter? Jubal manages to escape the punishment, but things get very complicated for Jubal, especially when his illegitimate brother murders their older brother, the head of their clan, and claims the position for himself. Jubal fights and defeats the usurper and he’s sure that Ymph had a hand in the original coup. Unable to convince Nai the Hever of the Ymph’s complicity, Jubal seizes Mieltrude and pursues Ymph across Thaery and the oceans of the outer lands.
During the voyage, Jubal and Mieltrude, like so many fictional couples who are originally antagonistic toward each other, begin to thaw. Jubal discovers that Mieltrude is unwillingly engaged to Ymph who sees his fiancée as a political tool and reserves his love for his mistress, Sune, a nasty piece of work in her own right. More adventure follows as the pursuit of Ymph exposes a whole new dimension to his greed, corruption, and cunning. Stick around for Ymph’s well-deserved and ecologically-correct comeuppance.
As I said initially, this is a dense book. It’s packed with action and adventure, good guys and bad guys, and a lovely female—almost the science fiction equivalent of a swashbuckling movie. Enjoy the book, but take my advice and keep a bookmark in the glossary—you’re going to need it!
LINKS TO JACK VANCE BOOK REVIEWS
Patti Abbott, The Last Castle by Jack Vance
LINKS TO OTHER BOOKS