Friday, April 1, 2016

The Last CastleThe Last Castle by Jack Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novellete won the Hugo in '67 and the Nebular in '66, and it happens to be my very first reading of Jack Vance.

I expected nothing other than Silver Age SF, under-topics that were very important to the day, and what might seem to be very old tropes. So what did I get?

Silver Age SF, a fairly deeply buried reflection on a topic of "Doing The Job Yourself"... as opposed letting another class, be it race, socioeconomic, or sex, to do it for you. You know, American Work Ethic, and why the hell is everyone hiring maids to do all their housework, damnit? And of course we get the standard SF tropes that all you fans love, such as highly stratified societies and a huge War With Robots. Yeah! And don't forget castles and neat twists that make them seem almost like metaphors for tightly controlled generational ships.

The afterward tells us that he's bringing in some of the surface layers of Japanese Shogunate verbal niceties, too, so definitely keep an eye out in the read for that. :)

There's a ton of great ideas flitting and flying about here, and some of them have 2 foot wingspans even if they're craven cowards and don't want to dominate the text. Which is a shame, because the juxtaposition of all these tropes and a few more I haven't even mentioned is what makes this story a truly cool one.

Jack Vance was one hell of a talesmith, and I am thrilled enough to start building a collection right next to my tiny but growing shelf of Poul Anderson. Sweet!

Oh, and for those purists that hate to read old SF because of all the sexism, prejudice, and other cringeworthy social artifacts, don't worry yourselves with this one. It's pretty damn clean and interesting without being a misanthrope.

(view spoiler) :)

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