Recently Pardero posted a book review of Emphrio by Jack Vance. In my comment I mentioned that there was a time, some time back, somewhere between biographies of the founders (joke), classical american literature, followed by horror, followed by small scale farming, american history, central asian history, followed by my illuminati huntings, that I became interested in Fantasy Literature. I read Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and the Hobbit in the early 70s and enjoyed them but when a group of us heard that they were going to make a three part movie of LOTR and it sounded like it might be taken seriously, we all agreed that we would read it again. And read it again we did and it provided this group of scientists extremely interesting lunchtime conversations for quite some time.
At over 1100 pages, when I started get to around page 1000 I started to get very concerned that this adventure appeared like it was going to actually terminate, so I began a quest for fantasy literature with the standard that is should be on par with LOTR. This was no easy task. To make this long story very short I found a few interesting items, many of which i did enjoy, but one of the few that I found on par with LOTR was Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy beginning with the Wizard of Earthsea
One of my memories of her books was the way dragons appeared. The scant but intense imagery is still with me to this day. Pardero, in his response told me of a book by Jack Vance called The Dragon Masters. I have just finished reading it and would like to make a few observations.
The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance is a short 137 small paper back novel. The first thing that strikes you is the elegance of the prose and the vividness of the imagery. This is a colorful world with a real sense of beauty about it. Moreover, the character development is quite good for such a short piece. Indeed, there be dragons here; Spiders, Tamergants, Fiends, Juggers, Murderers and Blue Horrors just to mention a few. They are not described in detail but they are interesting and pleasurable to pay attention to. They are no match for Earthsea dragons IMHO. My only criticism of the book is the battle scene at the end is a bit long.
But what struck me, much in the same way as I was struck by The Earthsea Trilogy, is that there is something real here, something moral or spiritual, I can’t really put my finger on it, but whatever name one puts to it, it is intriguing and stimulating. I will not ruin this story for those who will read it, I will only describe a tidbit.
On this planet there are men(?) called sacerdotes who appear to be bound to tell the truth and are also bound by a code of passivity. So when you want to get some information from a sacerdote you ask it questions but if you dont ask it properly you will get either that they dont understand your question or a truthfull answer that you were not looking for. This is primarily because you havent asked a proper question. For example,
Joaz: Why do you come to my study?
sacerdote: your language is vague, I am confused and must not respond.
Joaz; let me try again. Did you have impulses which you can explain to me, which pursuaded or compelled you to come to my study?
As Joaz learns how to asks good questions, he learns how to get the truth that he seeks out of the sacerdote. As Joaz approaches the answers to questions about sacerdotes social secrets, the sacerdote collapses and dies.
Here is an exchange between two leaders of different groups on the planet.
Carcolo: Am i given to understand that you consider me rash, ineffectual. callous to the interests of Happy Valley? Alvonso admitted that you used the word “blunderer” in reference to me.
Joaz: (smiling slightly) Sentiments of this sort are best transmitted through intermediaries.
Other than the too long fight scene, I found this book very stimulating. It was a pleasure to read with excellent phyiscal and mental imagery, and as I said there is something very real here. I do recommend it.