Star Well
The Thurb Revolution
Masque World
by Alexei Panshin
Review by Paul Melko

I read the Anthony Villiers novels in my teens, and I loved this comedy series of manners. Anthony Villiers is the epitome of the wayward second son of a nobleman, embarrassing his father and set free to roam, as long as he remains away from the family at all time. (His father sends him an itinerary every so often so that Villiers can make certain they never meet.)

So Anthony Villiers, Viscount Charteris, travels the Nashuite Empire with his companion Torve the Trog. He is a dandy, but more than that. His interests are varied, his companion Torve banned in all but two star systems, and his encounters unique and always met with an imperturbable air.

Book one, Star Well, finds Anthony passing through Star Well, the central port of the Flammarion Rift, a gambling establishment, a resort, a hot bed of thumb-running. Through no fault of his own, he finds himself caught up in duels, con games and shady dealings.

Book Two, The Thurb Revolution, deals with the impact Villiers and Torve have on a backward planetary system. Torve's artform, his thromming thurbs, is the catalyst for change on Shiawassee and Pewamo, both under the tyrannical censorship of Admiral Beagle. Yagoots abound.

Book Three, Masque World, Villiers travels to Delbaso to visit his Uncle, Lord Semichastny, to obtain his remittance. But also, Villiers is in search of forged papers for Torve, to allow him to travel throughout the Empire. His uncle, however, is having troubles of his own and is reluctant to hand over the money; the local summer-winter laws are forcing him to leave the planet, and there's no one left on Delbaso to come to his masquerade.

Book Four, The Universal Pantograph was never written by a disillusioned Panshin.

The success of the Villiers books rely on the slightly off-kilter universe that Panshin has built, where Villiers, a slightly off-kilter character himself, serves as the voice of ironic reason. The background of this novel is as textured as a Vance novel.

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