I am coming to appreciate Vance greatly. He truly deserves Grand Master status. In this novel, Vance tells the story of Ghyl Tarvok, a boy on the planet Halma, son of a master wood screen carver. Halma is ruled by the Lords, a breed of humans living high in their towers above the lowly serfs, artisans, craftsman, and bureaucrats. Through the outlawing of modern techniques, including duplication of any kind, Halma's craft goods are the best in the universe. Only the goods ranked first rate are sent for trade. But the craftsmen see little of the profit. The guilds handle all trading through the lords and the lords take a huge cut.
Into this world, Ghyl is born, but his father has little respect for the system and he raises him without the attention to the temple jumps, without the respect for the lords and guilds, but still with self-respect and honesty and dignity. Ghyl's father shows his son the illegal scrap of the legend of Emphyrio, of how he saved the world Aume from a war with its moon Sigil, how he rebelled and fought. Ghyl searches for the truth about Emphyrio and this launches him on a trip that leads him to Earth and back to Halma, leads him to rebellion and censure, but ultimately to truth that rocks his world.
This novel is fantastic, some of the best science fiction I have ever read. If you haven't read it, do so.
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