Wordy Wednesday – Emphyrio by Jack Vance
Well, I have mixed feelings about this book.
It’s got a bunch of stuff I like – spaceships, heavy ideas, political wrangling, ancient mysteries. But it really drags at times.
Vance will sometimes give us long descriptions of what’s going on around Ghyl, the protagonist. And while Vance is a good writer, it’s just too much at times. He’s very involved with how the world looks, but he couldn’t make me that involved.
Other than that, excellent.
Ghyl grows up on what I thought of as Planet Amish, which is probably unfair and bigoted of me. Everyone produces hand-crafted works of art – if they’re good at it and have learned a master’s techniques. Otherwise they work the menial labor jobs.
All the artists sell their work to the lords of Planet Amish. The lords then sell it to other worlds.
Ghyl flees, because he thinks that mass production or artificial production would be a better way to run the planet. His master messes around with photography – strictly forbidden – and ends up getting brain-washed. They (the lords) do something to his mind, in any case. This doesn’t sit well with Ghyl.
He flees offworld, steals ships, travel the galaxy, etc etc, you know how it is. He discovers a terrible secret – other planets aren’t forced to make things by hand! What gives? But he also learns that the artwork produced by Planet Amish all sells for mind-boggling sums of money. Every single thing his master produced is considered a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. It hangs in private collections and museums and shit.
And Ghyl is pissed. Where is all that money going? To the lords?
Don’t want to give away the big reveal, so check it out yourself. There’s some art-thieving on Ghyl’s part, that was entertaining. So wading through some parts, the slow pieces of the novel, will get you to some really good parts. There’s no real space-action. It’s more of a deep reflection on art and society.
Overall, I would recommend Emphyrio. It’s no Hyperion, but then again what is?