Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jack Vance's "Emphyrio" (novel, dystopia): Hero brings happy change to a dystopic society

Cover image of the novel Emphyrio by Jack Vance
While I didn't dislike it, I found it easy to put it down often. But surprising ending changed the book for me; beautiful. I think it will read much better on a reread, knowing the ending.

There are a lot of places where I could  identify with the stupidities of current India.

Story summary.

First half is a coming of age story - (Recepient) Ghyl Tarvoke growing up in an oppressive welfare state where state ensures you have minimum necessities of existence but where you can never be rich. Where duplication is an extreme offense, inviting extreme punishment (there is a moving scene when Ghyl's gentle father is killed by the state for producing multiple copies of political banners with the same text!) - state apparently thrives on the reputation elsewhere of the originality of its artisans. There is also a curious religion that involves ritualized "leaping". Then there are "lords" (elites outside of welfare state), & "noncups" (few ordinary citizens who chose to live outside the welfare state, mostly by criminal means).

Later part is a faster moving adventure where Ghyl will discover the true nature of his society, & will end up overturning the current political establishment. There is a detective story here the clues for which were all over, but I didn't see them until suddenly the story turned in a totally unexpected direction near end.

Fact sheet.

First published: 1969.
Rating: A.
Related: Stories of Jack Vance.