Friday, March 2, 2012

Jack Vance's "The Dragon Masters" (novella, alien invasion): Masters are also the slaves!

This is a fast-paced very-readable action story. I have a couple of nits, though:
  1. Why would aliens bother to make interstellar raids to carry off a few humans each time as slaves? Particularly when they already have a large stock of human slaves, bred as beasts for specific desirable traits.
  2. Aliens travel interstellar distances & have death rays, but bring with them beasts of burden for local land transport, rather than powered machinery!

Story summary.

Most of the story is about three human communities, living in close proximity, on a world called Aerlith. This world has long since lost all contact with rest of humanity. In fact, they may be the last remnants of humanity.

Two of the three communities are feudal: Banbeck Vale is ruled by Joaz Banbeck, & Happy Valley is ruled by Ervis Carcolo. Former is smart, progressive, & technically savvy. Later is a barbarian, never looking beyond the immediate. They also have a variety of pet "dragons" - used as beasts of burden & war animals.

Third community is "sacerdotes", mysterious hermits living in subterranean caves below the two feudals' lands. They appear to be technologically very competent, but they're secretive.

Much of the story is about interactions of these 3 communities. In the background of periodic raids, every few generations, of lizard-like aliens called "Basics" or "grephs". Joaz has recently discovered that these raids occur whenever a star called Coralyne of their local cluster makes the nearest approach. And it's approaching now...; alien slave takers could be
arriving any time.

Later parts are, of course, arrival of aliens. Only they'll meet resistance this time - all 3 human communities coming together will beat them.

See also.

  1. Eric Frank Russell's "Diabologic": Only thing I remember about this story is that it's about carefully using language to drive other people nuts, & using it as a political tool. One of the interviews of Joaz & a sacerdote had this feel too.

Fact sheet.

First published: Galaxy, August 1962.
Rating: A.
Winner of Hugo award 1963 in short fiction category.
Related: Stories of Jack Vance.