Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Dragonmasters by Jack Vance

This book is really a novella, about 100 pages, that won the Hugo for novella in 1963 and was originally published as one half of an Ace Double (with The Five Gold Bands).

I read the copy pictured above (an Ace reprint from 1980 with just this story).

This is an interesting book with many moving parts. It centers on two valleys on the planet Aerlith, both inhabited by humans who have bred lizard-like aliens to be war machines of various sizes and capabilities. There is a third group of humans who are mystical ascetics. The two valleys are essentially separate kingdoms who are engaged in a periodic war that is heating up during the story with the Carcolo attacking the Banbeck.

However, the aliens, the grephs, return. They are a mirror of the humans with the lizard-like grephs breeding humans to be war machines of various sizes and capabilities. In the battle that follows, the humans are near defeat but a stratagem by the leader of the Banbecks, causes the grephs to find the ascetic sacerdotes secret workshop where they are working on a spaceship.

The sacedotes use the engine of their spaceship to disable the greph ship and Banbeck seals the victory. The sacerdote spaceship is destroyed.

I will leave to the reader deeper symbolisms of the mirrored societies and the role of the advanced engineering mystics. I do recommend this as a science fiction story that is just as readable now as it was in 1963, and just as enjoyable.

Today's poem... following on the science fiction theme:

Alien Night

Over an alien landscape
Of blood-red sands
And blue-green trees
With yellow-orange flowers
Rises a deep green moon.

A puff of wind stirs
Tiny sand dervishes
Which vanish as quickly
As they were formed
Under the deep green moon.

A mik-mok tosses
Its gray-blue head
And darts from shed
To tree and back again
As the moon passes overhead.

Stately  ee-taus graze
On the highest flowers
In the coolest time
Of the early morning
While the moon curves to ground.

The fiery white sun chases
The blue-green shadows
To their hiding places
As it rises above
And the moon sinks below

The alien planet’s horizon.

From Observations, by Greg Schroeder

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