Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Warlock in Spite of Himself

The Warlock in Spite of Himself

Christopher Stasheff

Date: 1969   —   Book

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Fiction, Science Fiction

This is Christopher Stasheff's first novel, and it is a lot of fun, as first novels often are.

Rodney d'Armand is the young scion of an old aristocratic family and a thoroughgoing democrat, a scout in search of new planets to convert to the interplanetary democracy. His landing on a new planet that seemingly has all the attributes of magic is a great puzzlement to his scientifically-trained mind, but it is more of a shock to his robotic servant, Fess... who poses as a horse in backwards societies. What's worse, to Rod's mind, is how the foundations of a constitutional monarchy, the prelude to democracy, are being carefully undermined. One group seemingly wants totalitarianism, the other, anarchy, and both use language and concepts that should be unthought of in a seemingly medieval group.

Worse than that is how an unlisted planet should have drawn the attention of powerful enemies. And even worse is how quickly they seem to catch on to who Rod is, or at least who he represents. (Beware; there are some truly awful puns laying within these groups' names.)

But worst of all is how Rod is taken for a warlock. Because even the Little People seem convinced of that.

And if you're seen as magic by obviously magical creatures on a magical world— with the implication that you'll be able to help said creatures out of a jam— you are in deep, dark trouble.

I used to like this book more than I do now. This is probably because it suffers in comparison to later novels by many authors, including some by authors who may not have been alive at the time Stasheff wrote it. Writing style changes over time, and Stasheff's early work is closer in style to Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp than it is to, say, Melanie Rawn or George R.R. Martin. But it is a lot of fun, and you can either read the later series or leave it alone as you please.

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