THE BLUE WORLD is an engrossing, exciting and intelligent science-fantasy novel, set on an ocean planet with no landmass. Twelve generations ago, we are told, the Firsts came to the planet as a refuge, and set up home on a series of floating islands, made from reef, coral and other natural substances. Over the years the people have multiplied, and developed their society. Great hoodwink towers on each Float are used to communicate across stretches of sea, and to warn of the proximity of terrible sea-beasts called the Kragen. Over the years the People of the Floats have created religious Intercessors among their number, who have effectively deified one such large beast, King Kragen, and now live in a static society where King Kragen is kept fed and happy, in return for not destroying their floats, and keeping other lesser sea-monsters at bay. The novel tells the story of one man, Sklar Hast, who has tired of feeding King Kragen and is doubting the talents of the Intercessors; he makes an attempt on King Kragen’s life and this results in huge waves of discontent running through the entire society. What follows is a compelling, well-told story of rebellion within a closed society; ostensibly an adventure story about giant sea creatures, the book deals heavily with religion and the veracity thereof, and many of the long meetings of the townspeople are told with zeal and with flawless logic.
This is a great little book, with a colourful and exciting world, well-established [if perhaps two-dimensional] characters, great monsters and action, and an intelligent theme throughout. The character names, at first alien, are truly creative to behold; Sklar Hast, Semm Voidervegg, Barquan Blasdel, Emacho Feroxibus, and their slightly archaic style of speech and logical thinking is contagious. The book conjures up some great visual images, and Vance’s writing shines out without being pretentious; the action rolls along, and my only slight criticism is the ending is handled a bit quickly, and leaves a couple of ends dangling. I could have read a whole series set in this world; indeed, I wish I had read this when I was much younger, for it is the sort of story that lights up your imagination.
Jack Vance died recently [May 2013], but has left behind a huge shelf-load of imaginative books. If they are all as good as this one, I will be reviewing more soon.