Monday, November 22, 2010
Novelette by Tom Purdom
This is the first sequel to Purdom's 1966 novel The Tree Lord of Imeten. As far as I can tell, it was an Ace Double which hasn't seen print since, aside from now being available as an ebook (linked above). Which is why I'm surprised there is no recap or explanatory note by author or editor, or much in the way of introductory exposition to the story.
Purdom begins in media res, and while I'm drawn in and appreciate the lack of infodumps, the first five pages or so are confusing as hell and I had to re-read them a few times to understand what was going on. All the information is there to piece it together, but it is unclear and released over the entire story, which is still written as if assuming readers should know this already. When the prequel novel last saw print 20 years before I was born, I find this assumption rather ill-considered.
Once you know what's going on, though, this is a pretty exciting tale. I found myself ignoring at least two phonecalls to finish reading once I was over halfway through. And I don't think I'd be opposed to seeing another sequel in this mode, especially now that I have the setting figured out.
The itiji are a species of essentially sentient big cats, who, until the events of the prior novel, were enslaved to sentient, weapon-using, chimps. Now the itiji find themselves allied with the Warriors of Imeten, one of several nations of tree-people, in a war against the Drovil, a nation who want to steal the Imeten's iron mine, and have not yet freed their itiji slaves.
Vigdal is our itiji protagonist, and he finds himself leading the ground section of a joint raid on the Drovil. Both groups need to learn to cooperate here, as each needs to focus on the objectives the other cares more about. Only the itiji can drag away the precious iron ore the Imeten need so badly, but they need the tree-people to have any shot at rescuing the captive itiji.
While largely an exciting war story of a raid that gets rapidly more complicated, there are themes of not just cooperating with your former enemy and putting the past behind, but also of the necessity to subordinate a subgroup's goals to what is tactically better for everyone, even if that benefits your former enemies more, and a lesson in having to think like your opposition and the tactical and diplomatic benefits and difficulties of codependency.
But Purdom doesn't really preach here. The morals of the story are rather obvious, but they aren't as heavy-handed as they could have been. And most impressive is the amount of world-building and the details of how both species think, it's important that he develops the psychological differences, since they are inherently key to the tension behind such a new alliance and their ability to cooperate. Overall the itiji are a great invention and I wouldn't mind reading more about them, but this story was on one hand too confusing, and on the other too straightforward for me to absolutely love it. 3.5 shares of iron loot out of 5.