The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Shant, the most civilized continent on the planet Durdane, is divided into sixty-two cantons, each with its own laws and customs. Enforcing these rules is the Anome, the Faceless Man, the anonymous arbiter of retributive justice. Every inhabitant of Shant must wear a torc around the neck, in which is an explosive charge that can be detonated by the Anome whenever he wishes, usually, but not always, as punishment for a crime. These torcs are the only remnants of any kind of advanced technology, which has fallen into general disuse because of Durdane’s metal-poor crust. Long-distance transportation, for example, is conducted primarily using guided balloons.

Gastel Etzwane, the main character in the series, grows up in the canton of Bashon, ruled by the Chilites, an all-male religious sect that believes that anything having to do with women is unclean. Ironically, or perhaps consequently, its members’ devotions involve the use of a hallucinogenic plant that induces erotic reveries. Etzwane, the son of a ritual prostitute and a wandering musician, rebels against the Chilites’ coercive regime and escapes to become a wandering musician. After accumulating enough money to rescue his mother from her indentured bondage, he returns to Bashon only to find it devastated by the Roguskhoi, a fierce race of humanoid warriors who loot human settlements of their female inhabitants, whom they consequently impregnate. Incensed that the Anome will do nothing to avert the Roguskhoi threat, Etzwane and Ifness, a secret representative from the Historical Institute on Earth, search for the Anome. After...

(The entire section is 653 words.)