RogerBW's Blog

Fortunes of the Imperium, Jody Lynn Nye 30 September 2020

2014 humorous science fiction, second of its series. Lord Thomas Kinago, professional fop, is sent on another mission for his cousin the Emperor: this time a neighbouring power, defeated in the big war a few years back, is putting unreasonable restrictions on trade, not to mention arresting a whole host of merchants as smugglers.

Most people who write favourably of fictional nobility tend to see them as just plain folks only with more money and power. Nye is an exception in that Kinago, and at least some of the rest of the aristocracy of her Imperium, have a genuine feeling of duty towards the commoners. Yes, he's happy to indulge in a skimmer race through the art gallery, but at the same time he feels a compulsion to help the imprisoned merchants and untangle whatever it is that's going on in the Autocracy. They may be Not Like Us but that doesn't necessarily make them Bad Things.

Most of my relatives were content to calculate their degree of separation from the throne and fulfill every whim that they could afford. I, too, had spent most of my life doing just that. But things had become so much more interesting since I had found a purpose. Working on covert missions was enormous fun, not to mention providing me with fresh venues in which to show off my extensive and ever-changing wardrobe. I must not forget that the missions were actually important to the well-being of the Imperium.

So there's a standard cast of Inexperienced Ruler and Evil Advisor and so on; that won't surprise anyone who's read, well, fiction before. Less usual are the other plots flying in formation with that one, and how they end up crossing over. But the fields of conflict are less usual; Kinago has been dabbling in superstition, learning how to tell fortunes and such like, and while this may get him into trouble en route it proves to be just what's needed at the destination.

The tone is generally light, though cutaways to an imprisoned family of merchants are rather more serious; various threads get started there and never quite seem to pay off, which struck me as unfortunate, but perhaps I was meant to be distracted by the coruscations of Lord Thomas.

"We have been speaking to the crew aboard the Moskowitz. Some of the crew are concerned that our arrival meant that they were to be arrested for outstanding warrants."

"Warrants?" I asked. "For what offenses?"

"I have perused the Infogrid files for the crew members in question. They are wanted for varying degrees of disturbing the peace on five to eight different ports of call apiece throughout the Imperium."

"Really?" I asked. "But these are non-extraditable offenses. Ask me how I know. Go ahead, ask."

"I am aware of your antics on Rumdisa, sir," Parsons said.

It's not Bertie Wooster in space, and it's not Peter Wimsey or even Campion; it's something more interesting than mere copies of those characters would be. Not perhaps groundbreaking, but I've rarely seen comic SF done this well when it's still had to have a plot first.

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