RogerBW's Blog

The Game Beyond, Melissa Scott 07 April 2023

1984 SF. The Empress is dead… and, lacking an heir, has left the Empire to her latest favourite. But can he force the nobles to take him seriously?

This is a lush book, but also a superficial one. The politics are basically late mediaeval, with an imperial system bound by unwritten convention; but there isn't much of a consistent SF technology base, with things appearing as the story needs them and then vanishing again (such as virtual reality systems that only seem to be used for gaming even though they'd potentially be quite useful in space battles too).

But this is also a meditation on how an empire ends, and whether it'll be in a good way or a bad way. And how psi talents that let you forecast the future can be useful, but not definitive (strong shades of the Oracle at Delphi).

It's a first novel and there's perhaps too much happening here, leaving some parts dealt with far too briefly for my taste, but I rather liked the characters: grown-ups doing sensible things, even the villains.

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