RogerBW's Blog

View from the Imperium, Jody Lynn Nye 02 November 2015

2011 humorous science fiction. Lord Thomas Kinago, foppish distant cousin of the Emperor and son of the First Space Lord, is sent on his obligatory short tour of military service. Meanwhile, a cluster of worlds on the edge of the Imperium is being taken over…

It's not, as the blurb would have it, Wodehouse in Space. That's not an intrinsically terrible idea, but although Kinago has the unflappable Parsons to guide him, he also has his own skills and a keen intelligence… that's been suppressed in a society which values the appearance of brainlessness rather than not developed in the first place. There are some vaguely Wodehousian moments:

I kept my hands behind my back in the manner of sea captains of ancient Earth, which, alas, allowed the sword of my ancestors to bang rhythmically against my leg. I made a mental note to consult Parsons later on how to prevent that. I noticed his sword was not beating a tattoo on him.

but the principal thrust of the book is Kinago exceeding his orders and generating successes, albeit mixed ones, by his own efforts, rather than having to be bailed out of disasters. He's closer to Albert Campion than to Bertie Wooster.

My cousins chided me as being too active. I felt their criticism deeply. I would have sworn that none of them could match me for applied idleness in the past.

And indeed there are some very dark moments about half-way through, not particularly about death and destruction, but explaining just how the system of nobility works. This is humorous, certainly, but it's humour painted over a very black background.

At first, when we discovered the first non-humanoid race, the location of our home planet was kept secret as a security measure. Then, over time, it got lost in the shuffle. I know it sounds ridiculous to think an entire system could be mislaid like an earring, but when one considers the enormous quantity of type-E systems with a combination of rocky and gaseous planets circling a dwarf yellow star, it would take some impressive proof to combat the cynicism.

Things get started pretty slowly; there's action at the end, but if you like a fast pace this may well not be the book for you. I do hope that an author who can write

The black hole has been emitting unusual quantities of quasars.

in cold blood is going for parody; but the science here is very soft, and entirely lacking in numbers, so maybe she just doesn't know. There is something of the feel of Robert Asprin's Myth series about these books, or even more so Phule's Company, not entirely surprising since Nye co-authored the Myth series in Asprin's later years.

A guide to the sort of book this is: the final resolution to the principal problem consists of making the villain look silly. Followed by Fortunes of the Imperium.

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 02:04pm on 06 November 2015

    I quite enjoyed this. However, I almost gave up early on, because of the interminable chapters of squabbling politicians. I'm guessing that them bickering for pages and achieving nothing was meant to be funny, but I just found it dull. I skipped those chapters in the end.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 02:12pm on 06 November 2015

    Can't honestly say you missed much. I think it's meant to set up the situation into which Kinago is then dropped, but I agree it overstayed its welcome.

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