The Brave Free Men

by Jack Vance
Series: Durdane 2
Reviewed date: 2010 Nov 8
Rating: 3
251 pages
cover art
cover art
cover art

The second book in Jack Vance's Durdane trilogy does not stand alone. It builds directly on the events of the previous book, and it ends with a threat looming over all of Durdane.

The Anome of Shant has revealed himself to be ineffectual and unwilling to resist the Rogushkoi invasion. By necessity, Gastel Etzwane deposes him and acts as Anome. But Gastel soon discovers that the Anome's power is limited. The people of Shant, long used to a hands-off approach to government, are lazy and lack creativity. Only when directly confronted with the Anome's ability to explode the torcs locked around their necks do they stir to action; even then, they do as little as possible.

Gastel tours the cantons of Shant to look for allies with ambition and motivation. He enlists Jerd Finnerack, Dystar the musician, Aun Sharah, and Mialambre:Octagon. Together they develop a plan to combat the Rogushkoi: the corp of Brave Free Men. Anyone who volunteers to fight as a Brave Free Man immediately has his torc removed. Armed with weapons developed by the best engineers on Shant, they stop the Rogushkoi encroachment into Shant.

The Brave Free Men fight well, but a traitor within the ranks poses problems: several times, the corp is nearly ruined when their plans are leaked to the enemy. However, under Jerd Finnerack's focused leadership, the Brave Free Men push the Rogushkoi back into the swamplands. While Gastel institutes a new democratic form of government, Jerd Finnerack pursues and harries the Rogushkoi relentlessly. He eventually--in direct violation of Gastel's repeated orders--carries the fight into Palasedra; the Palasedrans regard this as an act of war. Only through hastily-conducted peace negotiations is Gastel able to avoid a war with Palasedra.

Gastel discovers that the traitor was Jerd Finnerack. Further, the earthman Ifness (whom Gastel met in the previous book) reveals to Gastel that the Rogushkoi are merely a ploy in an experiment. The real enemies are the Asutra, a race of parasites that attach themselves to the nervous system of a host species. The Rogushkoi are controlled by the Asutra, and Jerd Finnerack is also Asutra-ridden. That explains his treachery.

So the book ends with the Rogushkoi menace ended, but the threat of the Asutra is still very much present. The Rogushkoi experiment is just that: an experiment in a much larger Asutran scheme against mankind.

Archive | Search