The Last Castle
Reviewed date: 2004 Sep 1
The Last Castle won a Hugo and a Nebula, so it must be good. And it is.
After abandoning Earth for centuries, mankind has returned. They set up cities and live as gentlemen, waited on hand and foot by their servant races imported from other planets. But suddenly one of their servant races, the Meks, rebels against them. Will humanity survive, or are they too soft from a pampered lifestyle?
Jack Vance shows us an interesting world filled with interesting alien races. But more importantly, he shows the decline of the human spirit. He shows how machines and luxury and nearly infinite material wealth have destroyed human culture and robbed men of their spirit. When men would rather go to a party than deign to discuss the mere possibility of their impending deaths, something is wrong. When men would rather die than touch a tool or stoop to performing manual labor, the death of mankind cannot be far behind.
It's strange, because I spent most of the book rooting against the men. At first I rooted for the Meks because mankind had enslaved them; later I saw the ruthlessness of the Meks and cared little for them. But still I hoped mankind would lose, because the sheer arrogance and blind stupidity of the men made me angry.
I wish I could give this book a four. It was nearly good enough. But for one reason or another, it just didn't capture my attention. I heartily recommend it, but it rates only a three.
Novella length works like The Last Castle are difficult to publish, as they are too long for most magazine issues and too short to publish as a novel. The Last Castle is bound together with Robert Silverberg's Nightwings in Tor Double No. 15. If you can find them, Tor Doubles offer a great way to read novella-length science fiction.