Marune: Alastor 933

by Jack Vance
Series: Alastor 2
Reviewed date: 2007 Feb 16
Rating: 4
122 pages
cover art
cover art
cover art

A man shows up at the Carfaunge spaceport on Bruse-Tansel. He has no memory of who he is or where he came from. Someone has wiped his memory and sent him on a one way trip. With help from the local officials, the man earns some money and travels to the capital on Numenes. After much research, he learns that he is from the planet Marune.

Once back on Marune, he discovers his identity: he is Efraim of Benbuphar, a minor personage of some small importance. His memory has not returned, but he hides his handicap as much as possible to protect himself against those who would take advantage of him, and against those unknown persons who wiped his memory--who must surely be on Marune.

Not only is Efraim at a disadvantage from losing his own memories, he also does not remember the intricate social customs of his society. Eating and drinking are taboo bodily functions, and must be done alone and secretly in little closets. Further, the six suns of Marune lead to nearly a dozen distinct periods of the day--and the social customs are different for each period. What is polite during aud may be a faux pax during isp. Sex is completely proscribed except during mirk, the rare period when all six suns have set. During mirk, the women stay in their rooms and the men wear hideous masks and prowl to find willing (or not so willing) women.

Efraim arrives back at his estate and discovers himself in the middle of tricky negotiations with neighbors--negotiations Efraim's father left incomplete before his death. Efraim is determined to recover his lost memory, but he must tread carefully. It is likely that his neighbors had a hand in his condition, and Efraim's life is in danger.

My biggest objection to Marune: Alastor 933 is that Jack Vance pulled a minor sort of deus ex machina at the end. Efraim recovers his memories and remembers how and why he ended up on Bruse-Tansel. But the rest of the story is top-notch. It's the best Vance book I've read, with the possible exception of The Languages of Pao.

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