by Jack Vance
Series: Cadwal Chronicles 3
Reviewed date: 2017 Dec 13
Rating: 2
298 pages
cover art

The third book of the Cadwal Chronicles is a confusing mess of characters with inscrutable motivations and complex schemes. I struggled to keep track.

Cadwal is a Conservancy planet. It is governed by a charter that is meant to protect the planet as a pristine wilderness. In reality, though, it is home to thousands of people. Officially, only 240 people are granted permission to live on Cadwal, in order to protect the Conservancy. The rest of the permanent population are "visitors" and "collaterals" who have much lower social standing. There are two official settlements on Cadwal: Araminta Station on the continent Deucas, and Stroma, on Throy.

The real problem on Cadwal is the Yips. The Yips are the descendents of "temporary" laborers, and are confined to the town of Yipton on the island of Lutwen Atoll. The Yips outnumber the rest of the population, and the most pressing social problem on Cadwal is how to dispose of the Yips.

There are two main factions with different ideas of what to do with the Yips. The Life, Peace, and Freedom (LPF) Party wants to move the Yips off Lutwen Atoll and bring them to Deucas. Ostensibly this is to improve the lives of the Yips, but really it's so that the LPFers can set up big estates and employ Yips as slave labor.

The other faction is lead by Smonny Clattuc, and I think she wants to ship the Yips off-world and sell them as indentured servants.

Curiously, nobody seems to consider treating the Yips like human beings and letting them choose their own destiny. Anyway.

Glawen Clattuc's job is to track down Lewyn Barduys, a businessman who is in talks with both Smonny and the LPFers to provide transportation for moving the Yips off Lutwen Atoll. Glawen is to ensure that Barduys does not do business with either party, but instead agrees to do business with the Conservancy, who (presumably) has another, better plan to deal wih the Yips.

It's all very confusing.

Glawen follows Barduys halfway across the Gaean Reach, or at least across Mircea's Wisp. Barduys is a difficult man to catch. Glawen finally finds Barduys, just in time to save his life. When he recovers, Barduys agrees not to work with either Smonny or the LPF.

Events take a strange turn. Smonny tries to kill the LPF leadership by bombing Stroma. The LPF responds by taking gunships and destroying Yipton. Most of the Yips are killed outright. Barduys agrees to take the rest as servants to work in his new venture: wilderness lodges inspired by what he's seen on Cadwal.

It's not a great effort by Jack Vance.

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