Book Review – The Brave Free Men by Jack Vance
This sparsely told tale is the sequel to The Faceless Man (AKA The Anome) and the second book of the Durdane trilogy. The books are no longer in print but Kindle editions can still be purchased. The copy I have (shown here) is a limited hardcover edition published in 1983 that I found at my local library. Apparently, they are quite rare.
This book continues the adventures of Gatzel Etzwane as he tries to defend his country, Shant, from the mutant Roguskhoi. Unfortunately, the culture and government of Shant, as they currently exist, are ill equipped to address the situation, so Etzwane must first take control of the government, revamp society, restructure the bureaucracy, develop new technology, and oust the Roguskhoi — and he has only 251 pages to do so. Vance manages to have him pull it off believably, which is quite an accomplishment.
The way he does it may not appeal to some modern readers, though. He summarizes much of what happens, ‘telling’ the story rather than ‘showing’ it. He restricts the point of view to a single character, Etzwane, and therefore relates much of what occurs in either narrative or exposition.
The plot is interesting, and the setting and characters are imaginative and well conceived. I recommend it.