Emphyrio: Jack Vance (1969)

I always have difficulty categorising Vance. Essentially, if you write about space you’re writing SF but if you write in luxurious prose and inhabit your world with Lords, Ladies, puppet theaters and castles you have, to an extent, become a fantasist. therefore I’m going with the idea of fantasy. This is one of the best,

Ghyl Tarvoke, born on the planet Halma, lives with with his father the apparently guileless and easy going Amiante. When very young, Ghyl sees a little puppet show starring a folk hero Emphyrio.

The people are ruled by lords who live in towering eyries above the dismal towns. The lords’ forefathers arrived many years earlier and rebuilt a world devastated by war. In return, they were granted a nominal tax, like feudal lords. Later, mass manufacturing was outlawed and the people became artisans, selling their handmade work to a single company controlled by the lords. The people are very poor and constrained by welfare officers.

Amiante is a master woodcarver and his son follows in his trade. But Ghyl is fey and wishes more. In fact, he wishes to find the truth.

This fantasy novel was written in 1969.

I can hardly find words to describe it. Brilliant would be one, perfect another; emotionally charged. luxurious, ripe with pathos. It’s just one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. If you like fantasy you’re missing one of the best if you’ve not read Emphyrio.