Three pulp sci-fi novels (set #5)

Updated 26 Oct 2019 (Mandala)


This was not well written. No, that’s not the issue exactly, more, this book had problems with dialog, with characterizations, and with overall tone. I know these are sometimes trashy books that I get, but this was the first that kinda irritated me. He has a large vocabulary (I learned the Swiftian reference “brobdingnagian”) but it feels as if there’s always a thesaurus at his side. And though not a bad story in concept, it’s from 1983 but feels much more dated. And my god the names of people.

The story:

Listiphran is a planet populated by telepaths that exist in a bucolic society and live as a sort of hive mind. Everyone knows everyone else’s thoughts, and they can even swap bodies mentally (for fun or SEX, gender be damned). At around your teens, you get sent to a hut in the wilderness to learn isolation. We begin by following our Listiphranian hero, Allelliph, during her isolation. (The back cover is what sold me on this weirdness: “ALLELLIPH – She was as beautiful as her name.” whaaa?) While be-hutted with her two cats, Sabbi and Delder, she encounters an astronaut unconscious in the woods. After she nurses him to back to consciousness, we find out that he has amnesia and so has forgotten his name, his past, and why he came to the planet. She decides to call him Chand (which translates to something in her language I-forget-what).

Months pass, he heals, they fall in love, find his ship, and he remembers some-but-not-all and they decide to return to his homeworld, Mandala.

Mandala. An artificial planet with thousands of internal regions that contain different environments for each different species that occupies it. It is also the capital of a galactic empire thousands of years old but in decay. It travels through the galaxy and is powered by a captured black hole at its center. We will spend most of our time in the city of Thalthor, where the decadent and addled Emperor Garshin resides along with Chand’s old boss, General Trebo Farba. Chand slowly regains his memory and we learn his real name is I-am-not-making-this-up Xerdix Macpharphal. (Lisa wants us to get a dog just so we can name him that. Bonus: This will eventually be the official first page on the internet containing his name. The only other time I had that honor was with the book title Pervert Lust Spy, but those days are gone.) He realizes that he was not at all a good person in his previous life and is conflicted w/r/t that and his love of the lovely named Allellelliph, especially since he is in the middle of a coup to overthrow and assassinate Emperor Garshin.

Allellipilliph is pregnant. As Xerdix (Xerdo) spends overtime planning the coup, about which she knows nothing, she socializes with the swells of Thalthor accompanied by Xerdo’s attendant, Ossop. Ossop is a “helter skelter”: someone created from various pieces of dead people and used basically as entertaining slaves.

Switch to the adventures of the alcoholic soldiers of fortune and lovers: Gemmy Griss and Turkey Parkov, and Jent, their loveable (?) robot helper. They are sent by Gen. Farba to find some secret region in Mandala for some secret reason we are not clear on until near the end of the book. They descend into an abandoned, storm-swept region, enter into a centuries-old, decaying resort hotel, and find a control center with a mysterious hole in the floor that recedes deeply into darkness. Menacing grappling hooks are deployed from the corners of the room, snaggin Turkey P., some evil machine ripping hip to shreds. Gemmy G. abandons him with a package they found that is somehow what Gen. Trebo F. was looking for.

Back to Thalthor and Xerdix Macpharphal (it’s just so fun to say his name) where the coup is full on, taking place at a gala for the city of Thalthor. Xerdo and Farba have planned to hijack the mechanical automatons that will reenact the Noble Genocides of the empire before the assembled aristocrats, and to have one “malfunction” and murder Emperor Garshin. Chaos! Allellillelliph is at the same table; all of the automatons are then double-hijacked by a mysterious force and the entirety of the swells of Thalthor are massacred.

Alright, so quickly: there’s a sweep of the city to massacre the massacrers, Allilloph is kidnapped, allowed as bait by Farba, for the Mysterious Troublemakers, Farba et Xerdix pursue, and the encounter with: (FUCKING SPOILERS FOLLOW) the original telepaths of Thalthor who were used as mental batteries to be drained because they protect the world from the black hole, and were killed, and then were forgotten, and then escaped to another planet, and then realized their worth, and then searched for (a la Xerdix, interrupted by amnesia), and then triggered by Alleallephoph’s mental pattern returning to Mandala to emerge for redemption.

Etc. etc. she and Xerdix become gods of the new empire, built on empathy. So there are hints of Dune and the New Age sci-fi, but of a lesser degree.

Going to get a burger tonight from The Vortex so I be it (<- reading after I wrote this so what does it mean?!?), much like Ordeal In Otherwhere.

My notes (and my god those names are ridiculous):

  • Listiphran – home, (pg15) one of the Shimmer Worlds (pg 47)
  • Mishick – dark, drunken shaman to the fellowship, different in some way but still telepathic
  • Allelliph – female protagonist, coming of age and going through the standard ritual of learning how to be an individual in a society where everyone’s thoughts are shared. Her cats: Sabbi and Delder
  • Chand/Xerdix (Xerdo) Macpharphal – visited to hunt and adventure but lost his memory in a hunting accident, months living with Allelliph and falling in love, he eventually finds his ship (the Moon Egg) and regains the memory that he is Military Aide, Vice Chairman of the Council and Protector of the Life-Fires of Human Destiny (pg 32), but not a good person.
  • Thalthor (The Dayside, The Heart of the Emperor, the Soul of the Flame) – Master-City of Mandala (pg 46), the capital of the galactic empire and an artificial planet powered by a black hole and wandering through the galaxy. The empire is dissolving. The planet is falling into disarray because people no longer know how to run the machines. Pump Six by Bacigallupi.
  • Alpha Nine, Omega, and Sigma Level – areas of the planet with different species.
  • Gen. Trebo Farba, Lt. Simobla
  • Osopp – a “helter-skelter”, created as a slave from the flesh of dead people, as a result sometimes experiencing their memories, foppish
  • Emperor Garshin – a decadent fool
  • Omega Prime – ???
  • Chapters 9, 10, and 11 – Gemmy Griss, Turkey Parkov, Jent; each ending with Allelliph
  • Chapter 13 – confluence of Allelliph, Xerdix, Osopp, General Farba, and Gemmy at the gala
  • Div Foff, reporter for Associated Newsfax
  • Colonel Boz Stner