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Master of Paxwax : book one of the story of…

Master of Paxwax : book one of the story of Pawl Paxwax, the gardener (édition 1986)

par Phillip Mann

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"The galaxy is dominated by humankind - but not by humanity. Any power once held by other intelligent life forms has been crushed; the Eleven Great Families rule empires across the stars. But the second son of the Fifth Family may be the catalyst to change all that"--Back cover.
Titre:Master of Paxwax : book one of the story of Pawl Paxwax, the gardener
Auteurs:Phillip Mann
Info:London : Victor Gollancz, 1986.
Collections:Votre bibliothèque

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Le Maître des Paxwax par Phillip Mann


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I’ve been a fan of Mann’s fiction for many years, and even reviewed several of his books – positively, of course – for the BSFA’s critical journal, Vector, back in the day. I liked that Mann was considerably more literate than most of his peers, and exhibited a somewhat sideways approach to common science fiction tropes. I’d forgotten that Master of Paxwax, followed by The Fall of the Families, was Mann’s second novel, but I’d remember the broad shape of the story. What had not occurred to me at the time, and struck me quite strongly on this decades-later reread, was how much Master of Paxwax is a pastiche of Frank Herbert’s Dune. More than that – and the timing is tight, so perhaps I’m reaching – but quite a bit of the imagery in Master of Paxwax evokes David Lynch’s movie adaptation of Dune, released in late 1984. After discovering an alien Way Gate, humanity spread out into the galaxy and wiped out all (alien) competitors. This was the Great Push. Centuries later, human society has ossified into an imperium ruled by eleven Great Families, and countless other ones. The Paxwax are the Fifth Family, and Pawl, the third son, finds himself head of the family when his father and elder brother die. The second brother had joined the Inner Circle, ostensibly a semi-religious order of diplomats and advisors, but secretly the last refuge of the alien races subjugated, or even destroyed, by humanity. The Inner Circle has determined that Pawl Paxwax will return the galaxy to the aliens; Pawl Paxwax just wants to break with tradition and marry someone he loves, who is not of the Eleven Families. On the surface, this is a space opera that makes free use of the subgenre’s tropes. But there are many similarities with Dune, while not mapping directly onto its story – no white saviour narrative, no appropriation… And there’s all those aliens, of course. It is, perhaps, a more sensitively-written Dune… but it never manages Herbert’s book’s weight of background, one of Dune‘s chief appeals, because Master of Paxwax relies overmuch on space opera tropes. It’s a good book, perhaps even a forgotten space opera masterpiece, although I suspect that’s a label that applies to a great many books given the low bar most fans seem to apply to space opera… ( )
1 voter iansales | Apr 15, 2021 |
Paul Paxwax, third son of Toby Paxwax, head of the Paxwax family, the fifth most important family in known space, is returning to Bennet, the Paxwax home world, with news. He has found a woman he wants to marry, Laural Beltane, of the Beltanes, a minor family (the fifty-sixth). He expects to meet with opposition from his father.

He does not expect to find the family estate in ruins, and a mass grave containing the Family's servants. He does not expect to be threatened and almost killed by his father, who has been driven mad with grief, as his second son, and designated heir, Lapis, has been reported killed in a mining accident, with only his foot surviving. Paul is now the main heir so the marriage to a Beltane, always marginal, is now impossible. An accident kills the father, so Paul has to report his death and get acknowledged as the new head of Paxwax by the other Families. He expects trouble.

But it comes from an unexpected source. The dominion of the Eleven Families was built on alien genocide. Intelligent and harmless species, like the Gerbes, were eaten as delicacies. Dangerous aliens, like Spiderets (large intelligent spiders) and the Hammer (extremely vicious and clever giant scorpions) are worked as prisoners and killed if they show any hostility. Unknown to the Families, on a hidden planet called Sanctum, the alien races have united and are plotting their revenge. They include humans: Pawl's other elder brother Pental is among them. The driving force is a telepathic Tree, which selects a Gerbes called Odin to go to Pawl and advise him, ostensibly as an advisor from the Inner Circle, ostensibly neutral but really a front for the alien rebels.

This first book of two is driven entirely by human treachery. Two Families hate the Paxwax, the Xerxes and the Lamprey, and they have been planning a surprise strike on the Paxwax for some time. They have secretly bought control of the 'Way Gates' (transporters that link the far flung human worlds) that lead to Paxwax worlds. The 'foot' was their doing as Lapis was their prisoner, whom they were torturing to death. Almost immediately Pawl is under attack once he takes over the Paxwax family. This book is essentially about his struggle to survive.

To call this space opera is to underplay its strident differences from the norm. It reverses the normal 'humans as good guys' and builds a complex and believable future society that is obviously rotten to the core (for example genetic anomalies are common throughout the Families, Pawl has golden eyes and bandy legs) but which might be shriven and saved.. ( )
  AlanPoulter | Apr 21, 2012 |
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"The galaxy is dominated by humankind - but not by humanity. Any power once held by other intelligent life forms has been crushed; the Eleven Great Families rule empires across the stars. But the second son of the Fifth Family may be the catalyst to change all that"--Back cover.

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