Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dumarest: The Jester at Scar (1970)

Dumarest travels have brought him to Scar, a wet planet with "no rotation at all" where a "year is ninety days long" and on which the natural vegetation is all fungoid. He is dwelling with a woman named Selene in Lowtown, the slum that is home to destitute transients who are tended to by Brother Glee. He has to defend himself against a mutant cat-man and accomplice who seem intent on getting the ring that Kalin gave him in the last book. Scar is a lawless planet whose only industry is annual harvest of exotic fungus. It's dangerous work as a stray spore settling on skin or lodging in the lungs can mean a slow, painful death. Dumarest leaves Selene and goes up to Hightown to plan for the coming harvest and to meet with Del Meoud, the local guild factor.

Meanwhile, Jocelyn, King of Jest, is traveling home in his private ship accompanied by his new bride, Adrienne. He's a fatalistic and superstitious man who believes in destiny. His wife, and arrogant short tempered woman, has little use for such things. It is in large part a marriage of convenience, a chance for more power on her part and the boon of a large dowry for Jocelyn. Part of that dowry includes Yeon the cyber. Because of an interstellar storm the king finds his ship midway between Jest and Scar. He flips a coin to decides which course to take, and as a result goes to Scar where he and his retinue will cross paths with Dumarest.

I haven't said much about the characterization in this books, so let me comment about that. For the most part Tubb handles it well, although because of the brevity of these books most of the characters lack any real depth. The plot moves along well enough, although like the last few books it end with Dumarest gather people in a room in order to expose the wrongdoer. It's a scene that would be more at home in a drawing room murder mystery aside from the fact that Dumarest has a habit of killing the criminal out of hand.

Dumarest definitely has a Brock Sampson vibe going on including the fact that the knife is his weapon of choice. And thankfully this is the first time in this series that's there's been no mention of pinching carotids. That's almost a silly as the current ridiculous pop-culture trend of giving an enemy's head a sharp twist to snap their neck. I hope Tubb has dumped it for good.

In my review of the previous book I pointed out the similarities between the Universal Brotherhood and the Cyclan. In this book, Adrienne makes a similar observation, noting the only difference is that Cyclan are never found among the poor.

The planet Scar with it's constant rains and strange fungal growths reminds me of the pulp sf depictions of Venus, such as Stanley G. Weinbaum's "Parasite Planet". While Dumarest's confrontations with the Cyclan are becoming a little repetitive, the exotic landscapes on which they take place have been inventive enough. It will be interesting to see what strange world Dumarest travels to next.

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