Thumbs up for The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance. Science fiction.
I bought this book a million years ago when I was writing a novel about a linguist. I didn’t read it back then because, first of all, the concept of Vance’s book is based on what used to be called the strong Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which is such bunkum that I’m not even going to bother to look up what the current term is. In a big nutshell, the idea that language shapes (read: restricts) what you can think about. The other reason I didn’t read it is because the cover of the copy I own made it look like military sci-fi, and I am shallow. But I kept seeing references to how good Jack Vance’s writing is, so I finally read it. Well, the Vance fans are right; he is an astronomically skilled, clever, and unique prose stylist with a deliciously black sense of humor. I ate this book up like candy. The premise is still bunkum, but the book is about characters, so I got over it. Is it a book I’d chase people down to make them read? No, because of an icky plot point involving supposed-to-be-consensual indentured sexual slavery. (It is intentionally icky, to be clear.) But, if you can roll with that, then I highly recommend this book. I will definitely move the other Vance books chilling on my bookshelf farther up my TBR list.
Palafox considered him a moment, then replied in a cool even voice. “Your thoughts move with the deft precision of worm-tracks in the mud. Naturally I plan that you shall serve my ends. You plan, or, at any rate, you hope, that I shall serve yours. So far as you are concerned, this process is well toward fruition. I am working diligently to secure your birthright, and if I succeed, you shall be Panarch of Pao. When you demand the nature of my motives, you reveal the style of your thinking to be callow, captious, superficial, craven, uncertain and impudent.”
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