Emma Bull: Falcon

When the reader first meets Dominic Glyndwr, Viscount Harlech (he keeps asking people to call him Niki), he is brooding about being the misfit youngest son of the aristocratic family which rules Cymru, a planet which has retained much of the culture of its Welsh ancestors from old Earth. When Niki discovers that the world from which he couldn’t wait to escape is being torn apart by the increasingly authoritarian rule of his uncle, Niki begins a battle which will have far-reaching consequences for both himself and the world in which he lives.

In the second part of this book, we meet Niki many years later in his incarnation as Niki Falcon, a gestalt pilot who can plug directly into his ship. Chrysander Harris, a musician renowned throughout the many worlds, is determined to have Niki help him return to his own small planet, which has recently been blanketed by an ominous communications silence. Chrysander himself, however, is ruthlessly sought by the evil empire — referred to as the Concord — which sees Chrysander’s talents and popularity as a useful propaganda tool.

Falcon is an action-packed novel, part mannerpunk along the lines of Ellen Kurshner’s Swordspoint with its vaguely Renaissance-style culture and its intricate political intrigues, and part space opera similar to Joss Whedon’s Serenity with Niki repeatedly taking up the cause of the little guys as they struggle against the machinations of the evil empire.

Falcon makes a number of in-story references to Hamlet and I suspect that the reader’s enjoyment of the book depends on how the reader feels about such brooding emo-type characters, because all the action and descriptions of cyberpunk tech in this story doesn’t entirely balance out the amount of time Niki spends brooding and feeling sorry for himself. Niki comes across as almost entirely humorless, although he and the other characters frequently make sardonic comments or raise sardonic eyebrows at one another. There is also a lot of description of how exceptionally beautiful these characters are, their expensive and elegant clothing and accessories and their anime hair. Despite Niki’s travels across the universe, only one character is not white, and she is exoticized as a conflation of Asian and Indian. Some readers might find this somewhat limited perspective of a diverse universe rather dated.

(Ace, 1989)

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