Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Broken Worlds By Raymond Harris

Yesterday's post on the Paradox-class Imperial Gateship used Ron Miller's cover art from Raymond Harris' novel The Broken Worlds. Published in 1986, this novel has not received the attention it deserves. I am about 60 pages (20%) of the way through the novel, and I wanted to say a few worlds about it.

A friend introduced me to the book a couple of weeks ago, spotting it at a huge $1 paper back sale at Uncle Hugos. I had not heard of it or its author before. I was even an adult in the mid-80s when the book came out. The feel of the book has what John Clute calls a time abyss: there is an illusion of a very old setting with a great deal of history and cultural complexity. The Broken Worlds touches some of the same chords as David Zindell's space operatic SF, with a touch of Vancean and Wolfean oddness. But it is not jokey.

Imagine a long-dead Earth, and a Mars that until recently was ruled by clans of samurai clones - now conquered by alien warriors. One remaining samurai lord sets out with a group of retainers, and with at least one imperial heir clone in cryosleep on an interstellar journey to find allies and liberate Mars.

Interstellar travel is by means of Veilships - starships that jump into and out of hyperspace by mystical means with direct referents in Western and Eastern occult traditions.  Other human and alien worlds are equally odd. There are alien cat-monkey inebriate mystic pilots. An alien ritual substance that causes immortality for a very few fortunates, but death for the vast majority of people who try it. Fortunately, there are alien parasitic worms that also cause immortality - for a couple weeks at a time - followed by a painful death, unless there is a follow-up dose.

The story is a classic quest to find allies and set this right - or so it seems so far. This one is recommended!


  1. The follow-up 'Shadows of the White Sun,' would very likely appeal to you as well. The cultural aspects alone are quite interesting and were fairly radical back in the day. You can get a copy via Internet Archive:
    If you're interested. You can also find a used copy cheap on Amazon fairly often.

    Watch out for those worms...

  2. Believe it our not, I picked up a copy of the sequel at Uncle Hugos maybe a day or two after my post!

  3. And those worms - the Nong Kha, IIRC - are quite nasty. I keep thinking of Needles' many invertebrate posts as I read the book!