The Moon Moth

Edwer Thissell is having a difficult time with his latest assignment. He has been assigned to the planet Sirene to find the murder Haxo Angmark. Under normal circumstances, this would be a difficult task, as Angmark has never been properly identified. However, the planet of Sirene further complicates the issue as the inhabitants all wear masks to indicate their social standing. To go maskless is to draw both pity and contempt from the populace. Further compounding the difficulties of this society is the fact that anyone on Sirene cannot simply converse with another inhabitant. People must use one of sixteen different instruments while speaking to indicate tone, respect, standing, and intent to recipient. Using the wrong instrument, playing the correct instrument poorly, or not using the correct amount of deference to another of a higher standing are all grounds for immediate execution. Against the backdrop of all these unfamiliar social mores, Thissell must tread lightly; not only to avoid losing his head to the locals as faux pas can prove deadly, but also to track down Angmark without being able to ever see anyone's faces. I have not read much Jack Vance, and this is a work of short fiction that was originally published in 1963, but I have always been told that Vance is one of the "Grandmasters" of science fiction, and after reading (and re-reading, and re-reading, and re-reading, etc.) this, it's not difficult to see why. Ibrahim's artwork is clean and concise, especially showcasing the complexities of speech between the different characters throughout the book, which helps convey emotions hidden by the static images the masks present. To tell the truth, the first time I read this, I was incredibly confused with the usage of instruments and masks. This is one of those books that you can not just breeze through and understand. Vance's writing demands that you be present in the moment, actually paying attention to not only the images, but the words as well. this is a real thinking person's book, as there are no easy answers, but once you reach the end, everything seems so obvious that you want to kick yourself for not noticing it sooner. Kudos to First Second Books for taking on a complicated and engrossing story, and for actually doing it the justice it deserves. Unfortunately, this version of The Moon Moth is not currently being published, but can be found fairly easily through the second-hand market.

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