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A Princess of the Aerie    by John Barnes order for
Princess of the Aerie
by John Barnes
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

This is the second adventure of Jak Jinnaka - teenage adventurer, spy, lover, accomplished liar (according to his panth friend, tove and pizo, Dujuv Gonzawara) and toktru super-boy of the thirty-sixth century. If you have difficulty deciphering panth, tove, pizo, and toktru, be warned. Barnes scatters his future teenage slang liberally. In the first book of what appears likely to be a long series, The Duke of Uranium, Jak discovered some disillusioning facts about his world, for example that his uncle was a senior agent for a ruthless secret organization, that he was being coached to become an agent also, and that his loving demmy in college was really a Princess of the Aerie.

The Aerie is a loose agglomeration of many different artificial worlds and cultures, while the Web (of space stations), where Jak lives, is a single entity held together by the Wager, a set of somewhat unprincipled Principles, again liberally quoted by Barnes. Both Jak and Dujuv are completing their studies at the Public Service Academy of the Web, and contemplating the Junior Task which they are required to devise and complete before graduating, when Jak receives an urgent message from Princess Shyf, seeking his help. Luckily, he finds that this can be acceptable asJunior Task for himself, Dujuv, and Myxenna (Dujuv's estranged demmy) so they set off happily to be reunited with Princess Shyf.

Unfortunately, the Princess has reverted to type, and has not only become a ruthless manipulator of her subjects but adds Jak and Dujuv to her harem after forcing them to be conditioned to respond immediately to her sexual commands. However, they still retain enough initiative to foil a plot to assassinate the Princess' father, which is unfortunate since she had devised the plot. Jak and Dujuv seize an opportunity to travel to Mercury, where the rare metals needed by the other worlds are mined by downtrodden outcasts. They find that Jak's deadly enemy is in process of establishing himself as ruler of the planet, and have to undertake an extremely dangerous plan to stop him.

Barnes appears to be developing an almost totally amoral universe, with the only selfless actions being taken by outcasts on the fringes of the social structure. Of course he also appears to be satirizing space opera and producing a kind of comic book Star Wars. The plot, such as it is, is totally nonsensical, but the characters do show signs of development and the action and sex are fast and furious. The next book in the series should be fascinating.

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