The Sea is Full of Stars, by Jack L. Chalker

the-sea-is-full-of-stars-by-jack-l-chalkerGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine
Published: 1999
Reviewer Rating: threestars
Book Review by Aaron M. Renn

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Jack Chalker’s latest return to the Well World is a pretty solid effort, but it doesn’t feature Nathan Brazil or Mavra Chang, and it doesn’t even reach the Well World until half way through, so I wonder how fans will react. I for one was satisfied.

The book starts with a motley collection of passengers on a star liner who get swept up in a plot to exchange stolen property. There’s the two management consultants, the lonesome Captain Jeremiah Wong Kincaid–still seeking his nemesis–the gangster and the nun, the fixer, and just possibly the long-missing Emperor Josich Conqueror Hadun, the most evil creature in the history of space. After a few mad adventures they all end up at the Well World, a very interesting place indeed, but one I have no intention of spoiling for you.

This book takes Chalker’s fondness of depictions of sexual torture to a new level. Whether that’s a new high or a new low depends on your point of view. But I was struck that one particular scene involving two women and a master crime lord at his remote fortress is basically a sado-masochistic fantasy. I’m convinced that if I took it, cut out some of the fluff, and posted it to alt.sex.stories or alt.torture, there would be horny freaks jerking off to it by the end of the day and messages back to the newsgroups telling me what a genius I am. Chalker may not personally be a sick guy, but he’s sure got a thing about sick stuff. If he keeps writing like this, bookstores will have to start stocking his work behind the counter in a plastic wrapper.

Chalker is rightly dinged for reusing the same plot devices over and over, and since this novel is set in the Well World universe, it will only provide more ammo for his critics. While I’d like to see a bit more variety myself, the fact is his books are more than just the same five things recycled. This one is shaping up to be a good mystery, and with Chalker one thing’s for sure – I won’t be able to guess how it will all turn out.

If you’re a Chalker fan, get it while it’s hot. His last book Priam’s Lens sold out in two months and Dey Rey let it go out of print. He’s apparently been in some long running feud with them, and soon they will be parting ways.

No familiarity with previous Well World novels is required. Note that this is book one of a two book sequence and does not work particularly well as a standalone.

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