It’s been a weird week. I apologize if you have missed me this week. If you haven’t missed me, the phooy on you…
I can’t remember where or when I first picked up the book, but I do know it was during my time in the Marines. During that time, it was normal to read books a couple times because the exchanges book selections weren’t always all that good. Sometimes you ended up picking up books that you wouldn’t normally read because you needed something. Basically, you had to learn to read all manner of stories because it was what you had available. To clarify, I am talking about the book The Guardsman (Pageant Books 1988) by P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton.
I read it a couple times when I had it then and then I completely lost track of my original copy. A few of the moments within the story have stuck with me after all this time but the title and authors have always been an issue. See, the main character is a lion-man, an alien race called Nideans. I always pictured them as the Kzinti (a cat-like race I knew from Star Fleet Battles, and some other books). But that was never right. To make the thoughts more convoluted in figuring out the different things about the book, the setting is almost feudal Japanese, though it takes place in a space faring culture. The emperor controls many worlds and what not.
So, long story short before I get into some other thoughts about this one. I could never remember the name, but I had enough information about the story that someone else might be able to figure it all out. If you have ever worked retail or anything like it, you know the customer. It’s that person who comes in and says they are looking for something and all they can give you is it is blue. And somehow, they think you can piece together exactly what it is they are looking for. Yeah, that’s kinda how it goes…
Granted I am a big fan of technology and the ability we now have to communicate to others with similar tastes and such across great distances. This one took a description to a group of science fiction and fantasy fans to get some ideas of what I was looking for. Anyway, I ended up finding the book again. Turns out there isn’t an ebook for it. As much as I love the online used book market for the ability to find books of years ago, I find more and more that physical books are a pita for everyday use. I prefer the convenience of carrying just a phone around with the kindle app on it. Gotta love the ability to go from any other device and pick up where you left off. But I digress…
Anyway, the book is about galactic rebellion against a corrupt ruler. More specifically, it is about a single soldier’s struggle against corruption. Where does his loyalty and honor lie, to the emperor or the empire? Of course, the story is so much more than that, but in the end that is what it boils down to.
And it is the flavorings within this story that make it so much more than it would seem. The backdrop, the characters, pretty much everything is connected in some way to samurai culture and it is all cemented in our minds when we find that the seat of imperial power is actually on Earth in Japan. You would think it would feel overplayed with all of that, but it all fits together. Even the Nideans, the only race to never be conquered by the empire. Through treaties they had taken the role of guardsman and soldiers, most often as being specifically honor guards to the royal family.
The funny thing is, yeah, I knew all this the first few times I had read the book. But it didn’t stick out as much as it does now. If you haven’t figured it out yet, what we see and interpret with what we read and such changes as we change. As I read through the book, I saw all the thoughts and characters that had been touched by it in my life after those initial readings.
The Nidean race follows similar patterns to the Klingons from Star Trek for me, a warrior race that is governed by a strong sense of honor. A good portion of that honor comes from their family and clan. Some of my favorite gaming characters fell into that aspect. Even now, some of my favorite characters from stories still fall within those ideals. Worf remains one of my favorite Star Trek characters.
There are so many emotional touchstones within the story and moments to connect to the larger world both personal and within the realm of story as we have built it through generations of storytellers. At times I am vaguely reminded of the story Shogun (James Clavell, Atheneum 1975). Though they are different experiences, the undercurrent remains of an outsider in a Japanese court caught in political intrigue.
And that really is the main bits of this. It is a journey I know while at the same time, it has been long enough that while I reminisce with older memories, there are enough new discoveries to keep it fresh. Basically, I guess where I am going with this is, if you happen to run across it, take a chance with it. You might find something you never expected.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.