N. Lee Wood,
Master of None
(Warner/Aspect, 2004)

The planet Vanar, no matter where it might be physically, is at the center of the galaxy, for Vanar controls all space travel through the interstellar Worms that link solar systems. And only Vanar's Pilots -- all female -- are capable of guiding ships into and out of the Worms. Closed to offworlders, Vanar is a strict, matriarchal society; men have few rights and no power. And yet, Nathan Crewe dares to land on the planet. Hoping to steal a few plant specimens to make secure his academic ambitions, he is, instead, betrayed and marooned on the planet's surface.

Once released from the sadistic care of the police, Nathan finds himself an outcast among outcasts, relegated to Vanar's lowest social caste. Fortunately for him, one of the planet's most powerful matriarchs takes an interest in him and adopts him into her family. Now with status, money, even a few rights, Nathan still finds the rules of Vanar's society confusing and restrictive. But when his new mother bequeaths her library to him, with the order to translate it into his native tongue, he begins to make a place for himself. And when he discovers the deep secret of Vanar's history, he begins to make changes that will effect all Vanar.

Master of None is an amazing novel. The society of Vanar is so vividly portrayed that one can smell the dust of the streets, see the colorful silks of the women and feel Nathan Crewe's confusion and frustration. It is thought-provoking while still being entertaining, a difficult balance to maintain. Long after finishing the novel, I continued to ponder the society, its history and its future.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 2 July 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.