The Palace of Love

The Palace of Love (1967) is a science fiction novel by American writer Jack Vance, the third in his Demon Princes series. It is about a wealthy man, Kirth Gersen, who is obsessed with seeking vengeance on the remaining Demon Princes who killed his family many years ago. To get access to the elusive and secretive Viole Falushe, one of the Demon Princes, Gersen poses as a journalist and wrangles a rare invitation to Falushe's hedonistic Palace of Love.

The Palace of Love
First edition cover of The Palace of Love
AuthorJack Vance
Cover artistRichard M. Powers
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesDemon Princes
GenreScience fiction
PublisherBerkley Books
Publication date
1967
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages176
Preceded byThe Killing Machine 
Followed byThe Face 

Plot summary

Kirth Gersen is on Alphanor with Alusz Iphigenia Eperje-Tokay, a woman he had rescued in the previous novel of the series. It is plain that their short-lived relationship is nearing an end, as she cannot understand why Gersen, made extremely wealthy by his epic defrauding of Interchange, still feels the need to exterminate the remaining Demon Princes who killed his family himself, instead of hiring assassins. Most of all, she cannot accept his cold and obsessive pursuit of vengeance.

Gersen notices a newspaper article announcing the forthcoming execution of a prominent Sarkoy venefice (poison maker), Kakarsis Asm, not for selling poisons to the Demon Prince, Viole Falushe, but for selling below a Guild-mandated price floor. He accordingly hastens to Sarkovy, a planet famous for its poisons, to meet Asm before it is too late. Gersen seeks a potent poison that could kill Falushe.

There he learns from Kakarsis Asm (in exchange for bribing his way to a swift and painless execution) that Falushe visited Sarkovy, at the beginning of his criminal career many years before, with a shipload of slaves, two female slaves of whom he sold to Asm and whom Asm subsequently resold. While they are on Sarkovy, Gersen's relationship with Alusz Iphigenia finally ends, though he ensures that she will be financially supported.

After visiting his new financial advisor, the brilliant economist Jehan Addels, to check how the program to invest the proceeds of his swindle is proceeding, Gersen locates a surviving slave, whom he buys and frees in exchange for further information concerning his enemy. He learns that Falushe was born Vogel Filschner, an Earth boy of disgusting appearance and habits who, to satisfy his obsession with a female classmate, Jheral Tinzy, had kidnapped the entire girls’ choral society at his school. But Jheral had not attended choir practice that day.

Gersen follows the trail to “Rolingshaven” in the Netherlands, to the people who knew Filschner as a youth. The most direct link is the mad poet Navarth, a flamboyant genius ywho was Filschner's mentor and who later enjoyed a brief relationship with Jheral. After the kidnapping, she had attracted a share of the blame for having teased and flirted with Filschner and turned to Navarth for comfort. However, she was later abducted by Falushe. Navarth has custody of an 18-year-old girl, variously known as Drusilla Wayles or “Zan Zu from Eridu,” who was given to him as a child by Falushe to nurture and protect. She resembles the young Jheral to a disturbing extent.

With the erratic assistance of Navarth, Gersen tries to engineer a meeting with Falushe. To this end, he buys the failing, but respected Cosmopolis magazine, appoints himself as a journalist, and authors a lurid article that paints the young Falushe in extremely unflattering terms. He is able, through Navarth, to contact Falushe by telephone and secures an invitation to Falushe's legendary Palace of Love, a hedonistic playground, in his guise as a reporter in return for writing a more flattering article.

He is transported to Falushe's planet, where he sees that the Demon Prince has built an entire civilization acknowledging him as its supreme ruler. The female inhabitants pay "tax" to him by working in state brothels and by giving their first-born children to him (the most beautiful going to staff the Palace, the others sold as slaves). In the company of a party of invitees including Navarth, Gersen visits the luxurious Palace. Eventually, he discovers Falushe's lifelong ambition: to create a copy of Jheral Tinzy who will be brainwashed into loving him. Navarth's Drusilla Wayles was bred parthenogenically from the original Jheral, and there are at least two others on the planet. Jheral herself died by suicide some years into the forced breeding program.

Gersen, guessing correctly that Viole Falushe is among the guests in disguise, so that Viole can try to win Drusilla's affections, narrows the possibilities down to three men and finally identifies his prey with the aid of a critical error by Falushe: he has an implanted in-ear telephone, which can be heard quietly ringing when Navarth calls him. By this time, Gersen has rescued two women eho are imprisoned as Jheral copies and, along with Drusilla Wayles, they leave no doubt that they find Falushe repellent. The Demon Prince bitterly realizes that his life's work has been an abject failure. As Gersen is about to throw him out of an airboat hovering ten thousand feet above the sea, Falushe breaks his bonds, but loses his balance and falls to his doom.

Gersen frees the enlaved servants at the Palace, informs the planet's inhabitants that they need pay "taxes" no more, and entrusts the various Drusillas to Navarth's eccentric care. Some months later, he happens to meet yet another, more mature Drusilla, plainly the oldest, and is about to read her some of Navarth's poetry as the story closes.

References

  • Underwood, Tim; Chuck Miller (1980). Jack Vance. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company. p. 229. ISBN 0-8008-4295-2.
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