A six-year boy is found nearly beaten to death and, in order to save his life, a portion of his memory is erased. He recovers and is adopted and becomes Jaro Fath, an outcast youth on the socially stratified planet Thanet. As Jaro gets older, his desire to find out about his past intensifies until he can resist the call of space no longer! Will he be able to unlock the mysteries of his past?
First off, I have to say I've discovered an advantage of reading using a digital book rather than an analogue one: no back cover flap to blow half the plot twists. Yeah, the flap revealed things that happened 60% of the way through the book. Bastards.
Night Lamp is a likeable read but it's not up to the standards of the Dying Earth books. While Vance creates some interesting cultures and creatures in the Gaean reach in this volume and the standard Vance formal dialogue is there, the sense of wonder is diluted with a sense of tedium. While Jaro is curious about his past, he only leaves Thanet 75% of the way through the novel. The first 75% is Jaro going to school and dealing with all the cliques while trying to become a spacemen despite what the Faths want. 75%. And when he finally figures out who was behind the death of his mother, there's a showdown, only it's in a courtroom. It reminded me of that Simpsons episode where Bart and Lisa watched a parody of the Phantom Menace that was all in the senate halls on Coruscant. The bit with Jaro's dead twin brother was fairly predictable. In fiction, how often does one twin actually die and not come back later in some capacity?
Night Lamp isn't a bad read, it just isn't up to the standard set by his earlier books.