The Land of Oz by Other Means__Taflak Lysanda__A Novel from L. Neil Smith

By L. Neil Smith

Imagine a world dozens of light-years from Earth covered from pole to pole with a single species of vegetation. At each of the poles it thins out so that bare ground can be seen. At the equator it’s six miles deep, and the nature of the surface below is a complete mystery.

green trees leaves wheat plants spikelets

That world is Majesty, and the vegetation is the galaxy-famous “Sea of Leaves”, home not only to an intelligent species of its own, the Taflak, but to groups of “First Wave” colonists from Earth, primitive, and forever at war with one another. In addition, many species are present from the current Galactic Confederacy, whose great ships, seven miles in diameter, ply the empty vastness between the stars.

Aboard one of those great ships, come 14-year-old Elsie Nahuatl and her father, G. Howell Nahuatl. Elsie, exceptionally bright and energetic, is mostly of Australian Aboriginal extraction, her genetic makeup _composed_ to order and she has, in that sense, about a dozen parents. The entity who ordered her “creation”, is a bit unusual, himself, being a coyote from Wyoming with electronically enhanced intelligence.

Elsie carries two pistols, on crossed belts. Howell has a lightweight mechanical arm, with its own pistol, folded up in a little backpack. It responds to commands from his brain implant. She and her father are on Majesty to wring out a brand new fusion-powered “subfoline” vehicle for LaPorte Paratronics, Ltd., designed to navigate beneath the Sea of Leaves and explore the unknown territory near the Equator. They are assisted in this by a local engineer, a sasquatch named Obregon Grossfuss, a quarter Yeti on his mother’s side.

As they test the subfoline, and explore the planet, they encounter the Taflak, trilaterally-symmetrical natives whose two-foot single eye lies straight through their bodies and can be seen from either side; its pupil wraps around a brain which floats in the center. They are magnificent spear-weilding warriors and have a highly complicated sense of humor. They travel by rapidly somersaulting from one leg to another and another, passing their spears from hand to hand as they go.

They clash with the matriarchal and militaristic Majestans, humans whose ancestors arrived on Majesty long ago (and named the planet), and, through many a cultural rise and fall, have managed this time to reach the technical level of England during the Napoleonic Wars.

Driven by slaves, eternally trudging along an endless moving track, Majestan ships are propelled by gigantic wooden screws which carry them along the surface. Mostly, the big ships fight with flamethrowers.

Securitasians, their eternal enemy, have either fallen lower or are growing slower. Also a slave society, they travel the Sea in what amounts to rowboats, linked by a flexible shaft and driving a smaller propeller than the Majestans’ ships. They, too, use flame throwers, but their real strength is in their enormous numbers and a stubborn unwillingness to exchange the familiar confines and comforts of slavery for the vastly more frightening prospect of individual liberty.

At last the subfoline falls into the subsurface realm of the “Self-Quelled People”, who may be the galaxy’s most idiotically and stubbornly egalitarian culture. Here, people strive to lose, because the winner of a race is considered the loser. No one wants to appear or to be better than the next random individual, and this has bred a people who are still back in the Stone Age and will always remain that way. Among the Self-Quelled, being a whiny loser has become a way of life.

Finally, the two subfoline testers run afoul of the mysterious Hooded Seven, seemingly omniscient masters of a galaxy-wide conspiracy.

Who are they?

What do they want?

Taflak LysandraElsie and Howell are accompanied in their adventures on Majesty by Grossfuss, who turns out to be a very different individual than he seemed, at first, and by Lieutenant Goldberry Macrame, a blonde and beautiful — but essentially clueless — survivor of a Majestan shipwreck.

What do the pair discover waiting fo them under the Sea of Leaves? Read _Taflak Lysanda_ — newly re-released by the good folk at Phoenix Pick.

Click through the _Enterprise_ to Amazon.com. Enjoy the subfoline ride, and see four yourself!

 

L. Neil Smith

L. Neil Smith

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Celebrated and award-winning author of over 30 books and countless shorter pieces, L. Neil Smith is available, at professional rates, to write articles and speeches for you or your organization, providing that our principles are compatible. Contact him at <[email protected]>.

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