In the first novel of the Majipoor series, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Valentine was aided in the labyrinth by Hissune, a clever and hard-working young street urchin. When Valentine was restored to his position as coronal, he elevated Hissune to a government job in the labyrinth. This was certainly a big step up for Hissune, but he soon discovers that government work is pretty dull. To alleviate the boredom, he talks his way into the Registry of Souls, the place where Majipoor’s residents have been placing some of their memories for thousands of years. Pretending that he’s doing some research for his archiving job, Hissune is able to call up and re-live the memories of ten Majipooreans. At first he starts off small, living as a young woman in a remote but developing area of the planet. When he doesn’t get caught, he gets bolder and bolder and eventually spends time living in the memory of Lord Valentine himself.
Thus, Majipoor Chronicles is a collection of short stories set in the world of Majipoor. The book is meant to be read after Lord Valentine’s Castle (which introduces Hissune), but it could also be read as a prequel or at any other place in the series. Each of these ten stories fills in some gaps in the story of Lord Valentine’s Castle, or gives us more details and insights about the imaginative world of Majipoor and its citizens and culture. But most importantly, they each have a life lesson for Hissune who, though he doesn’t know it yet, will succeed Valentine as coronal:
- “Thesme and the Ghayrog” — a young woman who feels ostracized because of her eccentric behaviors moves into the jungle and befriends an alien. A story about the Freudian defense mechanism of projection.
- “The Time of the Burning” — an army officer meets the legendary Lord Stiamot at a time when humans are taking the planet away from the native metamorphs. Explains how humans got control of the planet.
- “In the Fifth Year of the Voyage” — a chilling tale of adventure and failure. Gives us an appreciation for the immensity of the planet and the problems with its exploration.
- “Calintane Explains” — Calintane, a future coronal, explains to his girlfriend why he’s been too busy to see her lately. The amusing story (alluded to in Lord Valentine’s Castle) about the coronal who declared himself a woman and became the Lady of the Isle.
- “The Desert of Stolen Dreams” — as a way of punishing himself for a crime, Lord Dekkeret takes on an unpleasant job which involves crossing a desert and dealing with horrible dreams. Emphasizes the importance of dreams and gives us some background on a future coronal.
- “The Soul-Painter and the Shapeshifter” — an artist who’s tired of structured and sculpted beauty moves to the forest and meets a metamorph woman. Shows the interracial conflict between humans and metamorphs.
- “Crime and Punishment” — a businessman who has committed murder tries to evade the King of Dreams. Explains how secret crimes are punished through dreams and why murder rates are low on Majipoor.
- “Among the Dream Speakers” — Tisana (who helped Lord Valentine) faces her final test to become a dreamspeaker. Shows the training and practices of the dreamspeakers.
- “A Thief in Ni-moya” — a shopkeeper is told that she has inherited a mansion in Ni-moya. Explores the exciting city of Ni-moya, illustrates some of the practices of its nobility, and deals with the concepts of justice and balance.
- “Voriax and Valentine” — brothers Voriax and Valentine meet a witch who gives them the disturbing prophecy that they will both be coronal. Fills in details of this event, which was alluded to in Lord Valentine’s Castle, and gives us a glimpse of Valentine’s early manhood.
I listened to Blackstone Audio’s production of Majipoor Chronicles, which was read by an excellent cast of narrators (several who were new to me): J. Paul Boehmer, Cassandra Campbell, Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, Arte Johnson, Don Leslie, Scott Peterson, Stefan Rudnicki, and Mirron Willis. I can highly recommend this version. As with any collection, the stories vary in quality. My favorite stories were “In the Fifth Year of the Voyage” (intense), “Calintane Explains” (funny), and “A Thief in Ni-Moya” (satisfying). The only story that I didn’t like was “Among the Dream Speakers” — I thought it was dull.
Majipoor Chronicles gives even more texture to the beautiful and fascinating world of Majipoor while filling in a lot of details about characters and events alluded to in other Majipoor novels. For Majipoor fans, Majipoor Chronicles is a must-read. If you haven’t read Lord Valentine’s Castle, this is a good way to get your feet wet and to see if you want to explore more of Majipoor.