In which Trealla Fantrol gets a new butler.
This is another story where I wonder how it comes over to a reader who hadn’t read any of the later-set novels featuring yos’Galan’s robot butler, and who therefore didn’t know where it was going from the moment Roderick Spode appeared. (I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of Roderick Spode. The story gives us no cause to suppose that that wasn’t actually his name, but it seems like a bit of a tidy coincidence if it was.)
Incidentally, I notice Jeeves is not the only inhabitant of Trealla Fantrol mentioned here with a name from a Terran story: the cat Merlin, mentioned as an earlier beneficiary of Val Con’s hunches, is another. Presumably that means he’s a more recent arrival than Anne.
It’s interesting that Val Con’s sense for a person in danger responds just as much to a machine person as to a living creature, but it cuts in both directions. There’s the obvious implication that the retired unit is a real person despite being composed of wires and code. But there’s a complication introduced in the fact that he was sending out a distress signal at the time Val Con got his hunch: assuming for the sake of discussion that it’s not just a coincidence, the idea that the distress signal might have actually been what triggered the hunch suggests that on some level technological signals and psychic communication might be the same thing. And after some of the sufficiently-advanced-technology shenanigans that went on the prequel duology, I definitely suspect the authors of doing this deliberately.
This is one of the stories that doesn’t have a definite position in the chronological order. Shan is not yet 20 Standard Years old, which is about the most solid indicator in the story. It’s set approximately around the same time as “Heirloom”, and I take it to be somewhat after, since there’s mention of Nova serving an apprenticeship with Luken and she didn’t seem in “Heirloom” to have had much previous involvement with Luken’s trade.
Tomorrow: “A Matter of Dreams”