translated by Tyran Grillo
June 20, 2017
“Stratagem” fits this fourth installment in the Legend of the Galactic Heroes series perfectly. After all, it’s what this particular chapter in the everlasting conflict between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance is all about. How can the GE trick the FPA into thinking that they’ll try to attack Iserlohn fortress again, when they’re really going to use the Phezzan corridor (an unprecedented measure)? How can FPA admiral Yang, who foresees this, forestall it, if that’s even possible? And who’s really in control of Phezzan- Rubinsky? His estranged son? Commissioner Boltec (since he’s all tied up in this shady deal with Reinhard von Lohengramm, leader of the GE)?
But let’s step back a minute. Volume 4 opens with a plan by exiled GE nobles to kidnap the seven-year-old emperor and flee to the Free Planets Alliance. There, they plan to ask for asylum, whereupon, if the FPA grants this, Reinhard will declare official war against them and, once and for all, crush the rebels who have been flouting the GE’s authority for a couple of centuries. Phezzan, the planet that is built on trade and commerce, had, up until now, remained staunchly neutral, profitably playing off one side against the other. This time, though, things are different. Reinhard sees himself as just a step away from galactic domination, and he’s finally ready to throw caution to the winds and work with Phezzanese traitors to invade the neutral planet and then use its trading corridor to launch a surprise attack against all FPA planets.
Thing is, Admiral Yang foresaw this, but because of the schism in the FPA between the military and civilian authorities, and what Yang sees (rightly) as the political, moral, and social deterioration of what was once a respectable government based on democratic principles, he doesn’t know what he can do to stop the invasion. Luckily or not, his ward and assistant, Julian, has been sent to Phezzan as resident military attaché, and you know he’s going to stir up some trouble for the invading GE army…
Unlike Volume 3, this book wasn’t as heavy on the space battles; instead, it focused on the ways in which human beings engage in figurative jousting matches with their wits and instincts. And, as always, Tanaka inserts beautiful images into this seething mass of human emotions and struggles: for instance,
the planet of Phezzan took shape as a delicate blue orb and was a sight for sore eyes. In the space behind them, silver particles of light danced boisterously against a black backdrop, while the planet in the foreground appeared for all like a piece of music visualized in all its variations of light and darkness. From within its fluctuations of intensity, etudes of tones and wavelengths spun outward. (152-3)
Power, love, loyalty, treason, and unbounded ambition are at the heart of Stratagem, setting the stage for what will prove to be an intense Volume 5: Mobilization. Tyran Grillo’s meticulous, smooth translation made this volume a pleasure to read, and I expect nothing less for the next one.
I assume you’re going straight from this review to purchase Volume 4, yes? Good- carry on, then.
*Read my reviews of Volumes 1, 2, and 3, as well as Charles Tan’s series overview.