As I mentioned recently, Lloyd Biggle Jr.‘s The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets is now enKindled, and I had a chance to re-read it this week after first reading it right around 40 years ago when I was in high school. I thought it held up pretty well all these years later, though it felt just a tad dated, perhaps.
The IPR Bureau (whose motto is “Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny”) works to bring newly discovered planets up to the point where they have a planetary democratic government and then induct them into the galactic federation. Unfortunately, the planet Furnil offers problems. The continent of Kurr has a well-entrenched monarchy, and the citizens seem little inclined to change. In fact, they immerse themselves in art rather than politics…and have been doing so for more than 400 years! So what’s a poor IPR agent to do…?
It’s not just language and style that differentiates it from today’s descendants, but its size, too. In a time when novel writers seem to be compelled to write books that are at a minimum 600 pages long with at least 3 different major plot lines and more important characters than a standard keyboard; it was like a breath of fresh air to read a novel that barely fills out 200 pages, has only one plot line, and does not require a scorecard to track all the characters. Not being a speed reader by any means, I was still able to finish it in three evening reading sessions (a sharp contrast to Pandora’s Star, which was the last book I read and about five times as long).
I think “Trumpets” made a bigger impression on me the first time I read it, as at that time it was possibly the first science fiction book I read that was not about rockets, robots, and technology; but was instead more centered on social sciences, so to speak. The only descriptions of any detail about hardware were the descriptions of musical instruments (acoustic, not electronic), architecture, and paintings. Sure, there is mention of interplanetary travel, at least one “ray gun” makes an appearance, and a stealth airplane of sorts plays a role: but mostly it’s just people and, eventually, trumpets (for which I have a soft spot). If a quick, somewhat retro read sounds like fun to you, then I highly recommend it; while if you really prefer long tomes with intricate plots and character interactions along with verbose descriptions of scenes and science, you might find it too terse and simplistic.