I read this book about 1-May-2008. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2008. This note was last modified Sunday, 11-May-2008 08:36:22 PDT.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
Read via an offer on the author's web page of an electronic copy to anybody who agreed to "review, blog, post or otherwise harass the world about it". Since I was not asked to restrict my remarks to the favorable, I don't find that deal objectionable. And James Nicoll said "I find it tremendously annoying that Hughes is not better known than he is." While I know my tastes don't entirely match with James', that still acted as encouragement.
There is a plan of James' to get as many people as possible to release their reviews on 11-May-2008, and I am participating in that.
So here we are.
And, in the end, I've read a book I enjoyed a lot.
As of 5/11/2008, the book doesn't seem to appear on Amazon, but it can be ordered through the publisher.
This book is set in the Archonate, a universe Hughes has apparently used before. He describes this novel as "stand-alone", and I, who have never read an Archonate novel previously, thought it stood alone quite well.
The main character is a house player in the gaming industry on a somewhat backwater planet. (He plays both strictly mental games, and very physical ones, meaning that he's essentially a professional duelist.)
He's quickly catapulted out of that by attempts on his life and the murder of his boss, and by inheriting considerable wealth from a man who had seemed to be a poor but regular client, and sent back to Old Earth to figure out his heritage.
There are lovely sketches of a number of human splinter cultures, starting with his own which is economic libertarianism, based on "the transaction" as the important human interaction. And it's not simple-mindedly or particularly heavy-handedly either pro or anti libertarianism, I think I have to say in the current political climate. He starts learning about the range of human cultures a bit, and starts to form some tentative relationships with other human beings, and sees through some of their blind spots before he starts to acknowledge any of his own.
Another character he meets puts forward the theory that all human cultures are based on some one of the seven deadly sins. (The fact that, in this book, it does seem to be exactly one is one of the reasons I consider them "splinter cultures", in the Childe Cycle sense.) This doesn't become the overriding theme of the book, but is used now and then to analyze what's going on.
His origin and his relationship with the strange client and with the people from Earth are eventually pretty thoroughly resolved. Some of his new relationships are not left in any clear state (they're new, after all; and he's still learning to be a person). And what he's going to do with the rest of his life is pretty much open.
What this reminded me of more than anything else was a good Jack Vance novel. There was even a sport that played an important social role in one sub-culture he spent considerable time in.