Barbarians of the Beyond – Matthew Hughes

Barbarians of the Beyond

Barbarians of the Beyond


A drug-focused religious group has taken over a village devastated by a raid by slave takers. When the descendant of two such slaves returns to the village, she is seen with suspicion, and does indeed have an ulterior motive.


Matthew Hughes has made a niche for himself as a Jack Vance replacement. We might argue about whether there’s a need for such a replacement, but Hughes has provided one nonetheless. This book is not only in Vance’s style, but is an authorized step directly into Vance’s Gaean Reach. While the title would make you think this a sequel to Vance’s Vandals of the Void, in fact, it’s an accompaniment to his Demon Princes series (not a sequel, since the action is contemporaneous).

Vance is a difficult author to emulate, but Hughes does it fairly well. There aren’t quite the same flourishes of vocabulary or odd characters, but there are women as central characters and fewer of Vance’s snide asides (about vegetarians, for example).  Barbarians fits comfortably in the Demon Princes universe. I didn’t check for consistency, but my impression was that the details all line up. At times, that effort to cite occurrences from the original series gets a bit in the way of the story, but at others, it’s a pleasant reminder and signpost.

Vance aside, Barbarians stands pretty well as a book of its own. It’s brief and reads quickly, but it’s engaging and interesting throughout. The protagonist, Morwen, is generally credible, and it’s nice to see a self-willed woman at the center of a Vance story. Despite its brevity, the story peaks midway through, leaving what’s meant to be a third act feeling more like an epilogue, and the epilogue itself on the flat side. I felt the IPCC (the galactic police, in essence) got somewhat short shrift in the story, but it wasn’t a major concern.

I stand by my view that we don’t need more Vance stories written by anyone other than Jack Vance, but with that said, Barbarians is a quick, fun read.

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