Lords of the Triple Moons by Ardath Mayhar
Lords of the Triple Moons is written by Ardath Mayhar, a prolific author and poet from Texas. A blurb on the back of the book, written by none-other than the queen of modern sci-fi—Andre Norton—states that Ardath Mayhar’s work is something she reads over and over and finds great pleasure in. This piqued my interest.
Andre Norton herself is often listed as an inspiration--so who inspires the inspirer? I would like to know, and the stocky, bored-handsome young man on the cover and his oh-so sleek robotic bird looked like the perfect sort of campy, and I’d be lying if I denied that I kind of wanted the woman on the cover’s outfit.
Anyway, I bought Lords of the Triple Moons with few expectations other than a fun, quick romp. Despite being published in 1984—some years after pulp’s heyday—this is definitely a pulp novel.
The premise is straightforward: there are two races; one benevolent, wise, and old. The other is young, impulsive, and almost certainly human. A human, jealous of the power of the older-race, incites a coup and murders all of the old race except a young boy, whom he imprisons and plans to use to learn the secrets of the old race. This child promises revenge.
Since Mayhar is a poet, her command of the English language is masterful. The cadence of her sentences and paragraphs is smooth like butter. And despite the rather serious premise, her spectacular use of language allows room for a very natural feeling humor.
Regardless, though, I threw the book down in disappointment around page 34. Why, you ask? What Lords of the Triple Moons boasts in wordsmithing, it lacks in pacing and appropriate story-telling.
Between chapter two and chapter three, a decade passes. This massive leap in time is barely mentioned, which is confusing since both chapters take place in the same jail cell. I shrugged, and figured this was necessary to allow our child-protagonist to grow into our bored-yet-handsome young man protagonist.
Then he wakes up, free as a bird, on a mountain side. The sun shines on his face, the wind rustles his hair. How did he get there? Beats me; it happened between chapters. Even his plotting, his realization that he could maybe perhaps escape if he pulls his scheme off perfectly—even that happens between chapters.
How am I supposed to feel invested in this guy’s success when I never actually get to see him strive for anything?
Then he blows up some massive weaponry with a fancy arm-band, walks a bunch, and ends up deciding he needs to meet with the people still loyal to both him and his race: the plainsfolk. So he sets off.
And when we rejoin him—you guessed it!—the emotional reunion is over and he sits amongst the aftermath of the party, taking in the mess and the passed-out revelers, and considers the future.
What the hell? I am vaguely curious if this book has a climax or if that, too, exists in the gap between chapters, but I’ll never know. Sometimes I put a book down, almost disappointed that I can’t muster up the interest to keep going (The Wave and the Flame comes to mind), but this is not one of those times.
I wonder if this particular Ardath Mayhar book is a fluke, though, and I'm willing to give her another go. If you happen to be an Ardath Mayhar fan, would you care to suggest a novel for me that best showcases her style?
Cover art by Stephan Hickman