Home Reviews Shorts Search

Somtow Sucharitkul – Light on the SoundLight on the Sound is the first book in Somtow Sucharitkul's acclaimed 'Inquestor' Trilogy (which runs to 4 books. See Douglas Adams for another example of counting series...).
The book is, like the entire story arc, epic in scope, poetic in execution and tone, and generally rather a standalone (and standout) amongst all the books I've read so far.

The story plays of on the world of Gallendys, where the boy Kelver lives in the shadow of the Skywall – actually one side of a crater 100k (klomets, in the book) high, and thousands wide. Inside it live, we learn, an ancient, pre-human race of flying beings called 'Delphinoids' by the Inquest who rules the human dispersal. Also inside the skywall exist tribes of engineered humans – deaf and blind, so they don't have to see and hear the lightsongs of the Delphinoids which they call Windbringer.

The Delphinoids don't see into our reality – the see the Overcosmos, and, if muted, mutilated, and soldiered into a spaceship, can pull it through the Overcosmos to anywhere the Inquest wishes. So they need to be hunted, flash-frozen, and delivered to the shipyards – but no human who has seen and heard them sing can do so; thus the specially bred race to do the dirty deeds.
To this race the girl Darktouch is born – a throwback, who can see & hear. And, by chance, before the initiation ritual where she would have lost these senses she sees the lightsongs, which compels her to flee and escape the Skywall – which leads to her meeting Kelver in the process.

The setting is rather unusual – the Inquest itself is steering humanity towards its future, helping it to avoid the pitfalls along the way. They do this by following the great compassion – meaning that the greater good justifies any amount of 'small' pain to the individual, individual civilization, planet etc. “The breaking of joy is the beginning of wisdom”. Inquestors travel the Overcosm in Delphinoid ships, playing the game of Makrugh (the stake is usually a planet, to be blown to dust at the end). Compassion maybe, and maybe not. Misguided, and self-elevated hubris, definitely.

The tribe of the 'Children of Darkness' is fascinating, very well researched and worked out, and highly interesting in terms of language used to describe it – especially for the way Darktouch discovers her new, and unheard of senses she (or her tribe) has no words for: “first came the undark. Warm to the touch, warming her eyes. Next textures of warmths, new scents of undark played with her eyes.”

If you're into SF beyond giant space ships, battles, and bug-eyed monsters then I can greatly recommend this cycle of books (as well as Sucharitkul's other books, like 'Starship and Haiku'). A very special treat indeed.

Title: Light on the Sound
Series: Inquestor
Series Number: “First in Trilogy”, according to cover. First in 4 books, actually.
Author: Somtow Sucharitkul
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Timescape/Pocket SF
Publication Date: 1982
Review Date: 091109
ISBN: 0671440284
Pages: 255
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Space Opera


More Somtow Sucharitkul


Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives


Sydney Padua - The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage


Doris Lessing – The Sirian Experiments


Ken MacLeod - Cosmonaut Keep


Tricia Sullivan – Occupy Me


Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains

Andy Weir - The Martian


Liz Williams - Empire of Bones


Peter Watts - Blindsight


Doris Lessing - Shikasta


Somtow Sucharitul – Starship & Haiku


Iain Sinclair - Radon Daughters


Peter Watts – Maelstrom


S.P. Somtow – I Wake from a Dream of a Drowned Star City


Lavie Tidhar - Central Station, Powered by Mambo!; free resources by SiteGround