Striving. Amnesia. Revenge. A Secret Past. Clam Muffins.
Night Lamp, by Jack Vance, is a space opera, with a dusting of mystery and satire. According to Worlds Without End, the novel is listed in the book Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985–2010.
Briefly, two visiting scholars, a married couple, rescue Jaro, a six-year-old boy who is about to be beaten to death by a gang of boys. The doctors who treat Jaro discover that he has recently sustained an emotional trauma so severe that it threatens his life. Their treatment essentially erases his earlier memories. The couple adopts Jaro and takes him back to their home planet, where the culture is focused on social striving. Jaro dreams of becoming a spaceman so he can find out about his past. His well-meaning adopted parents try to keep it a secret from him until he finishes his education. When they are tragically killed, he is left to uncover the mystery for himself. Where did Jaro’s adopted parents find him? What happened in the first six years of his life? Who is the mysterious man in his memories? What is the voice in Jaro’s head?
Night Lamp was not my cup of tea. The characters were likeable enough. The plot was interesting enough and had a number of interesting twists. The world view was fresh. But, I never totally resonated with the novel. I never became fully involved in the plot and wasn’t always sure what was meant to be funny and what was meant to be serious.