Book recommendation: Walter Jon Williams's Drake Maijstral Novels

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This isn't my ordinary type of science fiction but I was recently looking for something light to read and grabbed Walter Jon Williams's Rock Of Ages, the third in his Drake Maijstral, which I originally picked up for half price at the used book store. Williams has written a lot of straight SF, including the rather good Days of Atonement and Aristoi, but the Maijstral novels are something different, kind of a cross between science fiction, restoration comedy and a Donald Westlake caper novel.

The setting is that the human race has been conquered by some extremely stuffy humanoid aliens called the Khosali. The Khosali have reconstructed human society in their image with behavior mostly bound by "High Custom". Drake Maijstral, is an impoverished human aristocrat who takes up a life of crime of sorts, becoming an "Allowed Burglar", one of the odder pieces of High Custom. It seems a previous Khosali Emperor was a kleptomaniac and since the Emperor defines High Custom, the Khosali rationalized it by creating the institution of Allowed Burglary: Allowed Burglars are allowed to steal as long as they keep the loot in their possession for 24 hours after the theft and don't get caught within that 24 hour period. Because Allowed Burglars record their capers and broadcast them, Maijstral (together with his long-suffering manservant Roman [think Jeeves]) is a huge celebrity, with an admiring fan base and a video program based on his exploits.

One of the recurring elements in the novels is the complete distortion of Earth's history and culture resulting from centuries of Khosali domination. For instance:

Once in his suite, Maijstral settled his unease by watching a Western till it was time to dress. This one, The Long Night of Billy The Kid, was an old-fashioned trajedy featuring the legendary rivary between Billy and Elvis Presley for the affections of Katie Elder. Katie's Heart belonged to Billy, but despite her tearful pleadings Billy rode the outlaw trail; and finally, brokenhearted Katie left Billy to go on tour with Elvis as a backup singer, while Billy rode on to his long-foreshadowed death at the hands of Greenhorn inventor-turned lawman Nikola Tesla.

There are three Maijstral novels: The Crown Jewels, House of Shards, and Rock of Ages. Unfortunately, they all seem to be out of print, but you can get them used. Highly recommended.

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