One is immediately immersered in this strange world and somewhat degenerate human society and then the story of a revolution quickly begins.
These people are the descendents of those who fled to this planet escaping from oppression to begin a new life. On this planet devoid of land the world over, only deep blue seas and sporadic floating pads of vegetation that they inhabit, they have revereted to a state of primitiveness, partly due to their lack of metals and other resources, but also due to the ease at which they may subsist on the floats, their thirst for knowledge has disappeared.
Their only problems are the sentient yet monsterous sea creatures that roam the seas helping themselves to the people's farmed food whenever they feel like it. Powerless to oppose them, one in particular makes the vicinity it's permanent residence, and grows large and powerful and becomes known as King Kragen.
I loved the way that they so venerated their ancestors for having the gumption to escape tyranny and leave for a new home while at the same time clinging so devoutly to the tyranny of the King Kragen.
This story is an allogory for every subjegated peoples ever. There will always be those who simply want a peaceful life, those who want freedom no matter what the cost and those who benefit from the subjegation, who's positions of power rely on the tyranny itself. A fascinating exploration of the moral dilemas laid bare when one strives for freedom. Does the end justify the means? Is it best to live on subjegated but in peace? How many lives are worth sacricing before the price of freedom is too high.
All done with Vance's usual eloquence and superb turn of phrase. Reading this has re-invogarated my enthusiasm for his writing. My only criticism is that perhaps it was just a trifle too short; it didn't develop enough upon the protagonist's relationships with his closest companions, nor explore the dreams of his beloved Meron to create a new centre of learning and reinvigorate the people's thirst for knowledge. But this is only minor criticism really, not enough to detract from my verdict that this is a five star classic.