Every time I read a Barrington Bayley novel I am more astounded. While serving up the most thrilling of Space Opera, Bayley never swerves from exploring the world of ideas with rigor and honesty.
In this case Bayley begins with the old saw that clothes make the man and develops it into an exploration of the role of external image in creating one’s internal identity.
A tailor named Peder Forbarth joins a group of gangsters in salvaging a wrecked spaceship. Part of the loot is a suit of Prossim, a special fabric that creates a unique psychic bond with its wearer. The question is open as to whether the man wears the suit of the suit the man. Forbarth’s new togs involve him in the galactic rivalry of Ziode—a culture indifferent to sartorial elegance—and Caean where fashion is the drug of choice.
Meanwhile a scientific expedition has discovered two rival cultures. Both live in the airless space between planets. A group of Soviets have encapsulated themselves in robot “bodies” while their Japanese rivals are deep-space yakuza pirates flying naked between the stars.
The novel takes a wild ride through the world of spies, conspirators, prison breaks, and galactic intrigue to get to the secret of Caean and Prossim. It’s a wild ride indeed.