Eschbach, now one of Germany’s leading SF lights, debuts in English with a novel that unfolds as a series of interlocking stories in which certain characters recur.
On Planet G-101/2 in the Gheera galaxy, reverence for and fear of the immortal Emperor Alexander is drilled into all citizens as children. The planet’s entire economy is organized around skilled artisans who knot carpets made from their wives’ hair. So intricate is the work that a carpet-maker can complete only one carpet during his lifetime. He then sells the carpet, earning enough money for his son to live on while he completes his own carpet. Carpet-makers take several wives, each chosen for the beauty and color of her hair. Since a carpet-maker can have only one heir, he is obliged to kill any surplus male children. Traders take the carpets to the spaceport, where they are loaded aboard Imperial ships and conveyed to the Emperor’s palace. So it has been for tens of thousands of years. Recently, however, rumors whisper that the Emperor is dead and the empire is no more. On Central World, meanwhile, Jubad and his Council of Rebels explore the imperial archives in increasing disbelief. The Star Palace contains no hair carpets, yet, rather than one planet producing them, there are more than ten thousand! More incredibly yet, all the carpets are shipped to a planet that no longer appears on any imperial star chart and cannot be located in space!
That such a magnum opus has been allowed to languish in the shadows for ten years (it first appeared in 1995) is damning evidence of how parochial SF publishing can be. Even more astounding, it was Eschbach’s debut.