The Palace of Love
First edition cover of The Palace of Love
|Cover artist||Richard M. Powers|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Killing Machine|
|Followed by||The Face|
Kirth Gersen is on Alphanor with Alusz Iphigenia Eperje-Tokay, a woman he had rescued in the previous novel of the series. It is plain that their short-lived relationship is nearing an end, as she cannot understand why Gersen, made extremely wealthy by his epic defrauding of Interchange, still feels the need to exterminate the remaining Demon Princes himself, instead of hiring others to do the job, but most of all, she cannot accept his cold and singleminded pursuit of vengeance.
Gersen notices a newspaper article announcing the forthcoming execution of a prominent Sarkoy venefice, Kakarsis Asm, not for selling poisons to the Demon Prince, Viole Falushe, but for violating a Guild-mandated pricing policy. He accordingly hastens to Sarkovy to pursue this lead.
There he learns from Kakarsis Asm (in exchange for bribing his way to a swift and painless execution) that Falushe visited Sarkovy, at the beginning of his criminal career many years before, with a shipload of slaves, two of whom he sold to Asm and whom he subsequently resold. While they are on Sarkovy, Gersen’s relationship with Alusz Iphigenia finally ends, though he ensures that she will want for nothing in the future.
After visiting his new financial advisor, Jehan Addels, to check how the program to invest the proceeds of his swindle is proceeding, Gersen locates a surviving slave, whom he buys and frees in exchange for further information concerning his enemy. He learns that Falushe was born Vogel Filschner, an Earth boy of disgusting appearance and habits who, to satisfy his obsession with a female classmate, Jheral Tinzy, had kidnapped the entire girls’ choral society at his school. Fortunately for Jheral, she had not attended choir practice that day.
Gersen follows the trail to “Rolingshaven” in the Netherlands, to the people who knew Filschner as a youth. The most direct link is the mad poet Navarth, who was Filschner’s mentor and who later enjoyed a brief relationship with Jheral; after the kidnapping, she had attracted a share of the blame for having teased Filschner and turned to Navarth for comfort. However, she was later abducted by Falushe. Navarth has custody of a young girl, variously known as Drusilla Wayles or “Zan Zu from Eridu,” who was given to him as a child by Falushe to nurture and protect. She resembles the young Jheral to a disturbing extent.
With the erratic assistance of Navarth, Gersen tries to engineer a meeting with Falushe. To this end, he buys the failing, but respected Cosmopolis magazine and authors a lurid article that paints the young Falushe in extremely unflattering terms. He is able, through Navarth, to contact Falushe by telephone and secures an invitation to Falushe's legendary Palace of Love in his guise as a reporter in return for writing a more flattering article.
He is transported to Falushe’s planet, where he sees that the Demon Prince has built an entire civilization acknowledging him as its supreme ruler. The inhabitants pay tribute to him, including their first-born children (the most beautiful going to staff the Palace). In the company of a party of invitees including Navarth, Gersen visits the Palace. Eventually, he discovers Falushe’s lifelong ambition: to create a copy of Jheral Tinzy who will be brainwashed into loving him. Navarth's Drusilla Wayles was bred parthenogenically from the original Jheral, and there are at least two others on the planet. Jheral herself had succeeded in committing suicide some years into the forced breeding program.
Gersen, guessing correctly that Viole Falushe is among the guests, intent on gaining Drusilla’s affections, narrows the possibilities down to three men and finally identifies his prey with the aid of a critical error by Falushe: he has an implanted telephone, which can be heard ringing when Navarth calls him. By this time, Gersen has rescued two Jheral copies and, along with Drusilla Wayles, they leave no doubt that they find Falushe repellent; the Demon Prince bitterly realizes that his life's work has been an abject failure. As Gersen is about to throw him out of an airboat hovering ten thousand feet above the sea, Falushe breaks his bonds, but loses his balance and falls to his doom.
Gersen frees the servants at the Palace, informs the planet’s inhabitants that they need pay taxes no more, and entrusts the various Drusillas to Navarth’s eccentric care. Some months later, he meets yet another, more mature Drusilla, plainly the oldest, and is about to read her some of Navarth’s poetry as the story closes.