The last of my onhand Charles L. Harness material though I might have a review of his last novel coming up after I finish it.
Raw Feed (1991): The Venetian Court, Charles L. Harness, 1982.
I read this novel on the presumption, since its hero was Quentin Thomas, that it was of the same series as Harness’ Lunar Justice (whose hero is also a Quentin Thomas). However, I don’t think these novels are part of the same series. There are too many inconsistencies. Lunar Justice involves a seemingly young Quentin Thomas circa 2073; The Venetian Court has a middle-aged Quentin Thomas circa 2013. Lunar Justice‘s Thomas has psi-powers that allow him to manipulate matter at a sub-atomic level and a headful of microchips; The Venetian Court‘s Thomas has neither of those things. Lunar Justice involves off-planet colonization and references to a Federation. The Venetian Court has neither. However, The Venetian Court‘s Thomas does briefly allude to two failed marriages or, at least, romances.
This novel is another Harness story of a man and woman (here not romantically linked until possibly the end) struggling against official tyranny, here embodied by Judge Rex “Spider” Speyer. Harness throws in an Oedepial complex for Speyer’s bloodlust, fascination with spiders, and desire to kill women legally in his court. (Harness more extensively used Freudian ideas in his Lurid Dreams.) Speyer is a wonderfully black character.
This story is a slight modification of Harness’ usual plot. Thomas pulls all his best shots to free Ellen Welles from Speyer who must kill her to recharge his psychic batteries. But all comes to naught. As usual, Harness lays out, well in advance, his hero’s plan of action. It’s a question of timing whether his plan works. He is waiting for the Supreme Court ruling which will rule the Patent Statute of 2002, with its death penalty for patent infringement, unconstitutional. (Harness tells where he got the title from by having Quentin Thomas alluding to the Venetian penalty for patent infringement — more like violation of monopolistic trading rights back then: drinking poison). The inventing computer Faust shows up at the end with all sorts of deus ex machina (although Harness foreshadowed this) powers like telekinetic transmutation of chemicals and power over time and space. Faust provides the element of vague doom so common in Harness’ works by predicting the poisoning death of someone in the courtroom. This is a rather melancholy novel with its fixation on death, tyranny, and high justices of the Supreme Court behaving non-judiciously. The symphony of fate weaves through this novel. (Harness seems very fond of music, and this novel, with it’s permutations on the theme of fate, seems structured like a symphony.). Speyer is killed by his own pet spider who also kills the corrupt opposing counsel to Thomas and General Products CEO. Like the Thomas of Lunar Justice, this Thomas must ask himself if he’s willing to kill his legal opponents (counsel and judge) to win. He unpleasantly realizes he very well may want that. Faust is wonderfully ironic when he says he, after killing Speyer and the lawyers, he did it for Thomas and that he gave everyone — even his victims — what they wanted.
Not up to Lurid Dreams or The Paradox Men but a good yarn.