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Literature / Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future

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Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future is a 1986 science fiction novel by Mike Resnick.

Exactly how far in the future we are never told but far enough that the galaxy is dominated by the Race of Man with two rowdy frontier regions; the Outer and the Inner. Our story takes place on the Inner (coreward) edge of Human expansion. Santiago is a myth, a legend, an outlaw king with twenty million credits on his head. Bounty hunter Sebastian Nightingale Cain, who dislikes his name, his profession and his life (not necessarily in that order) decides to go for the biggest bounty in known space. Along the way he meets many colorful people and the end isn't at all what he'd intended.

An important character, though he never makes a personal appearance, is 'Black Orpheus' the self appointed 'Bard of the Inner Frontier' whose some eight thousand lines of verse immortalize all the major and many of the minor characters, with forty given over to Santiago himself.

It has a sequel, The Return of Santiago, and was adapted as a Pathfinder adventure path.

Contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Human: Altair of Altair has chalk white skin, unnaturally blue eyes, and pointed ears. No one is sure whether she’s a human or some sort of Space Elf.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Altair of Altair is rumored to be either a mutant with telepathic powers or a witch who practices the dark arts. Her confrontation with Cain shows that she does have mind-influencing abilities, but whether these abilities are magic, Psychic Powers, or something else entirely isn't made clear.
  • Anti-Human Alliance: The Great Sioux Nation is a group of aliens from various species who have all suffered at the hands of humanity for one reason or another and have chosen to band together to work toward Man's downfall. They are willing to work with individual humans on occasion, but only if doing so would be detrimental to humanity as a whole.
  • Badass Preacher: Father William bounty hunts to support his work for the Lord.
  • Big Eater: Father William again. As he puts it: he preaches hard, he kills hard, and he eats hard.
  • Bounty Hunter: Cain (don't call him 'Songbird'!); the Angel; Altair of Altair; Father William and many others.
  • Bullying a Dragon: ManMountain Bates makes the mistake of antagonizing and attacking the Angel. It's the last mistake he ever makes.
  • Dark Action Girl: Altair of Altair.
  • Deadly Bath: While Virtue Mackenzie was out, Simple Simon broke into her apartment and rigged the showerhead to spray lasers at anyone standing under it when it's turned on. The Angel deduces what Simon did before the trap could kill Virtue, however, and forces Simon to commit suicide by triggering his own deathtrap.
  • The Dreaded: The Angel. Everyone who's heard of this legendary bounty hunter is terrified of him. Even ManMountain Bates, a violent brute with little instinct for self-preservation, balks when he realizes that the guy he's picking a fight with is the Angel, not that this convinces him to back down.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Cain has been saddled with the moniker of "The Songbird" thanks to Black Orpheus. It's a play on his middle name, Nightingale, and he's none too happy about it.
  • The Empire: The somewhat misnamed 'Democracy'.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Not as depressing as it sounds.
  • Fantastic Drug: Alphanella seeds.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Democracy is speciesist by policy. Non-humans return the hate.
  • Glamour Failure: Altair of Altair's unique method of killing fails on Cain.
  • The Government: "the Democracy isn't truly evil, or even especially corrupt." But it isn't much fun to live under either.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Just ask the Great Sioux Nation. For that matter ask Sebastian Cain or Santiago.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Schussler.
  • The Ingenue: Moonripple, who somehow manages to remain innocent and sweet dispite a lifetime as a barmaid in the stews of a hundred worlds.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Virtue MacKenzie, a free lance Going for the Big Scoop and a candidate for justifiable homicide.
  • Ironic Name: Virtue Mackenzie is a selfish, fame-hungry journalist who will betray, blackmail, and step over anyone in her single-minded quest to get the scoop on Santiago. In other words, she's about as far from virtuous as you can get.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: The Great Sioux Nation is an alliance of aliens who have adopted the trappings of various Native American cultures. They live in wigwams, they smoke the Peace Pipe, and their leader has even taken the name Sitting Bull for himself.
  • Legacy Immortality: You'll find out who.
  • Man in the Machine: Schussler used to be a normal human, but then he was mortally wounded in a spaceship crash. An alien species recovered what was left of his body and saved his life by converting him into the Wetware CPU of a bleeding-edge spacecraft. He is not grateful to his saviors.
  • Mathematician's Answer: The Angel is prone to these.
  • The Nicknamer: Black Orpheus has tagged every person in his poem with a nickname. Some don't mind (the Angel); others (Sebastian "Songbird" Cain; Virtue "Virgin Queen" MacKenzie) really wish he hadn't.
  • No Name Given: Black Orpheus's poem generally favours nicknames more than names, but the most impressive has to be Santiago. Because a "Ballad of the Inner Frontier" without Santiago is worse than inaccurate, but Orpheus had a rule about only writing up people he'd met personally, the forty verses dedicated to Santiago contain only "he", "him", "the King of the Outlaws" and so on.
  • Not Quite Dead: Everybody knows you can't kill Santiago.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: The only true cyborg encountered badly wants to die.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Cain killed an estimated five thousand people as a soldier of the Revolution.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The Inner Frontier consists of five hundred worlds and who knows how many billions of inhabitants yet everybody has heard of everybody else thanks to Black Orpheus. Cain goes the whole book without meeting a named character who isn't in 'that damn ballad'.
    • Possibly justified in that Cain is mostly visiting planets that Orpheus had been to.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: Schussler's condition deprives him of the five senses that humans take for granted. He can register sensory inputs like sights and sounds through his systems, but he can't actually feel these things. The first time he prepares a meal for Cain and the Strawman, he begs them to describe what the food tastes like so he can experience it vicariously. Is it any wonder that Schussler wants to die?
  • Shrouded in Myth: Santiago himself and, thanks to Black Orpheus, quite a number of other characters.
  • Space Western: Most of the planets are agrarian with shanty-style 'trade towns' and what with the bounty hunters, gamblers and whores the Inner Frontier looks a whole lot like the Old West.
  • The Stoic: Cain. The Angel is even worse, hovering oh so very slightly above The Sociopath.
  • Trap Master: Simple Simon is an assassin who kills people by devising sophisticated booby traps.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Black Orpheus is a musician who roams up and down the Inner Frontier, writing stanzas about the places he visits and the colorful characters that he meets on his travels. His epic ballad is half the reason the novel’s characters know each other by name and reputation.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Practically zero. Non-human species are treated like inconvenient vermin and Schussler the Cyborg is property.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: What everybody keeps telling Cain about the Angel.