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Literature / The Princes of the Air

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The Princes of the Air is a Space Opera novel by John M. Ford, featuring a trio of con men making a living and having adventures in a Feudal Future.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Body Double: Queen Rachel has several, of which at least one is an android and one is a male relative who has the same build and shares the distinctive family eye colour.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The protagonist signs up for a language course as a student to score some easy marks; much later, his proficiency in the language is one of the deciding factors in the climactic confrontation.
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  • The Con: A variety of cons are detailed over the course of the novel.
  • Con Man: The protagonist and his two best friends.
  • Family Eye Resemblance: One of the things marking a character as a minor member of the royal family is that he has the distinctive family eye color.
  • Feudal Future: The polity in which the novel is set is a group of solar systems ruled over by a queen; it turns out to be important to the plot, and not just set-dressing.
  • Human Subspecies: One of the planets visited by the protagonist is an ocean world with no dry landmasses, so the people who live there have been modified to be able to live underwater.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: The protagonists can't afford real flight training, so they learn to fly spacecraft by playing simulator games. They don't rely on the games alone, though; it's mentioned that they read up on what the games have left out and make a point when playing of practicing all the things that would be necessary in a real ship regardless of whether the simulation includes them.
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  • Longevity Treatment: One exists, limited to the rich and powerful. In one of the first cons the protagonists are shown carrying out, the bait for the mark is the promise of illicit access to the longevity treatment.
  • Starbucks Skin Scale: There's a scene where the protagonist and a woman he's interested in are having coffee together, and it's noted in passing that her skin tone matches the coffee-with-cream they're drinking.
  • Subspace or Hyperspace: The version featured in this novel has some unique features which form the basis for an exciting action sequence.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Queen Rachel turns out to be this.
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