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Inquestor Series

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Chronicles of the High Inquest is a series of science fiction short stories and novels written by S. P. Somtow (Somtow Sucharitkul). The series was started as short stories first published in 1979, then collected and expanded into 4 novels in the 1980's. The author returned to series much later to add a fifth novel in 2020. The stories cover a galaxy spanning empire that is ruled by "Inquestors", a ruling class with access to freedom of travel and information such that they are able to control all worlds.

Books in the series[edit]

Light on the Sound[1][edit]

Book One: Out of the Dark Country:[edit]

The book starts with a description of the Overcosm, a reality above space, where travel between stars would be possible if only it could be perceived. Mankind had traveled between stars using long sleeps, and had come to a world they called Gallendys. On this planet there was a mountain that rose up out of the atmosphere, and inside it was hollow. It contained an enormous bubble of dense atmosphere where huge creatures flew that were mostly brains. In this area devoid of light, cut off from the rest of the universe, the creatures perceived the Overcosm directly. And there in the darkness these creatures sang, creating songs of light and sound. When people heard these songs they knew the creatures that made them were beautiful and could not be harmed. But the early Inquest called the creatures Delphinoids, and knew they could be used to create starships that could travel between stars without the long sleeps. They created a society of humans that were deaf and blind to hunt the Delphnoids inside the mountain and machines to process their brains. This has existed for 20,000 years when the story begins.

The story starts with a young girl of the blind and deaf community within the mountain. She is coming of age, and about to become an adult in the culture, but she is a genetic throwback, and she can see and hear, although she does not know what this means. Outside the mountain there is a community that exists to support the blind hunters inside, that grows and ships food into the mountain, although there is no contact. In this small village there is a young boy named Kelver that is coming of age, and he sees black bubbles come from the sky one day.

These are tachyon bubbles used by Inquestors to travel instantly through the galaxy, and a new Inquestor is coming to be king of this world. His name is Davaryush, an Inquestor and utopia hunter. The Inquest hunts the galaxy for utopias, which they then kill, to keep the galactic empire moving forward and developing. He had successfully hunted 12 utopias, but then came to the world Shtoma, where he failed to end the utopia. As a punishment, he has been sent to become king of this world, trapping him there. He is met by the assistant to the king, Lady Varuneh, and he undergoes the ceremony for kingship. After the ceremony he is invited to a meeting under the capitol city, where he meets Lady Veruneh and many others. It turns out she is the Grand Inquestor Ton Varushkadan, an old and infamous Inquestor that created wars and destruction for pleasure. But she tells Davaryush that she also has seen the utopia Shtoma and no longer believes in the Inquest, and wants his help to stop the empire.

In the mountain the young girl goes through the coming of age ceremony, and so doing she sees light in the mountain, and runs from the ceremony to find her father to know what it is. In seeing the light, she names herself Darktouch, since she can touch things with her eyes, without touching with her hands. Her father takes her on a hunt for the Delphinoids to keep her safe, and there she sees the light and sound produced by their songs, and she knows she must escape the mountain to tell people about this. She escapes the mountain using her sight to evade the machines that run the place, and reaches the outer world. At the same time the boy Kelver was hiding from people in the community at the edge of the mountain in the caves there. In the back of these caves he finds the girl Darktouch, and takes her home.

Book 2: Out of the Burning Wasteland

Kelver takes Darktouch home, and there they learn each other's language. She learns enough to tell him that she wants to be taken back to where he found her, to see where she came from. He takes her back to the mountain, and the caves, back to the hidden door to the dark country. She realizes she can't return, and she needs to move on, and get to the Inquestors, to tell them what she saw. They leave the caves, to find that Kelver's village has been destroyed. The planetary system destroyed everything to try and kill them.

In the capital city Davaryush has called a gathering of Inquestors to celebrate becoming King. They will meet, listen to new music composed for the event, and play the game of Makrugh – the game of power and politics that controls the wars of the empire. He and Varuneh have created a plan that they would create a gambit in the game to destroy the planet Gallendys, and then the delphoids with it, ending star travel, and the empire. They knew no one would believe the gambit was real, but hoped they could get the weapons needed to do it, and then before anyone could realize it was real, actually destroy the world. Davaryush had invited an old inquestor friend of his, the Lady Ynyoldeh, who now had control of the Inquest's weapons needed for his gambit.

At the mountain, Kelver and Darktouch search the destroyed village for any survivors, and find no one. They realize they need to travel across the desert to the capitol city, to try and talk with the Inquestors there. They quickly get lost in the desert, and are captured by the people that live there. They are primitive hunter-gatherers who intend to eat the couple for food. But they have a queen that wishes to talk with them first. The queen is an Inquestor agent that went into the mountain years ago, and saw the songs of the delphinoids, and was driven mad by them. She is now hiding in the wastelands of the deserts, not able to return to the Inquest with what she knows. She gives the couple a key to the cryogenic rivers that deliver the delphinoid minds to the capitol, and allow them to escape. They flee the desert people, and are able to make it to a river, just as a delpinoid mind is flowing past. They use the key to open the river, and are able to ride the mind to the capitol city.

In the capital Davaryush is able to use what he knows of Ynyoldeh to shame her into a private meeting. Talking with her is able to convince her that it just doesn't matter one way or another to give him the weapons needed to destroy the planet, and she agrees that she just doesn't care any more one way or the other, he can have his gambit in the game. He returns to Varuneh, and they plan to destroy the planet and leave on waiting ships. But he gets news that a young couple has come out of the desert on the mind of a delphinoid, and they wish to talk with an inquestor. Davaryush tells Varuneh that their plan must wait, as an inquestor they have to face everything in their decisions over humanity, he will see the youngsters. They meet him, and tell him about their coming from the mountain, and Darktouch tells him about the songs of the delphinoids. He then convinces the Lady Varuneh that before they take any action they need to go to the mountain, and see the songs of the delphinoids themselves.

Book 3: Out of the Shining Cities

The two Inquestors and two children prepared to travel to the Dark Country. They would travel with a guard of child soldiers, the shock troops of the inquest who had deadly lasers for eyes. They left the capital city, traveling over the desert to the mountain, visiting the places that the children saw on their escape. They returned to the ghost people that captured the children, and found the queen that was an agent of the inquest. She had been tortured, and Lady Varuneh remembered sending her to the Dark Country. She told her agent that she had done a good job as she died in her arms. They continued on to the mountain, and found their way back into the Dark Country.

In the Dark Country and sightless people had changed their spiritual leader, and he was organizing the people to a great hunt of delphinoids. Darktouch was horrified by this news, and led the group to her dead father's rooms, and to his flying skiff to try and stop the hunt. On the skiff they followed the hunt into the vast dark expanse under the mountain. They realized that the hunt was too large for them to stop with one skiff. As the hunt came upon a delphinoid in the abyss, Darktouch tried to get their skiff between the hunt and the creature to block them. This put the Inquestors in danger, and the child soldiers acted, killing the leading hunters, and accidentally the delphinoid. Davaryrush cried to see this, how the inquest would cause suffering even when it tried to do good.

They flew ahead of the hunt, and came upon another delphinoid. This one acted differently than others, not passive when hunted, it came down upon the hunters from the back, and dispersed their fliers, it seemed to be hunting the hunters. This delphinoid started to glow in the darkness, perhaps readying for a light song. In the glow, they saw there was a man on the back of the delphinoid, riding it. They carefully landed on the creature, and Darktouch went to see this man. It was her lost father, she thought was dead from a hunt. He had instead landed on a delphinoid and bonded with it, now providing touch and smell for the creature to fight back. They learn from him that the delphinoids know what is happening to them, and they pity the inquest. And then they started to sing their light song.

The song is of such beauty, it affects everyone, and they all know that the inquest must end. Davaryrush and Varuneh abandon their plan to destroy the planet. They return to the capitol, and Davaryrush starts a plan for a long term end of the inquest. To start he informs the inquest about Lady Varuneh, who was wanted to gain trust, but she will be executed. And he names Kelver to become an Inquestor, as a young Inquestor that will know the truth of why the inquest must end. Kelver will now be separated from Darktouch and never see her again.

Kelver is sent to the homeworld of the inquestors Uran s'Varek, where will learn to be an inquestor. There he attends a ceremony where Davaryrush will be stripped from the clan of inquestors, being an inquestor no more. There he learns that the sightless people of the Dark Country have been killed, and the delphinoids are now hunted by robots. The robes of office are stripped from Davaryrush, and all the inquestors chant the words stripping him of power, even Kelver. Standing alone in front of the gathered inquestors, without any power, Davaryrush meets Kelver's eye in the crowd, and smiles. He tells the gathered inquestors - "The inquest falls".

The Throne of Madness[2][edit]

Utopia Hunters[3][edit]

The Darkling Wind[4][edit]

Homeworld of the Heart[5][edit]

Publication History[edit]

The series was started in 1979 with the short story "The Thirteenth Utopia", published in Analog.[6] This story introduced the Inquestors, the hunting of Utopias and the main character Davaryush. This was expanded into a novella "Light on the Sound" and published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1980.[7] He continued to write short stories in this world, published in various science fiction magazines. In 1982 he expanded the initial story into the first novel "Light on the Sound", published by Timescape books. The next year he published the second book "The Throne of Madness", and they were labeled by Timescape as book one and two in the series. In 1984 Timescape books was going out of business, and S. P. Somtow had a number of short stories in the same universe now, and Bantam Books collected these stories into the third book "Utopia Hunters". This was subtitled "Chronicles of the High Inquest", not saying that it was book three. The next year Bantam Spectra published "The Darkling Wind", which is really the third novel in the series, but it was also subtitled "Chronicles of the High Inquest", without numbering which book it was. In the next year, Bantam Spectra re-published the first two books titled as "The Dawning Shadow", with subtitles of "Light on the Sound" and "The Throne of Madness".

In 2013 S. P. Somtow re-published all four books under Diplodocus Press, this time with the subtitle "Chronicles of the High Inquest" volumes 1-4. In 2020 S. P. Somtow returned to the series, and released a new book "Homeworld of the Heart", again under Diplodocus Press. This time all the previous books were again re-published in new editions with the subtitle "Chronicles of the High Inquest" volumes 1-5.[8]


  1. Sucharitkul, Somtow (1982). Light on the Sound. USA: Timescape / Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-44028-4. Search this book on
  2. Sucharitkul, Somtow (1983). The Throne of Madness. USA: Timescape / Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-45439-0. Search this book on
  3. Sucharitkul, Somtow (1984). Utopia Hunters. USA: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-24526-0. Search this book on
  4. Sucharitkul, Somtow (1985). The Darkling Wind. USA: Bantam Spectra. ISBN 0-553-24982-7. Search this book on
  5. Somtow, S. P. (2020). Homeworld of the Heart. Diplodocus Press. ISBN 978-1-940999-50-0. Search this book on
  6. Sucharitkul, Somtow (April 1979). "The Thirteenth Utopia". Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact (April 1979): 144–160.
  7. Sucharitkul, Somtow. "Light on the Sound". Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (August 1980): 84–169.

External Links[edit]

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