The Hostage of Zir

Infobox Book |
name = The Hostage of Zir
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = first edition of "The Hostage of Zir"
author = L. Sprague de Camp
illustrator =
cover_artist = J. Harston
country = United States
language = English
series = Krishna
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Berkley/Putnam
release_date = 1977
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback)
pages = xi, 213 pp
isbn = ISBN 0399120971
preceded_by = The Hand of Zei
followed_by = The Prisoner of Zhamanak

"The Hostage of Zir" is a science fiction novel written by L. Sprague de Camp, the seventh book of his "Viagens Interplanetarias" series and the fifth of its subseries of stories set on the fictional planet Krishna. Chronologically it is the third Krishna novel. It was first published in hardcover by Berkley/Putnam in 1977, and in paperback by Berkley Books in 1978. A new paperback edition was published by Ace Books in 1982 as part of the standard edition of the Krishna novels.

"The Hostage of Zir" was de Camp's first Krishna novel in a quarter century, the previous one ("The Tower of Zanid") having been written in 1952 and published in 1958.

As with all of the "Krishna" novels, the title of "The Hostage of Zir" has a "Z" in it, a practice de Camp claimed to have devised to keep track of them. Short stories in the series do not follow the practice, nor do "Viagens Interplanetarias" works not set on Krishna.

Plot and storyline

Tour guide Fergus Reith arrives on the backward world of Krishna with a gaggle of tourists, the first such group to visit the planet. Though he is woefully unprepared and his charges collectively epitomize the "Ugly Terran" stereotype, he readies for his task as best he can and squires his flock off on their grand circuit of the northern Varastou nations among which the Terran spaceport of Novorecife is situated.

The first portion of the novel is an episodic account of their misadventures cruising down the Pichide River, in the Free City of Majbur, and the island kingdom of Zamba. Based on hints in the novel there was probably at least one more stop, in the republic of Katai-Jhogorai, that was omitted from the story — probably because it, in contrast to the others, went smoothly.

The real action begins when the group reaches Baianch, capital of the northern kingdom of Dur. There, while taking the new railway to the end of the line, the party is kidnapped by Barré vas-Sarf, bandit ruler of the restive province of Zir. Barré hopes to use them as bargaining chips in his dispute with Tashian bad-Garin, prince-regent of Dur. Reith escapes, only to be captured in turn by the forces of Shosti, the Witch of Zir. Shosti is Barré's rival for control of Zir and the leader of a local religious cult; her designs on Reith are quite different, as her prophecies lead her to believe she must mate with a Terran to engender a savior god. Felix Borel, a previous captive, had been executed after failing to impregnate Shosti. (Borel was the protagonist of the earlier Krishna short story "Perpetual Motion".)

Reith reads his own fate in Borel's, knowing Terrans and Krishnans are not interfertile – the latter, while near human in appearance, are an alien species. Once more he succeeds in escaping, subsequently leading a raid to free his tourists.

Apparently safe back in Baianch, Reith relates his adventures to Tashian, only to be tricked by the crafty regent into an intimate encounter with Vásni bad-Dushta'en, Princess of Dur, and then married off to her by force. Tashian's regency will last only as long as Vásni produces no legitimate male offspring, and her marriage to Reith will ensure she does not. Separated again from his tourists, Reith grimly sets about planning yet another escape. This he achieves thanks to a fortuitous diplomatic visit to Baianch by "Pandr" (prince) Ferrian bad-Arjanaq of the island nation of Sotaspé, whom Reith had previously encountered in Zamba. Ferrian was the protagonist of the earlier Krishna short story "Finished".

Returning to Novorecife, he learns his tour group has come back before him, and most of them have left the planet. He resolves to depart as well, but reconsiders when the guide of the "second" tour group to reach Krishna suffers an accident, leaving an opening for an experienced guide...

Fergus Reith would go on to become the main recurring character in the Krishna series, reappearing in a minor role in "The Prisoner of Zhamanak", and as the protagonist of "The Bones of Zora" and "The Swords of Zinjaban".

The events of the novel take place in the Terran year 2145.


The planet Krishna is de Camp's premier creation in the Sword and Planet genre, representing both a tribute to the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and an attempt to "get it right", reconstructing the concept logically, without what he regarded as Burroughs' biological and technological absurdities.


*cite book | last=Laughlin | first=Charlotte | coauthors=Daniel J. H. Levack | title=De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography | location=San Francisco | publisher=Underwood/Miller | pages=67 | date=1983

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