Nutshell: school for the Euterpean arts involves itself in galactic politics, leading to homophobic crimes, coups d'etat, &c., 20,000 years in the future.
Principal is a pre-Ender wunderkind
, a victim of child trafficking. Euterpeans know the victim status and the location of the grieving parents, but elect to ignore it all (69). In addition to being scum, they're also stupid, insofar as their constitution selects the new schoolmaster by virtue of whoever finds the corpse of the current schoolmaster; finder picks new boss (32). Principal is hooked up with several galactic emperors in the standard device to place the narration at the center of the entire setting. Yawn.
Focus for the Euterpeans is "Control," a form of mental discipline: the "object of Control was not to remove the singer from all human contact, but to keep that contact clear and clean" (43). Advanced Euterpean arts produce "possession, ownership, dependence, self-surrender" in untrained listeners (80). It's all very Dunyain, especially when used to "read the flickers of emotion in his voice" and thereby know the thoughts of others (116). In addition to mind control, principal acquires superhuman kung-fu. I have therefore found RSB's Hidden Source.
Emblematic of the whole: "The longer [the eels] wiggle the more they pee and the better they taste. This pond's full of them. Connects right up with the sewer system. They live in the sewer. Along with worse things. [The city] produces more turds than anything else, enough to keep a million [eels] alive" (56).
There's FTL transit (no system of FTL rules, though), laser guns, and whatnot. But otherwise, for 20,000 years out, it's looking very 20th century. It's therefore more of a Fantasy of the Present Moment, projecting current facts, including our own science fiction content, into the far future. Not sure if the ineffectiveness is a result of the genre or the specimen.
Bizarre random love triangle. Bizarre random palace intringues. Love triangle reveals that principal is afflicted with an "orgasm torture" drug (300); his homosexual lover is castrated (312). Principal ends up, also randomly, at apex of imperial power, so, yaknow, there it is.
Recommended for those pretty enough to be catamites, Kinshasans from the southern tip of Africa, and writers of theses and dissertations, feces and defecations.