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When I was about 10 (I'm now 38, so this was the in the mid to late '80s), I read a novel about which I have such faint memories that I'm not even sure I'm not mixing up different storylines together. It seems to me that the setting of the story was a dystopia.

This is what I (seem to) remember:

  • Society was divided into social classes, and one's fate was predetermined.
  • People of higher classes had servants, or slaves.
  • My impressionable mind tells me that people were/could be naked or barely/lightly clad without such a fact being out of the ordinary.
  • The main protagonist was a man, he was serving a family and a woman of that family happened to fancy him. He didn't “return the favor” and she had him deported to a prison in the middle of either a swampy area or a desolate/remote wasteland that made escaping difficult.
  • The high-security prison had very high walls and escaping the prison was mission impossible.
  • In the prison, he met a group of people (I can't recall the number of people or whether there were men and women, or only men) and while working (hard labor I guess), they came across trees, the seeds/fruits of which were in the shape of spheres and they discovered that those spheres were apparently filled with a gas lighter than air.
  • My last memory is that of the group of people escaping the prison by assembling the fruits/seeds in such a high quantity that the resulting "vehicle" could lift them off the ground, just like a hot-air balloon can do.

I can't really distinguish what's figments of my imagination from true images formed in my mind back when I was reading the story. I just know that through the years, I have associated various movies/books (e.g., the Hunger Games and Divergent series) with that novel/story, as well as thinking of gulags and concentration camps about the work that the prisoners were doing outside.

This story, among three, has been haunting (and this is no exaggeration) me for a good 8 to 12 years now. I've been able to find the other two novels, Daniel Galouye's Dark Universe and Robert Silverberg's Up the Line, but this one is evading me.

The annual book fair in my hometown (in eastern France) is closing this day and I've been there again, to no avail of course as far as finding this specific novel goes. I truly hope these vague memories will help me find the title and author of the book.

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    I assume this was in English? – Paulie_D Nov 1 '16 at 11:52
  • This sounds like Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series, which began with Split Infinity (L'infini éclaté in French). – Spencer Nov 2 '16 at 0:24
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    This is a really solid first post. You basically checked all the boxes for story identification. Hope you find it. – Paul Nov 2 '16 at 2:50
  • @Paulie_D: your comment makes me realize that I was indeed vague at best about the language. Sorry for that. I read the books in French; at age 10, I was in my first year learning English at school :-) I gave the original English titles of the other books in accordance with the language that we use around here. – AbVog Nov 2 '16 at 12:52
2

Some of this fits Raymond E Feist’s Magician, which was published in 1982.

  • Society was divided into social classes, and one's fate was predetermined. Check
  • People of higher classes had servants, or slaves. Check
    • My impressionable mind tells me that people were/could be naked or barely/lightly clad without such a fact being out of the ordinary. Check
    • The main protagonist was a man, he was serving a family and was in a prison in the middle of a swampy that made escaping difficult. Check
    • he was serving a family and a woman of that family happened to fancy him. He didn't “return the favor” and she had him deported to a prison. Partly. Some of this was in another part of the book and some didn't happen.
    • The high-security prison had very high walls and escaping the prison was mission impossible. No
    • In the prison, he met a group of people (I can't recall the number of people or whether there were men and women, or only men) and while working (hard labor I guess), they came across trees, the seeds/fruits. Check
    • of which were in the shape of spheres and they discovered that those spheres were apparently filled with a gas lighter than air. No
    • My last memory is that of the group of people escaping the prison by assembling the fruits/seeds in such a high quantity that the resulting "vehicle" could lift them off the ground, just like a hot-air balloon can do. No

I can't really distinguish what's figments of my imagination from true images formed in my mind back when I was reading the story.

This is really a partial fit, but since other parts sort of appeared and you were ten and embellishing as you read, it might be it. In particular, other parts of the story included magic powerful enough to create storms so maybe.

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