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This is a niche question for Jack Vance fans, and specifically about his trio of Alastor * novels: Trullion: Alastor 2262, Marune: Alastor 933, and Wyst: Alastor 1716. The three novels all take place in the Alastor Cluster, which has an interplanetary government, run by a monarch, the Connatic, Oman Ursht. However, the Connatic's government interferes very little with the planet-bound affairs of individual worlds. (Out in space, things are different, and the Connatic's space fleet, the Whelm, is overpoweringly strong.)

In the first and third novels (Trullion and Wyst), there is a common character, Ryl Schermatz, an official from the Connatic's government, who always has documents showing that he possesses sufficient authority to take charge of a situation. When my wife and I read the books, though, we differed on our answers to a key question: Is Ryl Schermatz the Connatic?

It is mentioned several times that the Connatic is rumored to travel about the cluster in disguise (like Harun al-Rashid, the caliph whose anonymous wanderings among his subjects feature in multiple Arabian Nights tales). Moreover, at the beginning of the third book, the Connatic is waiting to receive a group of ambassadors from the titular planet Wyst. He discusses the events of the first book, and implies that he is closely familiar with what happened there. Then, after the meeting with the Wyst ambassadors goes very strangely, the monarch's curiosity about what is going on on the planet is piqued.

To me, this suggests that Ryl Schermatz is an identity used by Oman Ursht when he travels incognito. However, my wife disagreed, and I was wondering if there was any more clear evidence one way or the other in any of the three books.

*Having already read Vance's Demon Princes novels and enjoyed them, I picked up the omnibus edition of the Alastor novels because I knew that "Alastor" was also (among other things) the name of a demon.

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    I doubt you will ever get "a definite answer, with airtight proof" to this question. Like you, when I first read those books, I got the strong impression (particularly toward the end of Wyst) that Ryl Shermatz might be the Connatic himself, but I didn't spot anything in the books that qualified as evidence that would prove it in court "beyond a reasonable doubt." I think the only way to settle this dispute would be if it turned out that Jack Vance had made a definitive statement in an interview or something, and I doubt he ever did. I think he preferred to leave it unresolved. – Lorendiac Dec 23 '17 at 12:07
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Towards the end of Wyst, Shermatz gave a curt nod.

"I am happily able to assure you that the Connatic definitely did not use one of these tickets".

He has not communicated with anyone since Jantiff has explained his misgivings about the Centenary when he says this.
Also, as I recall, Shermatz and the Connatic's descriptions are the same.

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  • This answer sounds like it probably provides proof. But it is a little hard to understand without context, if one has read the book a long time ago. Some explanation of the tickets would help. I think I can guess because I vaguely remember what the tickets were about, but not enough to know that this is proof. – Cerberus Oct 7 '18 at 22:17
  • The tickets were for entry to the Sports complex (that blew up) where the Centenary was held. – Peter Kent Oct 9 '18 at 17:56
  • I thought so. But how does that prove he is the Connatic? E.g, he could be the head of the Connatic's secret service and hence know whether the Connatic would use the tickets or not? – Cerberus Oct 9 '18 at 18:24
  • He hadn't had time to check whether the tickets had actually been used so he must know because he himself IS the Connatic. – Peter Kent Nov 25 '18 at 10:08
  • While probable, it's not conclusive. He didn't have time to check, but probably knew in advance whether the Connatic was going to use the tickets or not. However, I agree that it is pretty compelling case to say that he is the Connatic himself. I feel that Jack Vance wouldn't make such a point of it and elaborate on it so much without actually using it in any of the 3 books. – Adam Reis Mar 10 '19 at 20:25

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