Template: A Novel of the Archonate (Trade Paperback)

3.80/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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by Matthew Hughes, with an introduction by Jay Lake

When professional duelist Conn Labro escapes indentured servitude as the star player of Horder’s Emporium, he abandons the gaming world of Thrais and sets out on an interstellar journey filled with murder, deceit, and self-discovery. His only friend on Thrais, discovered dead and tortured, left him enough money to buy himself out of his contract and a curious encrypted “bearer deed” to a mysterious property on the distant edge of the galactic Spray. With the seductive, secretive showgirl Jenore Mordene at his side and a villainous pleasure cult dogging his every move, Labro sets out to learn the truth behind his bearer deed and more about his own past than he had ever dared bargain for.

For the first time ever in paperback, this thrilling, vividly imagined new science fiction novel from rising star Matthew Hughes (The Commons, Majestrum, The Spiral Labyrinth) provides atmospheric adventure in the classic tradition while layering on complex, fascinating societies and future cultures with the deft touch of a master storyteller. Set in Hughes’s universe of the Archonate, in the “Penultimate Age of Man,” Template features unforgettable characters, lyrical language, and a stirring starscape glittering with the myriad worlds of the distant future.

“Matthew Hughes plays with worlds and cultures and concepts in a lushly textured way, creating a rococo universe full of clever conceits, maddening difficulties, rich satire and more, all in clean, elegant prose that catches the reader's interest and carries you smoothly through a story that's by turns intriguing, exciting, amusing and in the end, very satisfying.”
    —Kurt Busiek

192-page softcover trade paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-264-7

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3.80/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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Worth Reading


There's a lot to like about this novel: an interesting, creative, and engaging setting; an unusual lead character; and a good mystery to keep the pages turning. The settled galaxy is known as The Ten Thousand Worlds, and each of the handful we're introduced to in Template are culturally distinct and memorable. The first half of the book especially is extremely engaging and quite the page-turner, as the author has the admirable trait of letting the reader figure things out and avoiding info-dumps. The story slows down once the main character reaches the homeworld of the female love interest, and the rest of the book, while satisfactory, is not as original or tightly-plotted. Template is one of many novels set in The Ten Thousand Worlds, and I'd like to check out others.

A good read, I'd like to see more.


Conn Labro is a very entertaining character and the whole book was a fun read. This is the 2nd book I've read from the Planet Stories line. It's done great to improve my outlook for future books I purchase in the line.

That being said, I had a good idea from the beginning how the book would end. It ended fairly close to what I imagined it to be. Because of this I only give it four stars.

Thoughtful Chewing


Some authors set out to entertain. Some set out to make a social or political statement. Some have their own agenda. Few authors anymore seem at all interested in just getting you to think about things.

In Matthew Hughes’ Template, Conn Labro, an indentured servant and professional duelist, lives a life that he mostly seems to enjoy. But events that started off his home planet of Thrais have set in motion consequences that take him out into the galaxy for the first time. During his journey he has ample time to not only contemplate those events, but also confront his past, his values, and even the way that he views the world around him.

Between the action there’s plenty of time to think, both for the character and the reader. Hughes serves up more than a few heaping helpings of deep philosophy that the reader either has to numbly wade through, or carefully chew on in order to move the story forward. It gave me lots to think about and I enjoyed that, but this type of reading is not for everyone.

Some of the action he uses along the way to keep things flowing falls flat on its face. In one section, we’re given a complex description of a new type of water sport and then forced to sit through a play by play that is hard to understand without going back and referencing prior material--not a favorite past-time for most readers. Some reader might enjoy it.

The ending comes very close to a dues ex machina—close enough that most readers are going to think it is one. There’s a veiled reference earlier in the book that sort of kind of casually refers to how the hero succeeds, but from talking to other readers, I’m one of the few that caught it before it comes up in the plot.

I enjoyed the book. I know there’s plenty of people out there that will also enjoy it. However, if you’re looking for a good space action/adventure, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Enjoyable Sci-fi Noir


Over the last year I've been digging into the pulpy beginnings of sci-f and fantasy thanks to some recommendations by Erik Mona at last years GenCon. Template fits right in. Interesting characters... well developed world... enough hints to make me curious for other Archonate books. I liked the story's core mystery that imparts a "noir-ish" feel without rehashing The Maltese Falcon. Most of all, I enjoyed watching the main character develop over the course of the novel. Recommended!


I think the author said this might be a little Vancian, and he is probably right, there. That being said, I am no big Jack Vance man, so not the greatest reason to read a book, for me.

The protagonist is a professional game 'Player', working for a master who hires him out to other wealthy players, and also uses his knowledge to make plenty on the betting market, as well.

The whole society that surrounds this gaming is completely focused on money and simple contracts as being pretty much the be-all and end-all. The gaming setup can be virtual, so you can have multiplayer swordfights, or whatever, with no-one actually getting stabbed for real, and it seems these environments work well.

All this standard day to day existence is broken up upon the murder of the man who is the closest thing to a friend that our man Conn has.

An off-world woman, an object to be worked out, and some secrets of why people were literally trying to take him out, need to be found.

That is all pretty straightforward, but the super-competent and confident Larbro has his eyes opened as he goes off planet and encounters other people and races that behave and believe in ways and things that are completely foreign to him. This includes another planet with a dedication to a different sport, so some fun to be had.

There are some twists coming I didn't see, and the end is certainly an improvement, even if throwing in a concept or two that perhaps should have been mentioned or hinted at earlier.

So, Matthew Hughes is a contemporary writer? Who's in the know about him?

Mairkurion {tm} wrote:
So, Matthew Hughes is a contemporary writer? Who's in the know about him?

I've read a bit, at least as far as sf/fantasy goes

He's got a bit of a Vance thing going on - you can find a Matthew Hughes collection at webscriptions for one, with samples :-

SE-S-3.0 Hughes, Matthew : Bearing Up
SF-S-3.0 Hughes, Matthew : The Devil You Don't
SO-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Falberoth's Ruin - FREE
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Finding Sarjessian - FREE
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Fulbrim's Finding
SF-C-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : The Gist Hunter and Other Stories
SO-S-4.0 Hughes, Matthew : The Gist Hunter
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Go Tell the Phoenicians
SF-S-3.0 Hughes, Matthew : The Hat Thing
SU-S-4.0 Hughes, Matthew : Hell Of A Fix
SO-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Help Wonted
SO-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : The Helper and His Hero - FREE
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : A Herd Of Opportunity
SF-S-3.0 Hughes, Matthew : The Hero and His Helper 1
SO-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : The Hero and His Helper 2
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Hunchster
SO-S-3.0 Hughes, Matthew : Inner Huff
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : A Little Learning - FREE
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Mastermindless - FREE
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Passion Ploy - FREE
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Petri Patrousia
SF-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Relics Of the Thim - FREE
SH-S-3.0 Hughes, Matthew : Shadow Man
SO-S-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Sweet Trap
SF-N-3.5 Hughes, Matthew : Template
SF-S-3.0 Hughes, Matthew : ThwartingJabbi Gloond

Thanks, BT. Is it cover image update time?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Mairkurion {tm} wrote:
Thanks, BT. Is it cover image update time?

It is!

The Exchange

Does this mean the Planet Stories logo on the cover is toast?

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Not necessarily. It means we want each book to have the cover that works best for it.

If that means going with a super pulpy look, that's what'll happen.

I hate to say it, but this cover really sucks. I'm still going to buy the book, because both Matthew Hughes and Planet Stories rock. Did I mention that the cover really, really sucks.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

I kind of like the cover. :)

Has anybody gotten theirs yet?

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

I picked this book up at GenCon, and was then immediaely bedridden for a day, and took the opportunity to pore through this.

I really like his wordsmithing, in the direction of Jack Vance but not oppressive. The plot is fine; I, too, would have liked some indication of some of the elements in the last chapter, but sometimes life is like that. I enjoyed the characters, especially the dead one; the themes are well-developed.

And bobby_5150, after you read the story, the cover makes more sense.

For those of you who've read the book,

here's my argument that the tokens are currency. If their very ownership denotes handedness in gambling, and if handedness in anything is an entry into the economics of the society, then possessing the tokens allows you to assert a claim to things you want to own.

And here's my argument against it: it's not the tokens themselves that signify handedness. If you, say, trade a handcrafted item for somebody else's tokens, you don't automatically gain the renown as a gambler that they allegedly denote, and their original owner doesn't lose it, among the people who know him and his skills. It's also the case that 'handedness in gambling' doesn't seem to mesh well with the culture. "I'd like to prepare some food for you" or "I'd like to give you this handcrafted wood sculpture" merits entry into the economy, but those are goods or services done to someone else's benefit. Even dance benefits its viewers. I'm not sure how a good gambler uses his skills to anyone else's benefit. Offering expert advice to another gambler breaks the spirit of the tokens, since then the winner possesses tokens but gains neither the handedness for gambling, nor the reputation for such.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Speaking of that society: here's somebody who thinks it would work.

A refreshing story, especially after the slightly disappointing "Walrus and the Warwolf" which I did not think of as "Planet Stories" material.

Matthew Hugues has some Frank Herbert in him, he only needs a few pages to let the reader understand and picture his world. Sure, there is the cliché of "one society per planet" but once put aside, there is indeed a lot of very interesting sociological background.
The other nagging thing is that the story is a bit too short, with everything in place it could have lasted another fifty pages.

Has anyone picked on the "worlds based on particular sins" story and thought about "Rise of the Runelords" in space, or is it just me? :)

The cover is not that bad, it has a 1970s retro feeling about it... even if the actual novel is not that old of course.

Like Chris Mortika, I would have like to know a bit more about the various themes introduced later in the book: The Immersion, and for that matter the Archonate.

Lord Slaavik wrote:

Has anyone picked on the "worlds based on particular sins" story and thought about "Rise of the Runelords" in space, or is it just me? :)

The cover is not that bad, it has a 1970s retro feeling about it... even if the actual novel is not that old of course.

Thank you! I am just now getting to this one and had the same "Rise of the Runelords" feeling you mention.

I like the cover, even if it could use the Planet Stories log in addition to the art and etc....

For me, I'd like it if Paizo would publish more Hughes material.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Lord Zeb wrote:
For me, I'd like it if Paizo would publish more Hughes material.

You may just get that wish.

Sovereign Court

Vic Wertz wrote:
Lord Zeb wrote:
For me, I'd like it if Paizo would publish more Hughes material.
You may just get that wish.

Sweet! I loved this book. Looking forward to more.

I just got around to reading this. What a great book! It's all sci-fi future-worlds and then all of a sudden at the end,

he activates his Rage class feature, complete with being fatigued at the end of it! What fun! Loved that whole swordfight; it has such a "I am not left-handed" feel to it, especially with the multichambered heart.

Have to say my favorite favorite thing was the inclusion of a major female character with dialogue and a brain and her own thoroughly valid opinions about things that differ from the protagonist's. There hasn't been enough of that in some of the Planet Stories titles I've read.

All in all, right up there with Silver John, as the best of Planet Stories I've read so far. Off to Amazon to add anything else Matthew Hughes has written to my wishlist.

There's a book in the Pathfinder Tales line written by Hugh Matthews, which I believe is a nom de plume for Matthew Hughs. That book is Song of the Serpent. I haven't read it. I'm reading Template presently. (I take forever to read novels. I usually read them in a few handful of sessions, but with huge gaps between the sessions.)

I don't know why he felt like flipping his name on that one.

Hey, thanks! Didn't realize that was the same guy.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Wolf Munroe wrote:
I don't know why he felt like flipping his name on that one.

He uses "Matthew Hughes" for sci-fi, "Matt Hughes" for crime fiction, and "Hugh Matthews" for licensed fiction (so far, Pathfinder and Wolverine).

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