This is actually a story of honor and fidelity, despite perception of treason. The obvious reason the book is called Treason is that the planet on which it takes place is known as Treason. The more subtle reasons for the name treason come in the plot of the book. The main character Lanik Mueller, is believed to have been more than treasonous. Various people throughout the book believe he has committed treason. Later it is believed that he did worse, that he actively lead armies that pillaged and destroyed his homeland (due to a look-alike…). Another good reason is that the book is actually about the opposite of treason.
The simple cause of the planet’s name was that millennia before the book takes place, the best and brightest families in the galaxy were exiled to this planet for staging a coup against the government. Ostensibly because they were tired of having their great intellect and abilities being used by the masses without having a say themselves, however it revealed later that they may have all been deceived. How this is revealed, I will not say (it gives away major plot) but it is so.
On this planet, there are no hard metals that would enable these really smart people to build spaceships or weapons, they can only acquire iron through the ‘Ambassadors’, machines in each family’s (read kingdom) capitol that will trade iron for things the great people think of. Since small amounts of iron go a long way in battlefield dominance, the great families become basically idea slaves, though they do not realize it.
The major SciFi catch in the novel is that, in order to get enough iron to ‘build a spaceship and leave’ (never is enough sent, just enough to make the wars between families bloodier) each family perfects what it originally did. The story revolves around a young man named Lanik Mueller, whose family has perfected genetic engineering and breeding, making themselves able to regenerate whole limbs and survive almost any injury. Lanik, however, is a radical regenerative which means he grows back even things he doesn’t need, extra arms, legs, breasts… etc. Even though he is the king’s son, he is exiled.
Lanik learns many things, learns skills of other families (especially ones thought to no longer exist) and discovers the horrible plot planned by a race of deceivers. These people can make people think they see whatever they (the deceivers) wish. Lanik who has learned to adjust his time flow goes around the whole world and exterminates them.
I perhaps have gone too far into the story, although I do not think I have given anything away. The most important things I wanted to bring up required this much information. Namely, there is a great debate about Lanik’s final actions, of exterminating an entire race. However this is not phrased correctly. The true way to describe the different families is the ideas, and the battle of those ideas. All the different groups that Lanik meets are defined by their ideas and their moral fiber (or lack thereof). As such, when Lanik exterminates the ‘race’ of deceivers, it is much more like he is killing the ideas that motivate them, and the horrible powers they have.
Many other deep and difficult ideas are explored in the book, but I do not want to emphasize them too much. I often write about the ideas in the fiction since many readers miss the fact that ideas and philosophy are vital to the story they are reading. However, this book was a fantastic read. The language control that Orson Scott Card displays is really impressive, and the story is tightly knit, without any flab or distraction, just story. Treason is a great book to spend a few days with (or an afternoon, if you read fast and without breaks) and it also grapples with difficult ideas. I would complain that Lanik is not a believable hero, that he is too much like the ubermensch, except that enough of the people in this world have ‘superpowers’ that claim would be false. In fact, so others are powerful that Lanik’s only claim to be better than others is his determination, and his desire to do what is right and best for his home. Quite an impressive feat of imagination of OSC’s account, making a super powered man like a humble hero, impressive indeed.