Friday, September 20, 2013

The One-Eyed Man, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

The Blurb:
In The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue With Winds and Accompaniment,  by L. E. Modesitt, Jr., the colony world of Stittara is no ordinary planet. For the interstellar Unity of the Ceylesian Arm, Stittara is the primary source of anagathics: drugs that have more than doubled the human life span. But the ecological balance that makes anagathics possible on Stittara is fragile, and the Unity government has a vital interest in making sure the flow of longevity drugs remains uninterrupted, even if it means uprooting the human settlements.

Offered the job of assessing the ecological impact of the human presence on Stittara, freelance consultant Dr. Paulo Verano jumps at the chance to escape the ruin of his personal life. He gets far more than he bargained for: Stittara’s atmosphere is populated with skytubes—gigantic, mysterious airborne organisms that drift like clouds above the surface of the planet. Their exact nature has eluded humanity for centuries, but Verano believes his conclusions about Stittara may hinge on understanding the skytubes’ role in the planet’s ecology—if he survives the hurricane winds, distrustful settlers, and secret agendas that impede his investigation at every turn.

My Review:
One thing you can always count on L.E. Modesitt Jr. to give you is a real morality tale.  He asks the tough questions about how far we are willing to go to and what we are willing to sacrifice, pointing out as always, that there WILL be sacrifices. Deciding what the sacrifices will be is never easy, but that tension makes for a great tale.

In a move that is a bit unusual, L.E. Modesitt Jr. begins this sci-fi fantasy in a divorce court. Dr. Paulo Verano is left wondering what to do with his share of the nothing, wondering if he will even be able to keep his business alive.  Also, most unusually, one of the supporting characters speak in cryptic rhymes.  The subtle use of short snippets of poetry at the beginning of some chapters serves to create an image of a wealth of culture in the mind of the reader, building the world without resorting a boring infodump.

Paulo, as a protagonist, is a real departure for Modesitt, in that he is not the naïve likeable young man usually found at the beginning of a Modesitt tale. Instead we meet a bitter, cynical and paranoid man. Paulo jumps at the opportunity his job offers him, glad to leave his selfish, ungrateful daughter and exwife behind, both in terms of distance and time. His reasoning is, during the short (to him) time he is gone,  145 years will have passed on his home world. They will have grown old and forgotten him, and his financial holdings will have recouped his losses.

Paulo’s cynicism and inability to trust affects each of his relationships. Of the passengers he travels with on the ship, none are what or who they appear to be. Several are lying as to their identities. Once on Stittara, he can’t be sure who is lying, and he is not sure who will harm him. He is not sure what his investigation will uncover, or how far those affected will go to protect their empires.

The world is vividly drawn in small strokes, emerging gradually as the tale progresses. The plot never stalls, and the action is both believable and engrossing. As always in Modesitt's work, music and the quest for love are a large part of the tale.The events that unfold, taking Paulo to the final crisis had me obsessively clicking to the next page, unable to put my Kindle down.  A wonderful read for true sci-fi lovers.

My only issue with this book is the incredibly high price the publisher set for the Kindle download. $10.99 in today’s market is highway robbery and may well keep the eBook sales down, which may be the publisher’s misguided intention.

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