The Barnes & Noble Review
L. E. Modesitt Jr.'s science fiction thriller Archform: Beauty is a refreshing change of pace from his popular fantasy offerings like the Recluse saga and the Spellsong Cycle. Four centuries in the future, technology has both advanced and distorted human society. Although most of the population is psychically connected by implanted links and benefited by nanomeds that can cure almost any ailment, there's a morose emptiness in people's lives. Have technological advances killed artistic creativity -- and appreciation of true beauty?
Seen through the eyes of five unrelated characters, the story unfolds quickly, as their very different lives are linked through a series of mysterious deaths. Eugene Chiang is a police lieutenant who specializes in finding patterns in crime statistics. Chris Kemal is a crime boss posing as a multimillionaire legitimate businessman. Elden Cannon is a senator trying to get reelected without comprising his code of ethics. Jude Parsfal is a media researcher who uncovers some potentially deadly information. And Laura Cornett is a music professor struggling to make ends meet and quickly becoming disillusioned with society's apathy towards the arts. As more and more high-profile people are mysteriously killed, all five characters' lives intersect in a dangerous convergence that could mean disaster for everyone involved.
Comparable to Modesitt's alternate-history Ghosts sequence (Of Tangible Ghosts and Ghost of the Revelator) in both thematic complexity and ultra-stylized futuristic setting, this book is as ambitious as it is thought provoking. In a word: beautiful. Paul Goat Allen
Best known for his fantasy fiction (the Saga of Recluce), Modesitt has outdone himself in this highly original SF novel, using future technology to satirize and amplify the gulf that separates science from art. In the 24th century, politics remains much the same, with radical, Islamic fundamentalism still posing a threat. The author rapidly introduces five separate narrators, but since he delineates each with the skill of a latter-day Dickens, the reader doesn't feel overwhelmed. Nor does Modesitt overdo the future slang, which is always clear in context (what was once the United States is now "NorAm"). One of the five narrators, Senator Cannon of the Deseret District, insists on sticking to his principles in seeking re-election. Meanwhile, Lt. Eugene Chiang, who shows how little police work has changed, is investigating the "impossible" suicides of a string of concertgoers. Chiang's engaging exchanges with classical music teacher Cornett illuminate the ways technology can undermine an art form. One is reminded of Arthur C. Clarke's tale "The Ultimate Melody," as Cornett battles to make others appreciate music as art instead of as product. Set against a background of biological terrorism, Modesitt's tale explores social issues (only the rich can afford privacy as well as injections of microscopic, medical robots to stay healthy) sure to resonate with many readers. This brilliant novel is as thought provoking as it is entertaining. (July 11) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In the 24th century, the health and physical well-being of the world's elite rests in the care of nanomachines. Despite society's apparent progress, social unrest remains a part of everyday life. The latest sf novel by the author of the Recluce fantasy series tells the stories of a music teacher battling new trends in music, a police investigator stumped by a series of unsettling crimes, a news reporter in search of the real story, a businessman bound to succeed regardless of the cost, and a politician attempting to walk a fine line between his agenda and his principles. These disparate tales produce a large-scale portrait of a future that still revolves around human concerns. Simultaneously thoughtful and entertaining, this is a good addition to most sf collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
New SF from the versatile author of Ghost of the White Nights (2001), etc. By the 25th century, rising sea levels have drowned much of the eastern US. The population divides into "filch" (filthy rich), "sariman" (middle class), "servies," and ex-criminal "permies" who've had their attitudes permanently readjusted with microscopic-machine "nanites." In the North American capital, Denv, police lieutenant Eugene Chiang keeps tabs on crime statistics, using his experience and intuition to spot trends-such as a small but puzzling increase in minor crimes, suicides, and ODs in under-25s. Also troubling is the death of lawyer's wife Nanette McCall, killed apparently accidentally when her nanite vehicle protection system malfunctioned. Music professor Luara Cornett struggles to make ends meet amid incessant budget squeezes and falling demand for real, live music-today's hottest commodity is "rez," the resonant amplification of a piece's emotional impact: behavioral conditioning that works. Good-guy senator Elden Cannon confronts unexpected opponents and shadowy string-pullers, straining his reputation for honesty. Media researcher Jude Parsfal uncovers some odd facts about Martian Republic business practices; he also finds Nanette McCall's death suspicious, and notes an inexplicable increase in fatal heart attacks among apparently healthy individuals. Ruthless businessman Chris Kemal, meanwhile, buys and sells: politicians, commodities, drugs, anything that will extend his family's shady empire. As the first-person narratives of these five individuals intermingle, what eventuates is an investigation of genuinely fascinating, intriguing, provocative, and inspirational scope. Modesitt's alwaysworth reading, but this may well be his best ever.
Read an Excerpt
As the last notes of the orchestra fade into oblivion, the audience surges to its feet, the applause thundering across the hall.
The tottering, wild-haired conductor remains facing the orchestra, as if afraid to turn, until the concertmaster, tears streaming down his cheeks, steps forward and takes the conductor's arm, guiding him to face the audience. The conductor finally smiles as he takes in the ovation he can see, but not hear.
But the smile that crosses the creased and pallid face is part joy, part wonder--and part horror that none recognize or sense but the conductor, who is also the composer. Both horror and wonder are lost in the applause that storms across the city, an applause that is darker than the night outside, an applause for music that casts a shadow far wider than any know and for far more years than any could guess.
Copyright © 2002 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.