Empress of Eternity
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Empress of Eternity

3.2 20
by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

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In the far future, an indestructible and massive canal over 2,000 miles long spans the mid-continent of Earth. Nothing can mar it, move it, or affect it in any fashion. Scientists from three different civilizations, separated in time by hundreds of thousands of years, are investigating the canal.

In the most distant of these civilizations, religious rebellion is


In the far future, an indestructible and massive canal over 2,000 miles long spans the mid-continent of Earth. Nothing can mar it, move it, or affect it in any fashion. Scientists from three different civilizations, separated in time by hundreds of thousands of years, are investigating the canal.

In the most distant of these civilizations, religious rebellion is brewing. A plot is hatched to overthrow the world government of the Vanir, using a weapon that can destroy anything--except the canal--might if used at full power literally unravel the universe and destroy all life forever. The lives and fates of all three civilizations become intertwined as the forces behind the canal react to the threat, and all three teams of scientists find their lives changed beyond belief.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Prolific author Modesitt (Imager's Intrigue) stumbles with this tedious tale of a far future in which a new ice age threatens Earth, and a vast canal, built by an ancient civilization, splits the world's central continent for no readily discernible reason. Even more glacial than the ice is the narrative, replete with whole chapters that could have profitably been rewritten into single paragraphs or even single sentences. Occasional hints of international tension show promise, but the characters are no more than blandly chattering ciphers, and the distant epoch lacks so much detail that it might as well be the present day. While there might be some appeal for the hardest of hardcore Modesitt fans, new readers would be well advised to start reading elsewhere.
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Library Journal
In the far future, a mammoth and indestructible canal over 2000 miles long spans the Earth's mid-continent and ends in a three-story structure filled with empty chambers. Scientists from three different civilizations, separated by time, study the canal, to little effect, but the Vanir Hegemony in the most distant future has internal troubles that could result in the use of a weapon capable of destroying everything on Earth except the canal. The groundbreaking author of the Recluce fantasy series as well as numerous sf novels (The Parafaith War; Viewpoints Critical) embarks on an ambitious undertaking—the telling of one story in three time periods separated by thousands of years—and succeeds in crafting the big picture without forgetting the personal stories that make that vision real. VERDICT Modesitt always surprises and usually delights, and his latest work is no exception.
Kirkus Reviews

Following his latest fantasy (Imager's Intrigue, 2010, etc.) the prolific and inventive Modesitt switches back to science fiction with this variation on a couple of time-honored tropes, the Big Dumb Object—in this case, a continent-spanning stone canal—and time travel.

The vast, ancient canal, impervious to all forms of energy, features a control structure into which people can open doors and windows by touch and thought. Three different far-future civilizations, each threatened with environmental catastrophe and violent insurrection, study the canal. In the earliest of these, facing glaciation and a murderously sinister political takeover, Lord Maertyn and his lady, Maarlyna, find that their psychic connection to the canal's mysterious controller strengthens to where Maarlyna begins to acquire memories not her own. Far in Maertyn's future, researcher Faelyna and her tech partner Eltyn probe deeper into the controls as their hive-like culture confronts desertification and a ruthless military insurrection bent on enforcing uniformity. Far again in their future, with the Earth facing utter ruin, soldier-scientist Helkyria and her tech consort Duhyle battle religious revolutionaries who anticipate Ragnarok and want only to depart in a blaze of glory—and wield universe-destroying weaponry. Somehow, the canal's interactions with time itself entangles the three groups. Modesitt presents three very different civilizations confronted with relevant problems, and interweaves their fate with some seriously challenging and intriguing speculations on the nature of time itself.

Though the narrative sometimes plods—Modesitt's not the world's finest purveyor of action prose—he always turns in a good yarn, and approaches his best when combining practicalities with new ideas.

From the Publisher

“The plot is classic, but in his pictures of three different societies fighting the same battle, Modesitt shows that cultures may change but people don’t. A provocative, enthralling story.” —Booklist

“Modesitt presents three very different civilizations . . . and interweaves their fate with some seriously challenging and intriguing speculations on the nature of time itself.... [Modesitt] approaches his best when combining practicalities with new ideas.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
7.68(w) x 11.78(h) x 1.22(d)

Read an Excerpt



6 Eightmonth 1351, Unity of Caelaarn

The man in a working singlesuit and a thermal jacket, both of aristocratic silver, stepped out of the door, letting it slide closed behind him, a wonder that he had become used to over the past many months. He paused and looked up into the early night sky, his breath a pale white fog in the bitter air, although it was but early autumn. Above and below the Selene Ring the handfuls of time-scattered stars glittered faintly. Farther to the north, less than a few score points of light were scattered across the darkness. The same, he knew, was true far to the south, if well below the horizon he observed.

He needed to hurry. That he felt, and he strode westward, his right arm and hand almost brushing the wall, toward the point overlooking both the ocean and the canal. Even with his long strides, his steps were careful, for patches of thin glazed ice were scattered along the smooth and unmarked blue-gray stone that stretched the entire length of the canal. The ice patches would melt, of course, but stepping on ice floating on the thinnest layer of cold water could cause a nasty fall. He didn’t look to the south, which only held the pine barrens and the swamps of the Reserve. Instead, he glanced to his right out across the dark waters. There the line of white rising above the gray wall marked the north side of the midcontinent canal…and the ice looming beyond.

At the end of the point was a dark redbrick structure, set in the angle between the coast wall and the canal wall, rising no more than five yards above the flat top of the two walls. While the seamless blue-gray stone of the canal walls looked pristine, the bricks were anything but, with the mortar needing repointing almost everywhere. From within the glassine dome above the last circle of bricks, the faceted fresnel lens focused the light from the electric arc into a beam that swept seaward, marking entrance to and the south side of the canal, not that there was nearly so much shipping since Edelburg had been abandoned to the ice two years earlier.

He stopped just short of the light house and waited, ignoring the bite of the bitter breeze on his face and ears, as well as faint whining of the wind turbines along the cliffs farther to the south. Shortly, a faint crack announced that the unnamed glacier that dominated the north side of the canal had calved another white-silvered iceberg. After watching the odd-shaped block of ice fragment and plunge over the canal wall and into the water, he waited until the silent tsunami raced across the four kays between its impact and where he stood. The mass of dark water surged up the gray eternal stone, if only ascending half the height of the canal wall, sending spray skyward. The waters crashed back downward, foaming in places. The ice-mist rose in turn, condensing into fine frozen droplets before settling on the stone that comprised everything from the protective chest-high wall to the canal itself and the ancient station structure, and adding more to the intermittent ice-melt patches. He could see the tiny points of ice settling on the silversheen fabric of his jacket, then sliding off.

Before long, he saw the water from the smaller rebound wave break on the north wall of the canal, loosening a few more fragments of overhanging ice.

He waited, wondering if he would sense more, but he was alone with the wind, the cold, and the arc-light reflected down on him and the blue-gray stone from the glassine dome. In time, he turned his careful steps back toward the ancient station structure he euphemistically called his manor house, not that it was his, or even anything close to a manor house or a house at all. In size, large as it was, it was nothing compared to what had been crushed by the advancing ice a generation earlier and three hundred kays to the northeast. He still held lands and rent-holds to the south, purchased cheaply enough when the ground had been marginal grasslands, if that, lands that now provided an adequate income, with the slight increase in rainfall that had come with the ice to the north of the canal, and his prudent investment in a range of fibreworms, some of which had doubtless produced the threads of the silversheen jacket he wore.

Yet…so little compared to what Great-Grandsire had enjoyed, but times and climates change. His lips curled. So must you.

When he reached the position of the door facing the canal, not that there was any sign of an opening, he reached out and barely touched the unmarked surface, neither warm nor cold to his fingertips, and the stone slid into itself to form the doorway. Tiny icy pellets followed him inside, clicking on the smooth stone of the floor and the Voharan carpet that covered most of the floor of the chamber they called the study, before the wall re-formed, leaving no sign that there had been an opening there.

“Maertyn…why do you always go down to the light house when a berg breaks loose? It was a berg, wasn’t it?” Maarlyna asked, looking up from the ancient armchair that had once graced the estate at Norlaak.

Before answering, Maertyn smiled fondly at his wife, taking in her clear skin, her amber hair and eyes, once more silently grateful that things with her had turned out so well as they had. So much could have gone wrong, so much of which she was unaware. “You know it was. You know more than you ever tell me.”

She shook her head, the corners of her narrow lips turning up just fractionally in the expression of amusement he always enjoyed.

He’d tried to explain when he’d first become aware of the feelings, the sense that the eternal seamless stone of the canal talked to him somewhere in the recesses of his mind. Maarlyna had smiled indulgently then, nodded, and said, “You must be hearing ultrasonics or the like.”

He’d just shrugged. Letting her think that was better than having her think he was not quite right in his mind. And yet…she hadn’t been exactly skeptical…more likely amused in some strange way, as she was now, but he was still wary about questioning her in any way that might spur unnecessary introspection. Perhaps…in time.

“How long will they keep you here?” she asked, as if she did not already know.

“You don’t mind the isolation that much, do you?” He smiled at the game.

“No. You know that. I’m not looking forward to leaving.”

“I told the Ministry that a complete study would take three years.”

“At least, that will give us another year and a half.”

“A year and five months,” he said with a light laugh, “unless we wish to remain and devote ourselves completely to maintaining the light house.”

“They really don’t need a lighthouse-keeper, either. There’s not that much shipping anymore.”

“There are enough long-haul freighters running between Saenblaed and Xantippe that they won’t close the light house in my time.”

“They could mechanize it completely.”

“When you consider the overall costs, people are cheaper, and that even includes deputy assistant ministers who are impoverished lords. Mechanization and microthinking devices are saved for places where putting people is infeasible or impossible.”

“Like deep current monitoring?”

Maertyn nodded. “Besides, the Ministry finds my observations about the building and the canal wall useful…or perhaps amusing.”

“They find your absence from the capital even more valuable.”

“Speaking of which, I will need to return next month to make another periodic report to the Ministry.”


“Around the twentieth. I’ll take the canal-runner to Daelmar and the tube-train from there to Caelaarn.”

“Isn’t that when they rotate the Reserve guards?”

“It is, but that’s not why I’m picking that time. It was stipulated by Minister Hlaansk some time back. There’s also the possibility that I may need the Ministry to approve a request for the additional equipment.”

“How long will you be gone? Two weeks?”

“Ten days to three weeks, depending on whatever difficulties arise, and they will…and other matters.”

“Are the advocates still sparring over the bones of your grandmother’s estate? Trying to revalue the Martian antiquities to demand more taxes? Or is it some other endless legality?”

“They may be, but I haven’t heard any more about that, not recently.” Unlike a few other complications I can’t exactly share with you, dearest.

“What is it, Maertyn? You looked so sad for a moment, there.”

“Call it melancholy. There are times when it would have been nice to retreat to Norlaak. I can’t help thinking about it, sometimes.”

Maarlyna raised her eyebrows.

“I know. I know. It was gone beneath the glaciers before I was born, but I’ve seen the representations and the paintings. They’re real enough, and I can still think about it.”

“Representations aren’t the same,” she pointed out reasonably.

He smiled gently. “It would depend on the representation, I would think. In some ways, aren’t we all representations of a mere biologic plan?” And with all the ages of humanity stretching behind them, who knew how much of that plan was evolutionary and how much genetically planned far in the distant past?

“That makes us sound more like pieces in a game of life, created and played according to this or that formula. We’re more than that…aren’t we?”

He stepped toward the armchair, stopping before it, reaching down, and taking her hands. He guided her to her feet and embraced her, murmuring in her ear, “So much more, especially you, dearest.” Closing his eyes, holding her tight to him, he was more alive than ever.

Her arms went around his waist.

EMPRESS OF ETERNITY Copyright © 2010 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Meet the Author

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.

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Empress of Eternity 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is engaging and the characters are either sympathetic or heinous, depending on where they stand on the villainy scale. Unfortunately the conclusion of the book involves more than a little deus ex machina and of the three time lines only one has a worthwhile impact on the resolution of the tale. Once I reached the end of the book I felt that almost 2/3 of it was pointless filler, and that's never a pleasant feeling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a very interesting idea for a story. At first I was a bit confused but as the book progressed, everything became clear and I was left with a very enjoyable journey. My only real issue is the book had three story arcs, I was really interested in two, but I found myself not caring about the third. But they were interwoven well enough that it kept me hanging around. There isn't a big pay off for the reader at the end. But things wrap up well enough
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Clark_Fan More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this read; as usual for Modesitt this is a well thought out story without unresolved events or question. I enjoyed the read though it may not be my favorite from the author.
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starlitehouse More than 1 year ago
Empress of Eternity by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is one of those books that slowly pulls you in and keeps you hooked right to the end. Three sets of scientists from different times all deal with trying to unlock the secrets of the same indestructible structure that might not only save them but in the end might save all life in the universe. You know an author has done a great job of developing their characters when the separation of thousands of years flows as well as it does in Empress for Eternity. I received this book from Goodreads First Reads and would recommend it to all SF lovers Modesitt's fans will not be disappointed.
harstan More than 1 year ago
When the moon shattered, a 2000 mile long canal ripped through the earth splitting the continent apart. ------------------------ In 1351, Unity of Caelaarn. At a remote weather station, married scientists Maertyn and Maarlyna observe glacial activity that threatens the world as splinted bergs increase the danger. They are hoping to find clues to the great canal, but a budget crisis may end their research----------------------- In 2471, R.E. MetStation scientists Eltyn and Faelyna study the great canal trying to learn its secrets before the great drought destroys the continent. Confronting the encroachment of the desert, they are caught in the middle of a civil war as the hive splits into two conflicting mindsets.------------------------------ In 3123, Vaniran Hegemony. Another ice age is coming as glacierization threatens the continent. Researchers Duhyle and Helkyria study the great canal at a time when local rebels want to splinter away from the one nation world government.-------------------- These three eras star scientists (and the canal) struggling with geological disasters threatening a way of life; while their leaders prefer ignoring the immense problems by kicking the issues to the future for someone else to cope with the confrontation. Rotating perspective, each entry is well written and fascinating but takes adaptation as the communications change over the two millennia. The dedicated researchers come across as heroic while government leaders are avaricious and want to maintain or gain power only. This is science fiction at its best as L.E. Modesitt Jr. condemns those who either politicize, believe or pretend that potential catastrophes (like global warming) are scientific frauds rather than take hard unpopular resolve sooner than later in this deep commentary.------------- Harriet Klausner