My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Read in November 2010
I admit this is the first Modesitt science fiction novel. I’m no stranger to his work in the fantasy field, having read all the Recluce and Spellsinger novels and two of his Imager novels.
This novel includes two story lines that alternate and converge. Both stories use Roget’s point of view, but during separate time lines in his life. This gives us a glimpse of current events and some of Roget’s back story which also serves to world build (or re-build) Earth in our future. Earth is a mess, ecologically speaking, and ruled by the Federation, a Sinese-based empire. Roget experiences discrimination in his career advancement because he is a descendant of the remnants of the United States (oriental supremacy and occidental minority). The current time-line follows Roget as he explores the planet of Haze (Federation designation due to the orbital shields) or Dubiety (as referred to by the inhabitants).
Modesitt explores two philosophies of government and society. The Federation is an extrapolation of all that’s wrong with empires, as history continually shows. Haze/Dubiety is an example of an extreme instance of choice and consequences. Citizens have freedom of choice so long as they never harm another person and take complete responsibility for their actions and their consequences. Modesitt gives several good examples of testing the boundaries of this scenario.
Comparable to some of the best of Heinlein’s social engineering science fiction. Yet the characters take back stage to the themes, but not so much that you get bogged down in data dumps or didactic digressions. I felt the most sympathy for a dachshund named Hildegarde in a painting Roget kept an image of to talk to and ease the loneliness of his existence.
Most of the science in the Federation appears to be hard science, although I don’t remember how the Federation battle cruisers traveled to Haze (whether it was FTL or hyperspace or hard science believable travel). The Dubiens had some technology that seemed fantastic and Modesitt didn’t go into explanations so I can’t confirm or deny the science behind their “Trans-Temporal Entropic Reversal” system.
Roget’s leap of faith, although predictable, was no less poignant. And the epilogue, while a bit corny, did bring a smile to my face.