Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Apr 26 08:38:21 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #39

%T The Ecologic Secession
%A L.E. Modesitt
%I TOR Books
%D July 1990
%O paperback, US$3.95 (reviewed in galley)
%P 352
%G 0-812-50348-1

In The Fires Of Paratime (1982) and Hammer Of Darkness (1985), L. E. Modesitt demonstrated a powerfully unconventional imagination yoked to a writing talent not then quite mature enough to handle the demands made on it.

By 1986's The Ecologic Envoy Modesitt had retreated to a more conventional sort of adventure/intrigue SF, but was displaying greatly improved plotting and world-building. That novel chronicled a confrontation between a militaristic and repressive galactic empire and the eco-technologists of the independent world Accord, as told from the point of view of one Nathaniel Firstborn Whaler.

In The Ecolitan Operation (1989), Modesitt returned to the universe of Accord but in an earlier century, when Accord was still an Imperial colony struggling to throw off the yoke. We followed the adventures of Major Jimjoy Earl Wright, Special Operative and primo tough-guy of the Empire's department of dirty tricks. Condemned to death after one of his missions backfires on the Empire, he flees to Accord, finds there something he can begin to believe in, and takes on the job of defending it against his former colleagues.

The Ecologic Secession continues that story. The Ecolitan Institute gives Wright the new identity of James Joyson Whaler and a job as the planet's de-facto war leader. The Empire vastly outguns, outnumbers and outspends little Accord; its only weapon is the Institute's subtle grasp on the multiple ecologies (biological, economic, and informational) of the human Galaxy.

In this second book, though, the revolution is not Wright/Whaler's most difficult problem. His ultimate challenge is to reshape not just the Galaxy but his own nature -- because the culture he has adopted and the woman he wants more than anything else can use the ruthless, lethal super-operative that he has made himself, but will never accept that creature as a human being. Killing is so much simpler than loving...

In The Ecologic Secession Modesitt tries to marry the conventional SF/adventure saga to the novel of character. He isn't quite good enough to carry it off convincingly -- but then, very few writers are. And even though this book and its prequel come up short on that level, I found them enjoyable and well worth reading for Modesitt's world-building and the nice visceral grab of many of the action scenes.

What I'd really like to see is the new Modesitt's skill married to the old Modesitt's willingness to take conceptual chances. The Ecolitan Institute could yet develop in a direction that lets him do that; we really don't learn all that much about its ideas from the three books so far, except that all of its disciplines incorporate the wisdom that you can never do only one thing.

I'll be watching for more signs of growth in his next book.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Apr 26 08:38:21 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>