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Empress of Eternity Hardcover – 5 Nov 2010

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More About the Author

No matter what anyone claims, writers are made, not born, and what and how they write is the result of just how they were made... or how they made themselves. I began by writing poetry, which was published only in small magazines, and then went on to write administrative reports while I was a U.S. Naval aviator, followed by research papers, speeches, economic and technical studies, and policy and briefing papers. Along the way, I've been a delivery boy; a lifeguard; an unpaid radio disc jockey; a U.S. Navy pilot; a market research analyst; a real estate agent; director of research for a political campaign; legislative assistant and staff director for U.S. Congressmen; Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues; a college lecturer and writer in residence; and unpaid treasurer of a civic music arts association.

As a result, my writing tends to incorporate all of the above, in addition to the science fiction I read from a very early age. After close to sixty published novels, and perhaps a score of short stories, it's fairly clear to me that "what kind of writer" I am for readers tends to depend on which of my books each reader has read.

Along the way, I've weathered eight children, a fondness for three-piece suits [which has deteriorated into a love of vests], a brown Labrador, a white cockapoo, an energetic Shih-tzu, two scheming dachshunds, a capricious spaniel, a crazy Saluki-Aussie, and various assorted pet rodents. Finally, in 1989, to escape nearly twenty years of occupational captivity in Washington, D.C., I escaped to New Hampshire. There I was fortunate enough to find and marry a lovely lyric soprano, and we moved to Cedar City, Utah, in 1993, where she directs the voice and opera program at Southern Utah University and where I attempt to create and manage chaos in the process of writing.

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Praise for L . E. Modesitt, Jr.: "Satisfying from a science-fictional perspective, with its discussions of Hawking-effect displacements and intergalactic conflict, from a conceptual perspective as the reader must follow complicated reasoning processes, and from a literary perspective as Modesitt reaches a new stage in the intertwining of plot and character."--"SFRA Review" on "The Elysium Commission ""Modesitt's prose is lively, and there's enough sense of wonder here to satisfy even the most jaded.... A must-read for Modesitt fans, as well as those of Jack McDevitt and Arthur C . Clarke."-"Kirkus Reviews," starred review on "The Eternity Artifact"

About 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 27 reviews
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Impressive but a bit impersonal 9 Nov. 2010
By Stefan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's hard not to get excited whenever L.E. Modesitt Jr. releases a new standalone sci-fi novel. Despite being better known for his various fantasy series than his science fiction, some of his best work can be found in the latter genre. Novels like The Parafaith War, Archform: Beauty, Adiamante and Haze (just to name a few) are wonderful examples of this amazingly prolific author's talent when it comes to science fiction. The newest addition to this list, Empress of Eternity, is no exception. Despite being a bit dry and inaccessible, its scope and ambition are stunning.

The novel follows three separate story lines, set in far-future Earth societies that are separated by tens of thousands of years. In each of these, scientists are investigating a 2000 mile long artificial structure known as the Mid Continent Canal. The canal is indestructible: even a meteor hit in the far past seems to have made no impact. Researchers are especially interested in learning more because the canal doesn't seem to be affected by temperature changes in the same way as other materials -- and in each of the future societies described in the book, extreme climate change is causing untold havoc for human civilization, including (in the third one) a brewing rebellion that employs a doomsday device that could unravel the structure of the entire universe...

Empress of Eternity is, initially, a very hard novel to get into. The rapid introduction of three completely distinct far future societies, without much in the way of exposition, makes for a confusing set of opening chapters. This is exacerbated by the fact that each story line features a couple with, as is often the case with Modesitt, a highly cerebral male character and a strong female one, who are all examining the canal at different times in the future. This similarity makes it hard to get settled into the novel. In addition, the second story line is initially very confusing, mainly because its characters often communicate by "pulsing" jargon-heavy messages to each other: "Metstation sole unit structure inhabitable south side MCC west of desert research station. Interrogative estimated habitation/equipment viability duration."

Interestingly, they also often denote emphasis by adding exponents to their adjectives: "Dubious probabilities for serious and officious5 chief." (Note: the 5 should be smaller and superscript - like an exponent - but I can't figure out how to do this on Amazon so, um, use your imagination.)

Each far future society has a different flavor, e.g. the "Hu-Ruche" society in the second story line is totalitarian and emphasizes an almost hive-like adherence to the rulers' dictates, whereas the first society is more feudal. Each one is also affected by climate change in a different way, with an ice age on the way in the first one and the earth dangerously heating up in the second one. There's simply a lot of information to piece together and digest early on -- like me, you may end up going back to reread the first handful of chapters to get your bearings before moving on.

The experience of reading about three far-future societies that are this far removed from each other is strange and slightly uncomfortable. Separated by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years, there's barely any knowledge of e.g. the Hu-Ruche society left by the time the third society is active, millennia later. (And that's not even counting other, earlier, societies that are referenced occasionally -- and that are apparently responsible for the extreme levels of climate change and the fact that there appears to be no moon in the sky anymore.) All of this gave me the same feeling as e.g. seeing everything before the year 2000 referred to as "pre-history" in Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, or watching the evolution of society in Brian Aldiss' Helliconia trilogy: there's a sense of helplessness that comes with such a frank description of the futility of human endeavor. It also means that, for the first half of the book, you'll be reading three seemingly unconnected stories, all set in the same location but separated by thousands of years. Fortunately L.E. Modesitt Jr. pulls everything together in the second half of the novel, in a truly dizzying spin that easily justifies the struggles early on.

In the end, Empress of Eternity is an impressive but somewhat impersonal novel. Especially in the first half of the book, the focus is more on societies than on the people that inhabit them, and more on ideas than on feelings. Mere human relationships simply pale in significance next to the climate issues and the sheer scale of the future history L.E. Modesitt Jr. displays here. As a result, Empress of Eternity is stunning in ambition and scope, but unfortunately a bit too dry to be as enjoyable as some of the author's past SF works. If I were alive in the Hu-Ruche society, I'd probably summarize my opinion as [respectful8 admiration] rather than [thrilled3 enjoyment]. (Again, the 8 and 3 are exponents, and yes, I realize my clever little ending to this review is ruined entirely by having to explain this!)
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Slow Start, But Really Delivers Unique Time Travel Late Book 22 Dec. 2010
By Judah - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I had a hard time achieving immersion in the novel until around chapter ten, because Modesitt is really telling three separate stories, each with their own cast of characters, which intersect through the 'mystery Earth canal' later in the book. The reader is essentially reading three separate books, vaguely linked by a similar setting, and it may put some people off. Endure it, and you'll be rewarded later.

One setting uses Norse mythological names, shadow entanglement as science, as deals with true believers coming into a universe destroying doomsday weapon (The Hammer). One setting uses a human hive mind, focuses on two engineering techs studying the 'canal' during a coup in their repressive society, and has a weird truncated language accent for easier information dumping. One setting follows a lower technology civilization facing global climate change, where a military based cabal is subverting a democratic republic with hereditary Lords.

Multi-faceted with a high amount of detail to understand, the story comes together in the late book. Rather than spoiling, I'll simply write, 'A Unique Look At Time Travel.' Plenty of reflective observation on civilizations and empire that is typical of Modesitt's works. If you can get into this complex book, a great read, but I don't think I'd use it to introduce someone to Modesitt.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Slightly awkward plot, but good hard science 23 Nov. 2010
By Indy Reviewer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Much as he's done on the fantasy side, L. E. Modesitt has written some great scifi (Adiamante, The Parafaith War) and some pretty mediocre stuff (Flash, The Elysium Commission). "Empress of Eternity" falls roughly in the middle, with the biggest issue being that the main plot doesn't really commence until the last third of the book. Still, a decent enough read. A star off for the somewhat awkward plot progression leaves this at 4 stars.

The first two thirds of the book alternate between three separate but related short stories. Three sets of researchers hundreds of thousands of years apart are desperately seeking any information on an incredibly sophisticated alien artifact as their governments begin to collapse around them. To do so, they all end up in a lighthouse of sorts until they learn how to access the technology. This part isn't anything special, as Modesitt has written probably 25 versions of the one-hero-against-government/technology/religion story by now. While it's competently done, if you've read Modesitt before, you'll have a pretty good idea how the plot is going to progress (and how to grit your teeth at his attempts at romance writing) long before it happens.

Where it becomes a more interesting novel is the last third, as the three timelines become linked by the access of the technology and Modesitt expands upon his explanation of time (and time travel) in relation to physics. As such, the science part of the fiction will generally be over the head of the average reader, but while the end result of the conquering ethical hero may be predictable, the merging of the timelines does make for an interesting read. Not his best work, but the exploration of physics makes it worth reading. 4 stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
There's a lot here...some very good... but I found the construction confusing 8 Sept. 2011
By booksforabuck - Published on
In three different ages, pairs of scientists examine a mysterious artifact. Although human civilizations have risen and fallen, the mysterious "canal" remains. Stretching across an entire continent, the canal seems almost independent of the environment around it. Millions of years of sandstorm haven't touched the surface of its white walls. Even laser and asteroid impact cannot phase it. Yet it seems to have no gravitational anomolies. Stranger still, portions of the canal wall respond... but only to human touch.

As the three pair of scientists investigate, their worlds are collapsing around them. In every case, extremists, looking for easy answers rather than the truth, are on the verge of overthrowing the governments. Environmental destruction (in one case, global warming, in another a new ice age) weaken the legitimacy of the existing government at at time when they can least afford it. In every case, the extremists see the canal as a source of power and are intent on claiming it for their own. In every case, only the scientists can stand against them, but what can they do when the "stone" of the canal responds to the attackers as easily as it does the defenders?

Only by unlocking the secrets of the canal can any of the scientists hope to avert disaster, save their own lives, or even avert the early destruction of the entire universe. But the canal has guarded its secrets for tens of thousands of years and time is running out.

Author L. E. Modesitt, Jr. has bitten off a lot in this story. Three pair of characters living in worlds that hold many parallels but are centuries (perhaps many centuries) apart are forced to confront not only the mysteries of the canal, but those of time itself. In each case, only a violent solution is possible, but in each case, successful resistance, let alone a strong counter-attack seems impossible.

I found the story to be slow-going at first. The frequent flips among the three eras kept me from identifying with individual characters, the parallels between the worlds adding to my confusion about who was doing what to whom. In the final third of the book, Modesitt brought the stories together, continuing the parallels but also introducing interaction between the three worlds. There was some good action here, as well as some relevant food for thought that can be taken away in the 21st century. Despite its flaws and my occasional inability to keep straight which world I was in at the moment, I found EMPRESS OF ETERNITY well worth the read.

Three Stars
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good, but confusing! 29 Jun. 2011
By Donald H. Sabathier - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. Good character development. There are three seperate stories that are woven together throughout the book. Two of them are a bit confusing to follow at first, but as the stories unfold they start to make more sense. Worth the read, but not as good as most of his other books.
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