This novel should be titled, 'The Sleepy-Eyed Man', because that’s what happened to me every time I sat down to read this semi-monotonous work. I liken this novel to watching grass grow. How exciting can this statement be?(to paraphrase): “He packed his monitors back into the equipment case and headed back to Passova (for the seemingly hundredth time).” How intoxicating can a doctor of ecology be looking for possible environmental problems on a planet 73 light years away from his home planet? Yes, there are interesting skytubes in the sky, but with only a few pages left we still don’t know what they are. We do know that our hero, Dr. Paulo Verano, likes a pale lager with dinner. Whoopsy daisy! Even Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, as a symbolist, has a more stimulating endeavor. When Dr. Verano visits the Outie communities of planet Stittara to check on the environmental conditions, the response he gets is, “You want to monitor the crops first?” Doesn’t that get your blood pulsing? Okay, maybe I’m a little too hard on this veteran author’s latest work. I know that he has written 56 sci-fi and fantasy novels. That’s why I am so disappointed. I expected this stand alone novel to be a near classic, instead da book stay cold (Hawaiian pidgin). I’m trying to be nice.
The exciting part of the novel was thinking about the trip Paulo Verano, a Doctor of Ecology, made from his home planet of Bachman to the planet of Stittara.The novel starts off with Paulo Verano going through a nasty divorce on the planet Bachman. Since he lost most of his monies via the settlement, he jumps at the chance to go to a new planet and examine it’s ecological status. Considering Bachman gets it’s life doubling anagathics from Stittara, it’s in their best interest that everything is okay ecologically. Paulo wins the contract to check out Stittara’s environmental balance and report his findings to Unity’s Systems Survey Service on the planet Bachman. This is the fun part, Paulo figures that a round trip to Stittara and one month on the job will take about three months, even though the planet is 73 light years away. Some fast spaceship, right? Well, remember Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=MC2? The C being the speed of light. Although Paulo will only be gone three months on his round trip (if he stays there a month),146 years would pass by on Bachman by the time he got back. His monies would have recovered, his wife would be dead or very old and most likely she would have lost interest in Paulo. What a plan!
Once he gets to Stittara, the novel really drags. There are way too many characters and I found it hard to remember who they were and what they did. Then the reader meets the 400 or 500 year old, Ilsabet (she is the one on the book’s cover), who only talks in rhymes. Paulo must deal with countless Multis (corporations?) and staff. His investigations bring him to another boring group called the Outies. And does anybody really know what those skytubes are? Why is the sky a purple/gray, the grass a brownish/purple/gray? We never find out. And what distance does a ‘kay’ represent? It can’t be a mile, or a meter since the author uses those terms in the novel. What time measurement is a ‘stan’, a minute, an hour? Who knows since it’s never explained. Okay, I do get ‘duhlar’ as a substitute for a dollar. And do we have to say oneday, twoday, threeday, etcetera; in lieu of, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etcetera. I’m not even going to get into the characters names, there are way too many with odd names and innuendos. There is actually a conclusion to this novel, since it’s a rare stand alone novel by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., who normally writes a series of books. If you want to know how Paulo’s investigation of Stittara ends, you will have to scuffle through your own copy.
Now, what did I like about this book, besides all the shuteye I got? Well, it was nice to read a book where the characters ate. Yea, they had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Paulo even exercised some mornings. No, they didn’t go to the bathroom, or have sexual contact. I also thought that Mr. Modesitt’s writing skills were superb, he just wrote a tediously dull novel. He had what could have been an interesting plot-line, but he left out all the gusto and gingerbread. Oh well.