Genre Science Fiction Publisher Tor Date Published 2003 Review Posted on 1/29/2005 Reviewer Rating
# of Ratings: 4 Average Rating: 8 out of 10
The Ethos Effect, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Reviewed by Steven Sawicki
If you've read this book, why not
I've been reading Modesitt for quite a few years but pretty much only the fantasies since I'm a sucker for a good fantasy. I've kept away from the SF because, really, can a good fantasist write SF, never mind hard SF? Well, in Modesitt's case the answer is yes.
The Ethos Effect is set in the same universe as the Parafaith War only 200 years later. The book is essentially the story of Commander Van C. Albert who manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by destroying a civilian space liner in the process of taking out a much larger military ship during a conflict. Since that time Albert has been shuffled from one dead end command to the other and it's about to happen again as he is stripped of his ship command to be assigned as military attaché to the terran embassy on the world Scandya. While there, Albert is seriously wounded during an assassination attempt he helps foil, slips into a coma and also gets promoted and retired so that he awakens unemployed. But this is not a state that lasts for very long as he soon gets a job offer to work for the Integrated Information Systems foundation. Albert soon discovers that the foundation is merely a cover for something else entirely and this is where the fun begins.
I really didn't have any idea where Modesitt was going with this. The book starts in space, spends some time on a planet and then goes back to space which means the plot is moving all the time. Albert's an interesting character in that stiff, sf kind of hero way, and the story itself has a few twists and turns to keep it interesting as well. It's a fairly long book but never quite feels that way thanks to Modesitt's ability to pace the action and information. I imagine there will be additional books in this series although I have no idea if they'll feature Albert or not. I'm going to guess there's at least one more book with the commander in it though as Modesitt has built this world and set the scene for more adventures with what he's done so far.
This story has all the elements of an incredibly goos sci-fi story, capable of being gripping both technically and philosophically.
Unfortunately, an unusual sort of writing structure that is neither boring no exciting dominates this book, which doesn't really bring out the most interesting details of either the societies represented in this book, or the technology they employ.
Luckily, I'm not the type of person to demand an exciting, action packed, Michael Crichton type book. As such, I can appreciate the solid foundation of the book, even as I bemoan the fact that this book fails the realize it's potential to turn a solid foundation into an explosive and gripping story.
Still, the slower, somber way in which it is written has a strange sort of value, and makes it memorable in it's own way, and I can only assume that, since this writing style is continued in the sequel (The Ethos Effect), Modesitt prefers this kind of not-quite-exciting writing style as well.
Just remember, this kind of book is not for impatient and spontaneous readers, but those who can take their time reading a book, and actually enjoy doing so.
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