Another political SF yarn set in the future world of Modesitt’s superior Archform: Beauty (2002).
Ex-marine colonel Jonat deVrai—straight-arrow Jonat resigned his commission after witnessing atrocities, unable to stomach government duplicity and hypocrisy—is now the world’s leading analyst of product-placement effectiveness. Though the effectiveness of “prod” is notoriously difficult to evaluate, Jonat is completely honest—and his system really works. A commission from the Centre for Societal Research requires him to analyze Juan Carlisimo’s Senate election campaign. Perhaps illegally, Carlisimo uses “rez” (the resonant amplification of music’s emotional impact) and prod to beef up his ads and campaign appearances. Thugs, apparently tied to the campaign, attempt to beat up Jonat while he investigates. After Jonat evades the lethal intentions of a sniper, he receives a deadly threat from prod biggie Abraham Vorhees, whose highly touted and expensive services Jonat’s work has shown to be utterly worthless. And, while cooperating with Central Four, the intelligent computer that runs the police, Jonat exposes a powerful security firm’s attempt to smuggle illegal weapons to Mars so that the ubiquitous MultiCor can suppress the revolt there. Four illegal cydroids—programmed clones that can be controlled from a distance—try to murder Jonat; another cydroid, wearing Jonat’s face, assassinates his beloved sister Aliora and her husband Dierk—leaving their children in Jonat’s care. The only person he can trust is an independent cydroid, Officer Paula Athene. The other officers have been suborned by the malefactors and prefer to see Jonat dead.
Modesitt’s abundant novelistic virtues—great characters and plotting, impressive attention to detail—aside: this is smart, aware, provocative, and engrossing on several political, economic, and professional levels.