First story collection from the prolific and versatile author of fantasy and science fiction (Natural Ordermage, 2007, etc.) comprising 19 entries, three previously unpublished.
The previously unpublished pieces involve established series: The Saga of Recluce, The Corean Chronicles and The Ghost Books, where tangible ghosts are the occasion of both scientific study and criminal activities. Some of the older science-fiction pieces today read as sober fact: Modesitt’s first published story (1973) describes an electronic banking scam; another ponders the impact of sophisticated computer analysis on the legal profession; still another sets forth the impending economic collapse of the United States. Elsewhere, the author recasts aspects of his service in Vietnam as science fiction; presents the troubling implications of mingling war and religion; imagines unexpected consequences in trying to solve the problem of climatic change; foresees the future of gymnastics going way beyond performance-enhancing drugs; offers a wry and incisive comment on what men don't understand about women; pens a sort of precursor to The Spellsong Cycle; and wonders what might happen if advanced AIs controlled huge manufacturing plants. One standout, a ghastly vision of where weaponry might be headed, analyzes the impact of such weapons on those whose task is to deploy them.
Admittedly, the short format preempts the intricate, leisurely development of ideas that is Modesitt’s trademark, and sometimes exposes the limitations of his technique—narratives and tones often seem one-dimensional and pedestrian. Still, the collection amply demonstrates his probing intelligence and the breathtaking range of his inquiries.