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Archform: Beauty    by L. E. Modesitt Jr. order for
by L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

L. E. Modesitt Jr. is the deservedly praised author of the excellent fantasy series, the Saga of Recluce. He has also written SF that has been well-received, and returns to pure SF in Archform : Beauty. Despite its being four hundred years in the future, the five principal characters could easily fit into a contemporary mystery novel: the rather old-fashioned and unappreciated singing teacher; the background news researcher; the police lieutenant trying to uncover trends and patterns in seemingly unrelated events; the politician, looking after his own interests as politicians must, but sensitive to the needs of his constituents; and the ruthless, relentless head of a great crime family.

Modesitt has created a perfectly believable future, even if it includes a Martian Republic, (though I can't quite believe in the common use of filch for filthy rich to describe all those with high incomes). The principal characters become involved together by a series of unexplained deaths (both accidents and apparent suicides) which happen after listening to concerts of the new music. Though suspicious, the number is actually negligible compared to the deaths of hundreds of thousands from manufactured diseases, which have come to be almost expected, like automobile-related deaths in our own time.

The characters are well drawn and interesting, though the crime lord is a little overblown. The story itself, and the puzzles of the mystery, are complex enough to hold the attention throughout, and there is even a hint of romance to sweeten the ending. I am a big fan of the author's Recluce fantasy series, but I will also welcome any further ventures into SF.

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