Most readers recognize L. E. Modesitt, Jr. as the author of a favorite fantasy series, be it The Magic of Recluce or The Spellsong Cycle. It's always a special treat when he turns his hand again to SF, and Archform; Beauty is no exception. Four centuries in the future, the world is rich -- nanomachines watch the health of the wealthy and manufacture food and gadgets for everybody -- but no utopia, as we see in the lives of five very different people. A singing teacher suffers for her music and fights bureaucracy and apathy. A news researcher delivers the essential background details but can't help looking deeper and wondering about the real story behind the grim incidents that make the headlines. A police investigator, assigned to study trends, begins to see a truly sinister pattern behind a series of seemingly unrelated crimes and deaths. A politician aids his constituents, fights the good fight and tries to get re-elected without compromising his principles. A ruthless businessman strives to make his family powerful, wealthy and independent. Theirs is a world where technology takes care of everyone's basic needs but leaves most people struggling to extract a meaningful life from a world crowded with wonders but empty of commitment and human connection. Alternating the voices and experiences of these five characters in a tour de force of imaginative creation, Modesitt overlaps, combines and builds their disparate stories into a brilliant tale of future crime and investigation, esthetic challenge and personal triumph. In the same way that he has built fantasy landscapes of surpassing fascination, Modesitt creates a believable future, one imbued with a deep understanding of the way politics works and how people act and react when their sense of themselves, of justice and truth, is exploited by others for power and control. When there's nothing left to need or want, will beauty live on in people's lives or disappear forever? L.E. Modesitt, Jr. asks difficult questions, sets himself unlikely challenges and, once again delivers an absorbing tale that enlightens, entertains and uplifts all at once.
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