Empress of Eternity
by L. E. Modesitt
Cover Artist: Daniel Dociu
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326645
Date: 09 November 2010 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
L.E. Modesitt, Jr., is a dependably readable and interesting author, so I am always happy when a new book shows up in my mail. The latest is Empress of Eternity, and it is not related to any of his earlier work--except in that he remains focused on environmental issues.
The setting is three times in Earth's distant future. In each, the continent on which the tale is set is traversed, coast to coast, by an immense canal built--somehow, by some ancient civilization--of an indestructible material. At one end sits a building, built of the same material, whose doors and windows open in response to human touch. At the other end sits a similar building, sealed against all attempts at entry.
So we have a puzzle, and in each time we have people who wish to solve it. In the Unity of Caelaarn, this is Lord Maertyn and his wife, Maarlyna, who is still recovering from an unspecified injury that required massive medical intervention. The Unity is threatened by climate change, for glaciers loom to the north of the canal, and Lord Maertyn is intrigued by the way the canal's material maintains a constant temperature. Is there some secret in it that might be used to fight the ice? If only he could keep at the work! But he has been recalled to the capital to justify his use of resources to the bureaucrats, and there he becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue.
In the era of the Ruche, the puzzle-solvers are Eltyn and Faelyna. The threat is heat and drought and a severe shortage of resources, including energy. They too hope to find a solution in the canal's secrets. Unfortunately, the problems their society faces are triggering political turmoil, culminating in a coup by a faction that uses mind-control technology to enforce unity of belief and purpose and destroy independent thought.
In the era of the Vaniran Hegemony, Kavn Dukyle and Helkyria also face ice and resource shortages. Not surprisingly, they also face political difficulties. A faction of their society known as the Aesir wants to overthrow the Vanir and they have developed a weapon known as Thor's Hammer that can destroy whatever it strikes (overused, it threatens the entire universe). Perhaps not surprisingly, in this era, Modesitt refers to the canal as the Bifrost Bridge.
What hope is there? Each time makes progress probing the nature of the canal, finding in it hints of dark matter and even of time itself. There are even embedded controls, and in due time--just in time to survive attacks by the Ruche rebels and the Aesir--they prove crucial. More to the point, the canal "awakens" and links the three times in ways that prove crucial to the survival of humanity, Earth, and the universe. As for the characters, their futures seem happier, though one assumes something like the position of the book's title, which alters her relationship with her partner forever.
Is that cryptic enough? If you want clarity, read the book. You'll enjoy it.