The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds and Accompaniment

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe One-Eyed Man by L.E. Modesitt JrThe One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds and Accompaniment by L.E. Modesitt Jr

I am a big fan of Modesitt’s science fiction work, even when he gets on his political soap box for gender, socially progressive politics, and environmental issues. The One-Eyed Man is a solo novel that encompasses all of these topics, but this time there is almost a feeling of cynicism that I really enjoyed.

Paulo Verano is an idealistic Environmental Analyst who has just been taken to the cleaners. In a scene that is familiar to many, his ex-spouse has left him for another person and has financially devastated him. His daughter is estranged from him and his business, while viable, is a means for his ex to continue to reap financial support. It’s a bleak picture.

Stittara is a distant world from the major planets of the Unity of the Cyelesian Arm. It produces a naturally occurring substance that essentially doubles the human lifespan, so it’s very important to the rest of the human race. In what looks very much to be a wholly political maneuver by power brokers in the Unity government, Paulo is offered a contract to do a complete assessment of the environmental impact of humanity on Stittara. While the contract is lucrative, it is the long time adjustment (dilation) that comes with travel to such a distant place that makes it so enticing. Even with the implied difficulties of having his work used for political ends, Paulo can’t help but jump at the chance to leave his current situation far in the past.

True to form, Modesitt tells his story in stages. From the slow initial build-up as the main character becomes aware of the challenges of his assignment, to the introduction of various supporting characters and then to the almost heavy-handed conclusion as the main character desperately tries to avert disaster, this is typical Modesitt science fiction. As usual, Paulo Verano is not a memorable main character… in fact, his standard bland personality could be any number of characters from previous works by the author. It would be boring except that there is an undercurrent of disdain for his society’s social programming that really interested me. When Paulo is interacting with the (again, typical) masculine female love interest, and when I sensed his mocking for mid-level government political officials, I was honestly amused. I began to wonder if Modesitt is losing some of his enchantment with ideals that have so long been the mainstays of his work.

The most interesting character in The One-Eyed Man is Ilsabet, the human avatar of Stittara. The strange, poetic phrases that Modesitt uses to hide the messages she bears are fascinating. I have to admit that at first I missed a lot of hidden meaning in it and it was only after reading through things a second time that I began to see it. I am not strong at this kind of subtlety, so it was really a surprise. “Is one life? Is color art? Is might strife? Are fingers smart?”

If you are already a fan of Modesitt’s science fiction then The One-Eyed Man will be worth reading. However, some of his other work is much stronger and has greater entertainment value.

The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds and Accompaniment — (2013) The colony world of Stittara is no ordinary planet. For the interstellar Unity of the Ceylesian Arm, Stittara is the primary source of anagathics: drugs that have more than doubled the human life span. But the ecological balance that makes anagathics possible on Stittara is fragile, and the Unity government has a vital interest in making sure the flow of longevity drugs remains uninterrupted, even if it means uprooting the human settlements. Offered the job of assessing the ecological impact of the human presence on Stittara, freelance consultant Dr. Paulo Verano jumps at the chance to escape the ruin of his personal life. He gets far more than he bargained for: Stittara’s atmosphere is populated with skytubes—gigantic, mysterious airborne organisms that drift like clouds above the surface of the planet. Their exact nature has eluded humanity for centuries, but Verano believes his conclusions about Stittara may hinge on understanding the skytubes’ role in the planet’s ecology—if he survives the hurricane winds, distrustful settlers, and secret agendas that impede his investigation at every turn.

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years. We still hear from him every once in a while.

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