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Of Tangible Ghosts
Ghost of the Revelator

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor Books

Book 2

Nicholas Jainschigg
Book 1
L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the author of the Recluce fantasy series and a string of science fiction novels, notably The Parafaith War and and Adiamante.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Soprano Sorceress
SF Site Review: The Ecolitan Enigma
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Tribute Site
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

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Johan Eschbach, retired from an eventful career in service to Columbia as a naval aviator, Spazi agent, and cabinet minister, now teaches environmental economics at Vanderbraak State University in New Bruges (New Hampshire in OTL). Doktor Eschbach lost both his wife and daughter in a political murder -- he himself was badly wounded -- and he would like nothing better than a quiet life in this academic backwater. That would make for a dull book, however, and he is soon caught up in a murder investigation, a love affair, political intrigues, and secret military research into "de-ghosting."

Doktor Eschbach's solution to the ensuing tangle is "rather appalling and not entirely credible" -- to quote Christina Schulman, whose excellent review led me to read Of Tangible Ghosts.

"A land of dirigibles and difference engines, Modesitt's eerily refined world is compelling and coolly original, a place where you still drive to work in a car--albeit steam-powered--but think nothing of waving good morning to the zombies raking leaves off the lawn." -- Paul Hughes, amazon.com

Ghost of the Revelator picks up Doktor Eschbach's and his new wife Llysette Du Boise's lives as her singing career is taking off, and as the messy ending to Of Tangible Ghosts comes back to haunt Eschbach. The story unfolds slowly, but the same wonderful details of everyday life that enlivened the first book -- lunch at a favorite cafe, icy roads, dense, lazy, occasionally sharp students, petty academic politics, politicians who can "smile and smile and be a villain" -- make the trip worthwhile. This world is slower-paced than ours, and Modesitt's prose has something of the heavy Dutch feel of well-fed burghers, shining-clean windows, and tidy lives. Very human. If slow bothers you -- skim.

Mr Modesitt still hasn't smoothed out his jarring exposition of the differences between his alternate world and ours, here usually dumped as interior monologues. Show, don't tell, please!

Llysette sings at a Presidential Arts Awards dinner and is invited to perform at the prestigious Salt Palace in Deseret -- after fleeing the fall of France and an Austrian political prison. Johan comes to the uncomfortable conclusion that he's about to be eclipsed in fame and fortune by his glamorous wife....

...but maybe Deseret is after more than just a performance by the new prima diva. And what about Austria-Hungary? And New France? And the shadowy "Revealed Twelve"?

Minister Eschbach resolves the ensuing international crisis with verve, skill, and a couple of twists that would be unfair to reveal. Suffice it to say that the ending is most satisfactory, and leaves plenty of room for future Eschbach/Du Boise adventures.

Both books are reasonably self-contained, but if you read one and like it, you'll want to read the other, so it makes sense to start with Of Tangible Ghosts.

Doktor Eschbach and the two books have parallels to Mr. Modesitt's real life: the author was a naval aviator, spent twenty years in our "Federal District" as a political aide, EPA staffer, and college teacher. He's married to a lyric soprano (sorceress?, who teaches at Southern Utah University). He and his family moved from DC to New Hampshire ("New Bruges") and then to Utah: these are the settings for both books. "Write what you know," the old adage goes -- it certainly works for Modesitt. I presume the spies and ghosts are from the author's imagination...


(1) -- not to mention confusing. A reader at amazon.com writes: "I've read the book 6 or 7 times, and I'm *still* not sure what's happened at the end..."

Copyright © 1998 by Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at www.silcom.com/~manatee/reviewer.html#tillman .


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