Modesitt - Archform: Beauty

April 26, 2004

I have been reading a lot of Modesitt. His Archform: Beauty is quite good. Based on two science fiction novels and half a dozen fantasy novels, I have decided that the man is a spectacular science fiction author and a pretty good fantasy author.

Archform: Beauty is set in a future of about three centuries hence. The language is clipped, the world includes nannites and information technology, the narrative cuts between half a dozen main characters, and all the main characters take pleasure in the beauty inherent in their work.

Like much light fantasy, the characters are all essentially capable people even if they are sometimes placed in situations that they do not care for and do not see an escape from. I like that in a fictional character - if I wanted to be depressed I would read the correct subset of history.

Modesitt frames the future as a place where the aesthetic and the practical conflict, and writes some future sociology about the limitations of a purely rational world view and suggesting that a world without aesthetic appreciation is a world doomed to progressively become less intelligent and, along the way, far far less interesting. It is, at one level, a reply to the folks who would trim the budgets for art and art education, and at another level a reminder that the beauty in life comes not just in the "high culture" of art but also in human relations - the Senator loves the beauty in politics as deals are made, positions are taken, alliances offered and rejected, and constituents coddled. And that makes him just as sympathetic a character as the adjunct professor of voice or the beleaguered researcher who writes poetry in the brief seconds between complicated fact-finding assignments for the news station.

It is a good book, both in itself and because the ending pushed my romantic buttons. After finishing the book, I went and found and smooched J., for she is also a lovely lady who sings.

Posted by Red Ted at April 26, 2004 09:49 PM
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