GHOST OF THE WHITE NIGHTS
This not-especially-thrilling thriller completes the trilogy that began with Of Tangible Ghosts and The Ghost of the Revelator. The most striking feature of Modesitt's alternative Earth is that scientists have discovered that the human soul is tangible and subject to mechanical manipulation. It can remain behind as a ghost when someone dies in anguish, and it can be removed to create an obedient zombie slave. In an effort to resist the Austrian Empire's schemes of world domination, the leaders of Columbia (one of the countries that share the North American continent) send Doktor Johan Eshbach (college teacher of environmental science, former secret agent and gifted amateur in ghost research) and his diva wife, Llysette, to negotiate a petroleum contract with a Russia still ruled by the Romanovs. Needless to say, Eshbach discovers that powerful forces are arrayed against him, and he's faced with untangling a confusing situation. The whole business seems rather perfunctory. Even when Eshbach is supposedly in danger, the author's prose trudges stolidly along. The idea of ghost technology is intriguing, but seems unimportant until the end. The characters appear most concerned about surviving faculty politics, picking concert selections and finding a good restaurant. While this may be true to life, it's not terribly compelling. Perhaps readers of the first two books will care enough about the characters to worry about whether the hero will outwit his opponents while his wife advances her singing career by performing before the czar. But probably not. (Oct. 25)
FYI:It's been a banner year for Modesitt with publication of two reprints, Empire & Ecolitan (Forecasts, June 25), and two other novels, The Shadow Sorceress (Forecasts, May 28) and The Octagonal Raven (Forecasts, Feb. 5).