Book Review 2008 #11: The Eternity Artifact

My next book is a standalone SF novel by the prolific author L.E. Modesitt Jr, The Eternity Artifact


Better known for his fantasy novels (eg. The Recluce novels), Modesitt also writes science fiction novels. The Eternity Artifact is set in one of his typical SF worlds: future SF, multiple polities. intrigue, and action. Competent characters, often one or more who is tied to an espionage organization. Lots of sociological speculation in and amongst the action.
In this instance, these usual tools are put into a space opera, showing an expedition to an runaway alien planet by a polity who has some very serious rivals. Rivals serious enough to use sabotage, agents and even outright space warfare to stop the expedition, or steal its secrets for itself.
The action is seen through the perspective of four protagonists, one of whom is not who he appears to the rest. Its told in first person throughout, and so we get lots of internal consideration and thought as the very different quartet–an artist, a former agent turned professor, a shuttle pilot, and an armorer more than he appears journey to a Big Dumb Object–the planet of Danann. It is the epynomous “Eternity Artifact”, an unbelievably ancient alien world in a universe where no other aliens have ever been found. A tempting prize indeed!
Some don’t really care for Modesitt’s style, since he does like to laden sociological speculation heavily into his plot and story, and it can be off-putting. I wasn’t entirely thrilled with Recluce, for example, and have enjoyed his other novels more. Eternity Artifact falls into this category, and I think its because of the multiple protagonists. This allows for a variety of perspectives which manage to keep a balance of ideas in tension.
The ending and denouement feel a bit weak in my opinion, but in the getting there, I was reasonably entertained. And whether you agree with his opinions or not, Modesitt does raise some good sociological questions in the story. And there is even the barest hint of a romance, too, swirled in.
I enjoyed the book.