I started to listen to the audio book version of Haze on my way to work and it is space opera just the way I like it. A mystic planet surrounded by an impregnable shrouding haze and an expandable government operative is sent down to infiltrate and report back any intelligence he could find. This reminds me of ‘Solens Vargar’ (Sun Wolves) a book by the Swedish science fiction writer Dénis Lindbohm about an agent sent out by an oppressive government to hunt down a stolen weapon that can be used against it only to become the hunted himself. Here is my view:
Author: L. E. Modesitt, Jr
Narrator: William Dufris
Genre: Space Opera
Paperback: 352 pages
Audio book: 10h 32m
Publisher: Tor 2009| Tantor Media
Order from: Tor | iTunes | Audible | Amazon US | UK | B&N | Sfbok
Excerpt: Chapter 1
What lies beneath the millions of orbiting nanotech satellites that shroud the world called Haze? Major Keir Roget’s mission is to make planetfall in secret, find out, and report back to his superiors in the Federation, the Chinese-dominated government that rules Earth and the colonized planets.
For all his effectiveness as a security agent, Roget is troubled by memories of an earlier mission. When he was assigned to covert duty in the Noram backcountry town of St. George, he not only discovered that the long-standing Saint culture was neither as backward nor as harmless as his superiors believed, but he barely emerged with his life and sanity whole. Now, scouting Haze, he finds a culture seemingly familiar, yet frighteningly alien, with hints of a technology far superior to that of the Federation. Yet he is not certain how much of what he sees is real—or how to convey a danger he cannot even prove to his superiors, if he can escape Haze.
I listened to the unabridged audio version narrated by William Dufris, his voice works for the story even if he might come across a little bit snotty at times.
The story is told along two timelines; the now were Major Keir Roget makes planetfall and visits the world below; and retrospects to his earlier missions that made him to the man he is but also made his superiors send him to Haze.
This is very much a political space opera with some pointers to our contemporary society.
I have enjoyed L.E. Modesitt, Jr. for some time now. The Recluse Saga, Flash, Gravity Dreams and The Octagonal Raven are some of my favorites among his work. I read The Elysium Commission recently and reviewed it here, it reminded me a great deal of Flash just not as good. L.E. Modesitt, Jr. lives in Cedar City, Utah.
The oppressive interstellar Federation is dominated by China and Chinese culture. Noram as former North America is called is kept in poverty, its citizens kept from leadership positions and harsh green taxes are levied against pollution and travel forcing depopulation of rural areas.
The retrospects back to when Keir was undercover as an energy inspector measuring temperature in the river water to find the slightest misuse of energy worked fine to establish a realistic and believable world occupied by living and breathing people.
Some of the technologies used in the book are interesting but not explained in any detail.
The plot is thrilling and somewhat suspenseful. It is never boring.
Major Keir Roget and four other agents are dispatched to make planetfall on Haze. Keir survives the entry, lands and walk around in a familiar but slightly different greenery until he is met by a young human woman that seems to have been expecting him. The society he meets on Dubiety, as its inhabitants call it, is very different from the Federation. Their’s is not an utopia but close enough, their values clash with Keir’s preconceptions and their technology is not only different but also surpasses that of the Federation. Keir also worry about it all being some kind of high tech virtual reality and how he will be able to report back to his superiors.
One of L. E. Modesitt, Jr. strengths is characterization, compared to Flash and such these characters are not as well crafted, the retrospects works to establish motivation and some of the nature of Keir’s personality but he still comes across a bit two dimensional in my opinion. I still like the characters but I expect more from Modesitt.
Unwrapping the mystery of Haze is fun and interesting just the way space opera should be. Major Keir Roget makes a journey and grows as a man as he should but the big idea is the contrasting societies. This is not a novel about big space battles and tactical details. Recommended if you like the political side of L. E. Modesitt’s earlier works.