Now I need to premise this review by saying a few things. First, this book is going to be well beyond the average scifi reader. Second, I can say this because it is well beyond me. The concepts in this are so deep and sound that if you are not prepared to grasp them you probably won't until halfway through the novel. This is not to say that it is a bad book, quite the contrary, but it is saying that this book is probably going to turn off a lot of less hardcore scifi readers out there. If you love hard scifi, you will likely love this book. If you love Modesitt, well then that is self explanatory.
The basic story is, well, not very basic. In fact I'm not going to bother trying to provide a self-written synopsis, but I'll instead put up the one on the book:
"A brilliant scientist on the planet Devanta has created a small universe contiguous to ours--and a utopian city on one of the planets. The question becomes, though, a utopia for whom? And why is a shady entertainment mogul subsidizing the scientist? More critical than that, does this new universe require the destruction of a portion--or all--of our universe in order to grow and stabilize?
Blaine Donne is a retired military special operative now devoted to problem-solving for hire. He investigates a series of seemingly unrelated mysteries that arise with the arrival of a woman with unlimited resources who has neither a present or a past. The more he investigates, the more questions arise, including the role of the two heiresses who are more--and less--than they seem, and the more Donne is pushed inexorably toward finding himself a pawn in an explosive solution and a regional interstellar war."
See how complicated that is?
Now, I really did enjoy the book once I got into it. At first it was rather difficult because of the language and what seemed to me to be very French influence. The story moves along very much like a detective story. I enjoyed the characters very much. It was strongly written and Modesitt has created a very fascinating world that I would be interested in knowing more about. That being said, some of the things I didn't like were more or less little pet peeves. I thought the ending was rather forced. I won't ruin it for anyway, but it just seemed so, well, quick, and I didn't quite understand why Donne had to be a part of it if it were seemingly so simple. I also found the sections where Modesitt switched viewpoints to one of the antogonists to be rather annoying. This is written in first person, so the first few times he does this it is hard to tell if we're in Donne's head or someone else's. Eventually it all pans out, but those were some things I didn't like.
All in all I think it is a well written book. It's not one of my favorites, but at the same time I can't say that I didn't enjoy it. The detective story really had me wondering how Donne was going to figure it all out.
So, if you are into really hard scifi, give this one a go.