The story takes place several
centuries from now. Humanity has spread through the solar system. As is
sometimes supposed in SF, the colonies around the outer planets have seceded
from the society of the inner planets. The asteroid belt and its colonies
separate the two domains. Earth is considerably diminished in population as a
result of past wars and plagues. The dominant world power(s) have changed over
the centuries. Current policy is to give Earth an "olden days"
appearance. People almost always travel across continents by train, not planes
(although they move at 300 kph, rather than olden days speeds). This is not
out of necessity - there are still space travel and other indications of
Evidence is found suggesting
there had been a previously unrecorded discovery of a large piece of an
invaluable mineral made of trans-Uranium elements. Some believe all deposits
of this mineral in the solar system were left here millions of years ago by some
advanced interstellar civilization. What follows is an interplanetary
espionage tale involving the inner system, the outer system and perhaps others.
Espionage SF is not one of my
usual priorities in reading. However, the book begins with a writing style and
pace that left a good first impression. It continues to offer the style and
pace with a tour of an interesting future society and solar system, bits of
humor, discussion of art, and adventure. The espionage is not what I'd call
"cloak and dagger," nor is it about blazing guns. Rather, this is
more on the border between espionage and mystery. And I do enjoy mystery.
The clues lead us from the art world to the religious world...
A previously unknown work by
an artist who died 20 years earlier, a vanished religious order, a series of
thefts of artworks at various points in the solar system (at which bouquets of
roses are left in place of the artwork), the search for a mineral made of
trans-Uranium elements which it is believed was left by interstellar alien
travelers a million or more years ago, growing tensions between the solar
system's inner planets and outer planets - with Mars feeling more threatened as
it is near the border between the two sides...
It managed to have a number
of players and some interesting twists with being too tangled for my tastes.
The central characters are interesting. It's not the book to read when you're
in the mood for galactic civilizations, exploring the multiverse or discussions
of cutting edge physics; but otherwise it could be a good choice.