June 07, 2004

Legacies, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

I like this book, and I'm not entirely sure why. I liked it the first time I read it, and I wasn't sure why that time either. In fact, I liked it better this time than that time. It's a long, slow book, but something about it grabs me. The longer Anthony Trollope novels grab some people that way, and I imagine it's the same kind of effect.

Anyway, this is the story of a farm boy named Alucius. His father went off to fight a border war when he was a baby and never came back; consequently, he's been raised by his grandparents and his mother. I called him a farm boy; in fact, he's what's called a "herder", and he helps his grandfather raise and herd nightsheep, large, tolerably fierce sheep that grow a special kind of wool--properly processed, it becomes a pressure-sensitive fabric called nightsilk. Nightsilk undergarments, if properly cut to your body, will stop a bullet.

Of course, tending nightsheep is a lot of work, and it takes a particular kind of Talent to do it well. The Talent lets you control the nightsheep, and can also help you detect sandwolves and sanders before they attack. All herders have a touch of the Talent, some more than others; if they didn't, they wouldn't be herders. Townsfolk with herder forebears sometimes have it as well.

The early part of Alucius' life is what you'd expect...working with the nightsheep, learning how to card the wool and process the nightsilk, a variety of chores, the occasional trip into town, the occasional daylong party at someone's stead. But then he comes of age, and is drafted into the militia; Alucius' small country is under attack, and he's needed to defend it. Fortunately, thanks to the Talent is that he's a first-class shot.

The book follows his career in the militia as a horse-trooper and scout, his eventual capture, and his subsequent career until his return home. Along the way he learns a lot more about his Talent and about his world, as do we, and a variety of interesting things happen.

And when you get to the end of the book, you say, "Well, that was interesting...I wonder what the point was."

And yet, for some reason I was happy to read it again. Weird.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 7, 2004 06:04 PM

Ian H (not the one in Shanghai) said:

Sometimes stories don't have a point. And sometimes the point is for the reader to enjoy the story.

Will Duquette said:

Well, yes. I don't require books to have a message; I'm after a story well told. In this case, I'm not sure why he included the events he included; I don't see the logic of it, and I have no idea where he's going with it.

Chuck Duquette said:

I found it to have an unfinished or incomplete feel when I first read it, like an entire layer of the story was missing. Kind of like listening to stereo music with one side missing. For some reason this didn't seem to bother me when I reread it recently in preparation for reading Darknesses. Darknesses has a more complete feel to it and fills in some details that were missing in Legacies. I won't go into any details since it hasn't been reviewed, but I will say that we now understand Soarers and the Talent better.

Will Duquette said:

This is true. But that's tomorrow's review. (It would have been tonight's review, but we watched The General instead.