Unlike some other sci-fi future revolutions, the revolution in this book is bloodless and based solely on economics. Borrowing ideas from modern political science and economics, Wilson visits issues like the Gold Standard, libertarianism/anarchism, inflation, totalitarianism, market controls, and even gender attitudes in old civilizations vs. frontier developments (i.e., a frontier's success is dependent on getting new people, one of the easiest ways being women giving birth -- thus, women become baby factories and are devalued with regards to any other activity or idea.)
However, Wilson goes a little light on all the ideology; there are some strong personalities at play in this story of an empire's accelerated downfall. Just like in Asimov's Foundation Series, a small cabal is working to soften the impact of the inevitable crash of an overloaded empire; however, in Wilson's version, the impact is lessened by forcing a collapse in 5 years, as opposed to the expected 20. The leader of this movement, Peter LaNague, is from an odd frontier planet Tolive (for "to live"), founded by a group of people following the tenets of Kyfho (in the book, Kyfho is found to be very much in the vein of Heinlein's TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Lunch). But LaNague is up against the violent Droohin, leader of a rebel group whose plans were ruined by LaNague. A mysterious ultra-violent couple under LaNague's orders keeps Droohin in check, but one wonders if the tension can hold.
I found the book fascinating in its development. Wilson keeps you as well as the other conspirators in the dark as to the overarching plan - LaNague plays it close to the chest so that the movement is not betrayed. This becomes a focal point in the interaction between LaNague and his fellow subversives, his wife, and even the government which he brings down.
Wilson draws from the tradition (and has some sly nods to in the naming of some characters and spacecraft) of Frank Herbert's Dune, Robert Heinlein's Future History, Isaac Asimov's Foundation, and the detailed technical aspects of Larry Niven's work.
Back to Reviews pageMary Pat Campbell, last updated June 2001