Modesitt returns to the future world of Archform: Beauty for a stand-alone tale that resonates with current ethical dilemmas. In the early 22nd century, Jonat deVrai is the recognized expert on "prod"—product placement using subliminal technology and sonic branding.

He's recently been hired to study the effects of prod on political campaigns, which looks like a cushy assignment. Then he's ambushed, first by thugs in a parking garage, then by a sniper. DeVrai later foils an assassination attempt on a popular Democrat candidate and suddenly this "simple" job is awfully complicated.

DeVrai, with his troubled past, is far more than your average one-note SF hero, and his interior landscape is nearly as complicated as his adventures. There are plenty of plot twists to satisfy the most critical mystery fan, and more than enough nifty futuristic technology for hardcore SF readers.

For the most part, the characterizations and descriptions are down to earth; this novel doesn't fall into the trap of making futuristic Earth denizens less than human or creating complicated technology just for show, and that makes it fairly easy to read. Corporate conspiracies, rigged elections and the ubiquity of advertising are just a few of the issues Modesitt takes on, and he deftly handles the complicated plot threads. (Sep., 480 pp., $25.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum