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The prolific Modesitt, best known, perhaps, for the multivolume Saga of Recluce, delivers the compelling story of ecoconsultant Paulo Verano, who is hired to travel to the planet Stittara and assess whether the human presence there has disrupted the natural ecosystem (the planet is a major source of some important drugs, which must continue to be produced even if it means removing the human presence). As Modesitt's devoted fans know, he doesn't do simple. Although the premise seems straightforward, the novel is layered with serious themes the fragility of ecosystems, for example, and the mystery of alien life-forms and peppered with some impish in-jokes, such as a pair of cops named Dannel Craik and Pierse Shawn (attention Bond fans), a young couple called Georg Golitely and Holly Peppard (a nod to, of all things, the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's). The book grows richer and more compelling the further along we go until, by the conclusion, we realize the story is much bigger than the premise suggests. Another winner from an always exciting writer.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist

Library Journal
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For the interstellar Union of the Ceylesian Arm, the colony world of Stittara represents the prime source for anagathics, drugs that extend one's life span. Freelance consultant Paolo Verano, reeling from a shattered personal life, gladly accepts the commission to travel to Stittara to observe the world's fragile ecology and establish how much, if any, impact the human colonists have. It is his determination that will decide the fate of the colony, and the pressure is on him to find a way to make sure that the supply of anagathics continues. In his stand-alone tale of exploration and discovery, Modesitt vividly creates an unusual planet, in which tornadolike tentacles fill the sky and most of the colors fall into the gray spectrum. Verano grows more likable as the story progresses, and the slow revelation of the colony's backstory presents a compelling reason to keep turning the pages. VERDICT The author's ability to weave between fantasy (the Recluce novels) and sf (The Parafaith War; The Eternity Artifact) grants him a rare versatility and ensures the high quality of his novels, whether stand-alone or part of a series (and this reader hopes that there is more to come about Stittara's future). (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly
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This plodding off-world mystery is replete with annoying quirks but devoid of suspense. Paulo Verano is an ecologist sent to survey the far-flung planet of Stittara, the sole source of life-extending "cosmetic and physiological anagathics" and home to the mysterious and possibly intelligent skytubes. The boring Verano hogs the stage; supporting characters strut and fret but leave no impressions. Verano's investigation spins its wheels without advancing the plot, sprinkled with pointless and distracting "futuristic" spelling ("kalzone" for "calzone," "duhlars" for "dollars") and ellipses ("Ah... yes. That. There's a matter... of timing"). References to real-life politics include Verano's home world of Bachman, another world called Randtwo, a university and a dessert named after Ronald Reagan, and a totally gratuitous discursion on the virtues of low income taxes and a capital gains regimen favoring homeowners over apartment dwellers. Verano muddles through to a sputtering, unsatisfying ending. Readers may choose to bail out earlier. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.