I am a major Modessit fan so I was thrilled to get a guest post. See my review here on November 6th 2016 or at Amazon or Goodreads.
Philosophy and Power in the Imager Portfolio
Is there a philosophical underpinning to all of my books? That question has come up time and time again over the years, but while the simplistic answer is “yes,” that response is more than a little misleading. All my books wrestle with ethical and philosophical questions, but not always with the same questions, or in the same fashion.
Certainly, the books of the Imager Portfolio explore, from differing viewpoints, the relationship of various forms of power to both responsibility and fame, yet that statement is overly simplistic as well, because power exists in different forms, as does responsibility, and there’s always the question of “responsible to whom and for what?” In Imager, and the two succeeding books, Rhenn moves from a point where his life is dictated by his position in society and where others determine what he can do, when he can do it, and in what fashion to where he has great power. There are occasions when he acts outside the law of the land because, as he sees it, greater harm will come to others if he does not act. In one sense, he’s being honest, because he gains nothing personally, nor do those close to him, if he succeeds, and he stands to lose everything if he’s discovered. There is also a case where he acts in retaliation for great harm done to his family, and he rationalizes that act on the grounds that the individual he destroys has already harmed others and will continue to do so, which is, in fact, true. But despite the considerable prices Rhenn and those close to him pay, Rhenn’s acts and success raise a troubling question. Given the limitations of any society, is it possible to protect the innocent against the unscrupulous and those who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends without engaging in behavior unsanctioned or even overtly condemned by society. In Rhenn’s various situations, that would appear to be the case, giving rise to another set of questions. Can it be ethical to use illegal or unsanctioned means to stop a greater evil? And, if so, where does one draw the line? If not, is it ethical to allow evil to go unchecked because one doesn’t want to break the law or do something immoral?
In the five Imager books featuring Quaeryt and Vaelora, beginning with Scholar, the philosophical questions center on the use of power by a ruler and a conqueror. Quaeryt’s abilities and skills allow him to build a cadre of imagers who enable Lord Bhayar to unite an entire continent – far, far from bloodlessly. Quaeryt sees what he does as the only way to keep imagers from being persecuted and killed, as they have been throughout history and over all the world of Terahnar. In this, he is largely successful, and he does not do it for personal glory. He is convinced that he can only be successful if he is NOT remembered in history. Nor does he seek wealth. But in the process of uniting the continent, he and Bhayar slaughter more enemy troopers than have ever been killed in a war. Then, too, there is also the “small” problem that Bhayar himself comes from an ethnic community that has been marginalized and denigrated in the past.
In terms of a body count, how does one balance saving a few hundred, perhaps a few thousand imagers, against the deaths of close to 100,000 soldiers? Yet… on the other hand, can one justify allowing a fragmented continent of five nations to fight among themselves and continue to kill and/or enslave a minority in perpetuity if this is the only opportunity to make a difference? But does showing that a once-despised Pharsi people can unify and rule Solidar justify a massive war – even if it prevents the continuation of generations of warfare?
In Madness in Solidar and the forthcoming Treachery’s Tools, the philosophical questions again center on power, but on the relative power of class, and the growing conflict between the aristocratic High Holders and the rising and industrializing factors. As soon as Alastar becomes Maitre of the Collegium Imago, he finds that the imagers are caught in the middle of a three-way power struggle between the High Holders, the factors, and Rex Ryen. The High Holders want their ancient privileges restored and the factors “kept in their place.” The factors want a say in how the country is run, while Rex Ryen, disliked by both, wants to rule like a total autocrat and expects the imagers to support his despotism.
The High Holders are using both legal and semi-legal stratagems to weaken the Rex and to marginalize the Collegium, while blatantly ignoring other legal limitations on their powers. Unlike Quaeryt, his distant and almost forgotten predecessor, Alastar does not have a strong cadre of powerful imagers. The Collegium is weak and fragmented, and, especially at first Alastar must resort to politicking and the skilled and hidden use of his imaging talents, and those of his colleague and later, his wife Alyna, to resolve the multi-faceted social and economic conflict. Some of what they do is illegal, and unethical, at least in modern terms, as well, but they are, like Quaeryt, trying to protect all imagers, to keep the Rex from oppressing everyone, as well as prevent the dissolution of Solidar into High Holder fiefdoms. And despite their efforts to minimize the carnage, they aren’t successful. In fact, their efforts likely result in more carnage, but less subsequent oppression and repression. To what degree, if any, does the end justify the means? And if it doesn’t, how can Alastar and Alyna watch everything fall apart?
In these books, I try to show the conflicts, the costs of action and inaction, as well as how “legal” actions can be unethical in their results, and what ramifications result from the interplay of ethics, “practical politics,” ambition, and law. And I hope what I’ve done not only entertains, but makes my readers think a bit more about how nothing, including ethics, even in fiction, is as simple as it appears.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
The new novel in the New York Times bestselling Imager Portfolio
“Modesitt again presents a strong, engaging story. The depth of description involved is Modesitt’s strong suit, and he does not fail to deliver in this continuation of his popular Imager series. Attention to the specifics of military tactics and the interesting ways Imagers could use their skills to engage in warfare are the best bits of this novel; the engaging characters, old and new, are the close second to that. Precise language is key to the telling of this story — well worth the hours spent here!”
—RT Book Reviews
“Readers who revel in action sequences won't be disappointed … a solid, involving entry in a worthwhile, occasionally outstanding series.”
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. has delighted and entertained fantasy and science fiction fans for decades with his many novels and series, including the renowned Corean Chronicles, Saga of Recluce, Spellsong Cycle, Ecolitan Matter, and most recently the Imager Portfolio. Launched in 2009 with Imager, this New York Times bestselling series imagines a world where magic is the literal realization of the imagination. The latest novel, TREACHERY’S TOOLS (A Tor Hardcover; $27.99; On-Sale: Oct. 11, 2016), picks up thirteen years after the events of 2014’s Madness in Solidar.
Alastar has settled into his role as the Maitre of the Collegium. However, the rise in fortune of the merchant classes in Solidar over the years does not sit well with the High Holders, who see the erosion of their long-enjoyed privileges. Bad harvests and worse weather spark acts of violence and murder. In the midst of the crisis, some High Holders call for repeals of the Codis Legis, taking authority away from the Rex.
Once again, Alastar must maintain a careful political balance, but he cannot avoid the involvement of the Collegium when someone begins killing students. Trying to protect his imagers and hold Solidar together for the good of all, Alastar stumbles on to a plot by the High Holders involving illegal weapons, insurrection, and conspiracy.
Modesitt’s success may be measured not only by the number of novels he has produced, but also by the number of fans dedicated to his stories. Known for his complex and intriguing magical systems, Modesitt also excels at exploring the growth and transformation of nuanced characters. New and old readers will enjoy the thoughtful, complex adventure of TREACHERY’S TOOLS, the latest novel in the popular Imager Portfolio.
“Madness in Solidar is proof that the author is still at the height of his creative
powers. Highly recommended for anyone who loves to read fantasy
novels, Madness in Solidar is a must-read for fans of the Imager Portfolio series.”
—Guardian Liberty Voice
"This is a book that is an enjoyable read and provides political intrigue,
—Deseret News on Madness in Solidar
“With meticulously wrought characters and complex, logically developed
plotting that towers above the fantasy norm … Modesitt once again
delivers an engrossing power struggle negotiated by a virtuous and talented
man committed to achieving the greater good by way of the least harm.”
—Kirkus on Madness in Solidar
TREACHERY’S TOOLS For more information, please contact:
L.E. Modesitt, Jr. Desirae Friesen, Associate Publicist
Tor Trade Hardcover T: 646-307-5411
ISBN: 9780765385406 / 0765385406 F: 212-982-2862
$27.99 | 512 pages E: firstname.lastname@example.org
eBook 9780765385420 W: www.tor-forge.com
On Sale: October 11, 2016