Silence in Solitude

Roads of Heaven: 2

Melissa Scott

ISBN: 0-671-65699-7 Order from:

Continuation of space adventure with three-dimensional characters in a background of politics and odd but self-consistent alchemy.

Reviewed by David on November 26, 1998

Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera, Weird Science)

Synopsis: Silence Leigh, the star pilot introduced in Five-Twelfths of Heaven, has proven to be unique: a woman capable of using the Art. The Magus Isambard, who undertakes to teach and help the fugitive pilot in return for Silence's assistance in getting to the long-lost Earth, enrolls Silence in the Magi's school on Solitudo Hermae, the artificial planet. However, even on the insular and remote Solitude, the Hegemon's vengeful pursuit of Silence and her two husbands forces them to run.

Striving to reach Earth through the unbreakable blockade of the Rose Worlds, Isambard, Silence, Denis and Chase try to get help from a powerful aristocrat. Instead, the small group gets involved in political struggles in the powerful and cruel Hegemony.

Full Review: Scott builds a fascinating universe. In what could be our own future, mankind turns away from technology in favor of the more capable discipline of the Magi's Art: an alchemical system build on Platonism. The Magi, capable of manipulating the Ideas (in Heaven), and forcing Forms onto the raw chaos (in Hell), enable the far-flung civilization to travel between the stars and manipulate knowledge.

In this novel, Silence becomes a more active figure. While being dragged around by powerful forces, she increasingly makes her own decisions and compromises, and influences people around her.

Silence Leigh is a well crafted character, intelligent and courageous without being improbably perfect. The supporting cast is suitably solid, providing plausible relationships for Silence. The world with its own political struggles, greed, and the use of slightly archaic but correct vocabulary resembles some of Vance's creations; but Scott's universe is more defined and the characters are more varied and realistic. (On the other hand, Scott is not nearly as good at satire as Vance). One of the most refreshingly pleasant attributes of this series are the adult characters. Silence seems to be in her late twenties: she is sensible without being stolid, and avoids the all-too-common pluckiness endemic in teenage heroines.

The best part of the novel (and the trilogy) is the solid and plausible system of Magi's Art, achieving the nearly impossible goal of plausible interstellar travel using music and incantations.

Silence in Solitude ends with a highly satisfying conclusion and can stand on its own. The series concludes with The Empress of Earth.

Overall: 7; Plot: 6.5; Characters: 6.5; Style: 7; World-building: 7; Originality: 7.5;

Copyright date 1986, Baen Enterprises (Baen), November 1986, Mass market paperback, 313 pages

ISBN: 0-671-65699-7 Order from:

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