In Endless Twilight by L.E. Modesitt Jr
In Endless Twilight (1988) is the final installment in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s THE FOREVER HERO trilogy. My review will probably contain spoilers for the first two novels, Dawn for a Distant Earth and The Silent Warrior. You need to read them before opening In Endless Twilight.
During Dawn for a Distant Earth, we saw Gerswin getting the education and skills he needed to be able to fulfill his dream of restoring the ruined Earth. In The Silent Warrior, we see Gerswin’s character darken as he realizes that the galactic empire he serves doesn’t share his goals. The commercial barons who control the economic and political systems are more concerned with profit than the ecology of the planets they destroy in their quests to make more money. That’s why Gerswin has to hide his activities behind a secret foundation. As he goes about foundation business, he sometimes gets involved in social matters, righting injustices as he sees them.
The first half of In Endless Twilight follows the same sort of pattern that we saw toward the end of The Silent Warrior. Gerswin flies around on his spaceship to different planets as he follows up with the scientists and developers who have received foundation grants. In each case he has to take care of some societal problem, often in a heavy-handed way such as destroying communication systems, rescuing political prisoners, and threatening scientists or publishers to release academic work that planetary governments, or the empire, want to suppress. Thus, Gerswin is dismantling totalitarian regimes as he works to restore Earth. These events feel episodic and I had trouble believing how easily and quickly Gerswin took down these repressive governments. He is unstoppable.
Eventually Gerswin finally applies the restorative technologies to Earth and other abandoned planets, but the method used seemed a little anti-climactic to me. Then Gerswin settles down to a new life. This is the part of the book that I found baffling. I don’t want to give anything away, but Gerswin becomes extremely unlikable at this point. He is emotionally disturbed, having troubles with his memory, and seems to think of himself as a god-like legend. He even [highlight for spoiler] rapes a few women. [end spoiler] Then there is a really bizarre ending that I wouldn’t give away even if I did understand it.
The text and audio of In Endless Twilight have the same issues I’ve mentioned in my reviews of the previous books. Kyle McCarley’s interpretation of Modesitt’s hero is terrific, but his female voices are not. Modesitt’s writing style is a bit clunky and repetitive in areas (such as constant reminders that the ship AI’s voice is emotionless and feminine) and the onomatopoeia grates on the nerves. Modesitt’s hero is too clever and dangerous to believe, but the moral ambiguity is a nice touch, especially for an epic SF story published in the 1980s. I wish more of the plot of THE FOERVER HERO had focused on the mechanics of Earth’s restoration, but I love the ecological premise and the discussions of the dangers of government regulations, the trade-off between safety and freedom, and how technological developments affect different societal classes differently. I thought these ideas were especially timely even though they were written so long ago.
The Forever Hero — (1987-1988) Publisher: L. E. Modesitt, Jr’s first major work was The Forever Hero trilogy of SF adventure novels published as paperback originals in the 1980s, of which Dawn for a Distant Earth was the first title in the series. Thousands of years in the future, Earth is a desolate ruin. The first human ship to return in millennia discovers an abandoned wasteland inhabited only by a few degenerate or mutated human outcasts. But among them is a boy of immense native intelligence and determination who is captured, taken in, and educated, and disappears — to grow up to become the force behind a plan to make Earth flower again. He is, if not immortal, at least very long-lived, and he plans to build an independent power base out in the galaxy and force the galactic empire to devote centuries and immense resources to the restoration of the ecology of Earth.
Well, that’s just baffling. Trying to make a point about power and corruption?
I think we can safely say the effortless “regime changes” that Gerswin enacts in the first half of the book are pretty unlikely, based on what we know today.
The ending of the book was super weird. I could see that his memories and personality could become very messed up with the length of time that he lived. On the whole it was an entertaining set of stories and had some really interesting characters, but I got a little tired of Gerswin always being such a badass that he wins easily.
Hi John! Sounds like we’re “on the same page” on this one. Thanks for checking in. I’m always interested in your opinion.