Book Review: The Ethos Effect

ethos effect

Published: 2003

Author: L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Saga of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt Jr. is one of my favorite fantasy series.  While no individual book is great, the series is definitely one in which the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.  It wasn’t until he started writing from the point-of-view of the other side of his opposing factions (order and chaos) that we see that neither side is inherently evil, only that individuals who use their power for evil are wrong.  One of the criticisms of Modesitt’s writing is that every novel is essentially the same.  A young man, an apprentice of some kind, is ostracized from his community for being different, usually because he has magical powers.  He slowly learns how to use his powers – generally the most powerful mage to exist in generations, yet he is always overly modest.  He triumphs over the evil dictator/tyrant/warlord, usually at some cost to himself.

I always like Modesitt novels, because they make you think a little bit.  The Ethos Effect is a science fiction novel (not fantasy and not related to the Recluse novels at all), but boy does it make you think.  It is one of the denser novels that I have read in a very long time.  I am not sure that I can explain the plot (though there is one and it is solid enough).  There is a heavy dose of ethics (given the title no one should be surprised), wrapped up with cultures and politics that we don’t know since it is set several millennia into the future.  Not to mention there is technological and military mumbo jumbo.  All of that makes it difficult to figure out what was going on for more than half the book.  I appreciate him not spoon-feeding me, but perhaps a little more background would have been helpful.  If I did have to summarize the book it would be with this quote:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  – Edmund Burke*

If you are looking for a quick, light read, this book isn’t it.  If you are an ethics professor, you will probably find this book a little simplistic.  But, if you are looking for an entertaining book that makes you think then this is probably a good choice.

WWYT Rating: 7.0

Goodreads: 3.8/5

*While Burke is most often attributed with this quote, variations have existed for millennia.


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