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    GHOSTS OF THE WHITE NIGHTS by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

    TOR, October 2001

    Johan Eschbach is perfectly content with his life as a college Professor of Environmental Economics and the husband of Llysette, a classical singer. When his government calls both of them into service, Johan finds himself returning to a past that he had thought was long behind him--that of a spy and assassin.

    In this powerful alternative history novel, Austria-Hungary, allied with Prussia/Germany, sits astride a conquered Europe with only Russia, Sweden, and the fading Ottoman Turks remaining to face it. With both conventional weapons and the ability to create zombie armies, Austria-Hungary is content to nibble away at its enemies. In America, Columbia (representing most of what is the United States and the maritime provinces of Canada in our reality) suffers under the energy blockade that Austria-Hungary now imposes. Under the cover of an artistic exchange, Johan is sent to Russia to negotiate oil leases in Russian Alaska.

    Russia, still ruled by the Tsars, is a challenge to Johan. The rocket branch of the Russian military seems intent on foiling the oil deal despite the obvious benefits to all parties. Johan comes to suspect a threat to the entire world order--one that neither Russia nor Columbia is likely to survive. Yet what can one man do against the intrenched bureaucracy of a centuries-old state?

    Author L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (see other reviews of novels by this author) brings his emotionally compelling writing to a fascinating alternative history--one vaguely reminisent of Jules Verne, with its steam automobiles, dirigible travel, and its still-surviving Imperial heads of state, yet with a supernatural element of ghosts making their presence felt. Despite a few loose ends (what, exactly, was that bombing about), Modesitt delivers an exciting story with fully human characters. Johan, in particular, is wonderfully sympathetic as an aging college professor forced back into a way of life that he had thought behind him, now with the need to protect his wife as well as his country.

    Fans of Modesitt's pure fantasy as well as alternative history buffs will enjoy GHOST OF THE WHITE NIGHTS.

    Four Stars

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