A Zen master in a primitive society gets turned into a nanotech-enhanced "demon" by a mad, malicious mushroom-farmer. The master, now gifted with superhuman strength and senses, must flee his fearful Luddite fellows or face death. The similarly gifted, space-faring Rykashans take him in and use more "nanites" to bring their low-tech stray up to speed. Pssht! A spray can of nanites teaches the master the rudiments of Rykashan society. Pssht! He then learns to be a space janitor. Pssht! He later becomes a "needle jockey," a sort of interstellar flying-ace/truck driver, who even gets to talk to God (or a god, at any rate).
Leave it to L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (Fall of Angels, Ghost of the Revelator) to pull this sort of weirdness. But, as should be expected from such an inventive author, the quirky mise-en-scène serves a purpose: setting a story of personal transformation against a Twilight Zone-ian backdrop of contrasting societies, ethics, and tech levels. Although flat in spots and maybe a little pokey, Gravity Dreams is a winning little SF drama, the tale of one man's realization that true knowledge doesn't come from a can. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
The transformation of a young man from an agrarian Luddite to a physiologically enhanced star pilot provides the plot for Modesitt's (The Ghost of the Revelator) latest, a far-future SF adventure. Young Tyndel is content with his career as a teacher and following the antitechnology philosophy of his religion, Dzin. But when he's infected with nanites, microscopic machines that alter his blood chemistry, he's labeled a "demon" and forced to flee his home of Dorcha for the high-tech neighboring country of Rykasha. Tyndel is welcomed by the ultra-rational Rykashans, who not only embrace his enhanced abilities, but recognize that he has innate talents that would make him an excellent intergalactic pilot. At first, Tyndel resists Cerrelle, his Rykashan teacher, and eschews the teachings administered through nanopills, preferring to work as a "low tech" worker on an orbital station. Yet eventually he relents and asks to begin training as a pilot. Tyndel overcomes his squeamishness, letting the Rykashas "adjust" his nervous system so he can complete the space program and integrate himself into his new society. Modesitt does a fine job of creating a believable world where citizens are exhorted to accept complete responsibility for their actions and genetically "rehabilitated" if they do not. While some readers might be put off by the excessive philosophizing on Dzin naturalism vs. Rykashan pragmatism, the novel is loaded with enough hard science and space opera elements to please the author's large and avid body of fans.
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