Ambassador of Progress Mass Market Paperback – Sep 26 2004
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Williams, almost alone among those who have spent their careers as science fiction authors, is able to gift his characters with familiar adult feelings, responses which have the feel of maturity, not adolescence, which is much more prevalent. His characterizations, though perhaps unique for their skill in the genre, are only half the picture though, his stories can be, as they are here, absolutely delightful, entertaining, witty without pretense or arrogance. He manages, with all this, to give a little history lesson which you must find for yourself, and challenges the reader to consider the world we have, and why it is what it is.
This is this author's best work, and considering the fellow wrote Hardwired, that is the highest praise.
I chose my title of this review to reflect what I saw as the central question explored by the book, and that is, how would one rally a diaspora of human-populated worlds to face an extinction threat after the technology by which the diaspora was created is no longer safe to use? And a related question; what might it be like to have to immerse ones self in the human cultures that evolved in isolation after the loss of said technology?
"Ambassador of Progress" explores these questions thoroughly and satisfyingly.
The "Ambassadors" arrive to their assigned world with a fairly rigid construct guiding their actions, and the book further explores the impossibility of crafting complete and effective "rules of engagement" for cultures that one has never seen! As in many other Williams books, human cultures are crafted with great care and in exceptional, internally-consistent detail.
There are a number of original (to me) plot elements here as well, as I've found to be the case in all the Williams works I've read. For instance, the theme of human diaspora among the stars is not new, nor is decline, nor ascension once again, but to this mix Williams added the rather profound and original condition that ascension MUST NOT reach the former level of technology. How interesting!
Well crafted as always, operating on many scales simultaneously, I can easily recommend Ambassador of Progress to those who may find these themes of interest or who just like a really well crafted story.
You are kept guessing through the whole book what the mysterious purpose of the outsider is, and whether the two groups of people are even truely Human. A good read.