Sanda Brauna, one of the six top officials of the Harmony's governing body
Jeroen Lee, also one of the six top officials
Esteban Huana, delegate to the council from member world Andia
Alexander, nearing the end of his lifespan, exposes a political maneuver that prevents the planet Neuland from joining the Polite Harmony of Worlds.
Alexander is a respected worker in the service of Sanda Brauna who is in the Harmony's governing political/religous council. This move is effectively suicide for him.
Nevertheless, a clone is made of Alexander, and 20 years later August takes his place as a skillful analyst of the personal and political motives in and around the council, again for Sanda Brauna.
August is hopelessly in love with Brauna, but cannot avoid becoming embroiled in a return of the political issue that ended Alexander's life. He moves to the service of Jeroen Lee during a diplomatic incident that redefines the nature of being human for both the Harmony and for August himself.
The narrative shows the skill at work: an ability that is nearly unrecognized and exercised stereotypically by women in the here-and-now, is given as a necessary, specialized and sought-after talent.
The political plot is complex and made wrenchingly immediate for both Alexander and August in its different phases, and it, too, emphasizes the theme of defining humanity.
August's personal relationships with Brauna and Lee are downplayed, although his emotional response to each of them motivates much of the action he takes.
I would have liked to see more of his relationship with Jeroen Lee, which is established toward the end of the book and not well developed; it remains nearly abstract, despite some telling of intellectual detail about how and why August accepts it.
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