Details: (c)1993 Daniel Keys Moran; Pub 1993 Bantam Spectra; ISBN 0-553-56249-5
Verdict: The Last Dancer is enjoyable and interesting, if bordering on the over-complex.
Reasons for reading it: I read Emerald Eyes and The Long Run and enjoyed them, and various people suggested this sequel was better.
How it came into my hands: lethargic_man lent it to me.
I felt slightly that The Last Dancer was trying to cram too much into a single book. It's a lot more complex than the earlier pair, and apart from the fact that some aspects are more successful than others, it doesn't quite work as a whole because it's just too busy.
Still, tLD carries a really tangible weight of a whole constructed system spanning eons and several planetary systems. The world-building is impressive and works on several different scales, and the background is introduced unobtrusively rather than overloading the story with information.
I really liked the long section from Dvan's point of view, leading up to his dramatic battle with Sedon. The trick of first telling that incident from Sedon's point of view worked exceptionally well. The near-future section, which is the bulk of the novel, is not as good; there's a lot of stuff I don't care about, such as military and political goings-on, and the characterization is kind of patchy. Still, Denice at least is interestingly drawn and sympathetic, and I can forgive her for being the most beautiful woman in the world since there is a relevant plot reason for this, and she is not flawless in personality!
tLD almost pulls off the very difficult feat of describing an epic conflict between unreasonably powerful people. My only gripe is that Sedon's eventual death is a terrible anticlimax after he's survived several times only by extending his superhuman powers right to their limit.
Funnily, tLD almost reads more like futuristic fantasy (is there a term for fantasy set in a space-age background as opposed to the more expected pre-Industrial tech?) than SF. The technology that plays such a big rôle in The Long Run is much more backgrounded here; the AI and Infonet background where Moran is strongest are not really relevant to the plot of tLD. The religious and mystical stuff is emphasized and on the whole well done, and besides the biology is so poorly defined that it comes across as magic.
The biggest problem with tLD is that there is so much going on, and so many different viewpoint characters, and so much ambiguity, that there is no strong thread running through the book to hold it together as a story. It felt like a lot of random episodes only very tenuously connected together. More minor annoyances: I found Lan completely the opposite of sexy, and got annoyed with the sex scenes generally; if Denice is so physically perfect in every other way, she really ought to handle sex better than, say, me, rather than using superlatives about what I would consider mediocre. And aaaaaaaaargh the line about the amino acid composition of their DNA made me shriek most embarrassingly in the middle of a crowded train. I restrained myself from throwing the book, though.
Anyway, yeah, fun.