Land of the Dead, by Thomas Harlan
On to book three in this series and series-itis still fails to rear its ugly head - indeed, it's probably the best of the lot so far. We get some more background on the world the characters live in and why it differs from real history, and for most of the book it is refreshingly free of mumbo-jumbo. However, it will again fail to stand on its own, even more so than book two - this one pretty much starts at the point the previous one ended, and gives very little personal background on the major characters. Some of those characters are developed some more, which is nice to see, but even so the author assumes that you already know who they are and what they've done previously.
Remember how I said that for most of the book it is free of mumbo-jumbo? Well, unfortunately it really falls on its face in the last few pages. Sure, it's dressed up in rationalism, but if you are in the least bit sceptical, then you will just be plain annoyed at how the author seems to think that so many peoples' actions can be so carefully manipulated to make individuals do exactly what is needed. I'm afraid that that holds no water whatsoever. You can, of course, manipulate the actions of large numbers of people, giving them little pushes onto a new course - advertisers and politicians do this all the time - but to spend the last few pages of what had been an excellent story up until that point attempting to list all the people whose actions had been chosen in advance by the man behind the curtain is just silly and leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Not only is this explanation of what's been happening annoying, it shouldn't really be necessary.
Harlan clearly needs to study human behaviour a bit more. I recommend Seldon's papers on the subject.