Older sci-fi has a certain tone. I find that most sci-fi written before about 1950 reads like an adventure story that occurs in a strange setting. If you've read Lewis' "That Hideous Strength," Burroughs' mars series, or Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," you probably know what I'm talking about. This book falls right in line with that particular tone, despite being written in the 70's.
I have come across this book (and the series as a whole) several times on lists of important sci-fi works. I frankly don't understand why it merits mentioning.
The story just isn't that compelling. The main character is Sir Richard Francis Burton, who is an actual historical figure. If you're a big fan of his, maybe you'll like this book more than I did. Since I had barely heard of him, and basically couldn't care less about him, this just seems like a weird story about a guy who acts like kind of a jerk.
Perhaps someone doing an academic exploration of this novel would call it a "Fish-out-of-water story exploring the limits and eventual breakdown of Victorian manners." I just thought it was dull.
I remember this as the first in a series I read a long time ago and loved. However on rehearing it now it seems written a bit.....old?
Horrible ending. Just drops off...does not leave you wanting to find out what happens next. Poorly written. Try Time's Eye by Arthur C. Clark instead.