The final, and funniest, instalment of the Canopus in Argos: Archives quintet finds Klorathy, the Canopean agent who befriended Ambien II in The Sirian Experiments, dispatched to the Volyen Empire to rescue a fellow agent who's fallen victim to the dreaded disease of Rhetoric. The Volyen Empire, until now a minor outpost of the collapsing Sirian Empire, is in the throes of revolutionary independence, and the intense prevalence of rhetorical disorders on all sides has made the inhabitants nearly as crazy as those poor unfortunates on Shikasta. The Canopean victim, Incent, alternates between charging about the system trying to reform everyone, and collapsing into hopeless languor when his efforts go inevitably askew. Klorathy introduces a Hospital for Rhetorical Diseases (tactfully disguised under the name Institute for Historical Research) and, in between chasing Incent around the place and apologising for his own occasional lapses ("Incent, WHAT are we going to do with you?"), manages to bring matters in the Volyen Empire to a fairly satisfactory conclusion. The conclusion to the quintet, however, is more than just fairly satisfactory. The light touch Lessing brings to this work may seem at odds with the epic or lyrical tone of the preceding four, but it enables the author to do two very difficult things. First, she can finish her massive enterprise on a suitably Canopean note - neither triumphalist nor sentimental, nor even, thanks to the satiric style, capable of being interpreted in a triumphalist or sentimental fashion. Second, she can point to a partial solution for some (most?) of the problems she's been talking about all along. It's slightly discomfiting to find that the super-civilised Canopean archivists list Tchaikovsky and Wagner under "Nineteenth-century Emoters and Complainers"; but the discomfiture serves to show how profoundly human beings are addicted to Rhetoric of all kinds - verbal, musical, emotional, physical. Cold turkey in our own case is undoubtedly a very bad idea, but we can at least recognise our condition and try to discipline it into working for us rather than against. The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire shows the kind of perspective we need if we're going to manage that before it's too late.