Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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A Sunday Morning Catchup Review: Hidden Empire

Kevin J. Anderson may be best known for his Star Wars and X-Files works, but he's actually been writing SF for years - producing interesting works in collaboration with Doug Beason, and excellent solo works like Blindfold and <i>Climbing Olympus</i>. He's also been working on the prequels to Dune.

Hidden Empire is the first part of a new space opera series, The Saga Of The Seven Suns. Human generation ships took the slow road to the stars, and were met by the old Ildarian civilisation. Returning with the Ildarian stardrive they sparked a new renaissance, as humanity began to colonise the available worlds. While archaeologists are stuggling to understand the disappearance of the Klikiss, a race that one ruled the galaxy, others are using their artifacts to expand the human hegemony - turning gas giants into stars.

Anderson gives a multi-stranded story, mixing the story of an archaelogical expedition on a remote world with the political struggles of the telephathic green priests, the conspiracies behind the royal rule of human space, the struggles to survive of the free space living roamers, and the trials of the decadent and fading Ildarians. It's a stroy driven by disaster and conflict, as the experimental ignition of a new star instead ignites a conflict with the hydrogues, the races that live in the hearts of the gas giants.

This is a big book. Anderson's Hidden Empire promises much, but ultimately delivers little. Too many plot strands mean that its hard to engage with the characters, and the sudden scene shifts can be awkward. Suddenly we're pulled away from matters of politics and dropped into the minutiae of the life of a jobbing star trader. It's a technique that Anderson hasn't quite perfected, and it jars. It's a pity. We're left running from plot fragment to plot fragment, missing the overall story...

This could have been an excellent work, one that joins in with Reynolds and Schroeder and Flynn and Stross to drive space opera forwards. Instead, we're left with a novel that looks back more to the SF of the 60s and 70s, instead of pulling us into the 21st century.

Still, I'll see what volume 2, A Forest Of Stars, brings...
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