BRIEF SYNOPSIS: For millenia, the Shaa have ruled the galaxy, forcing all sentient species to adhere to their code of morals and ethics know as The Praxis. Now, the last of the Shaa has died, and the remaining races must forge ahead into the unknown.
PROS: An interesting and unique setting, quick read.
CONS: Flat characters, mildly interesting storyline, the pieces just don’t fit together.
BOTTOM LINE: As space operas go, this one is just mediocre.
I run hot and cold with Walter Jon Williams. I was unimpressed with Angel Station and Aristoi, but I liked his Metropolitan series. Dread Empire’s Fall is an attempt to create a space opera in the mold of Night’s Dawn Trilogy, where the emphasis is on action and story and not hard science. What we got was an uninspired story. With DEF, Williams has created an interesting universe for his characters to inhabit. And with the passing of the last Shaa, all kinds of opportunities are present for political intrigue and military action. In fact, the world building Williams did for this book (series actually) is the best thing about it. And with the setup, I was hoping for more.
Unfortunately, I found neither the characters nor the story lines to be that gripping. The characters themselves are rather flat, with the sole exception of the female protagonist, whose ‘secret’ was easily surmised. No one else distinguishes themselves. The story could have been filled with political maneuvering as, being basically a caste-based society, those with influence in the government used it to further their own ends. Instead, we get one race catching everyone else by surprise as they attempt to install themselves as the new rulers. I didn’t really buy that, but it’s key to the story moving forward. The action sequences aren’t all that spectacular either. I’d characterize them as competent or workmanlike, but nothing cool or exciting. Again, disappointing.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. And even though I may seem to be trashing it above, it’s not really that bad. Rather, its merely ok. The standard, for me, for action-based space opera is Hamilton’s work, and this doesn’t rise to that level. It ends up less than the sum of its parts. Still, I may pick up the second volume to see where it goes as I like space opera.