BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Terran Hanseatic League is falling apart and with it, the sanity of its Chairman, Basil Wenceslas. King Peter and his Queen attempt to escape Earth to protect their unborn child from the erratic Chairman. The Ildiran Empire strikes an accord with the Hydrogues to save itself, at the expense of betraying Earth. The Klikiss robots, allies of the Hydrogues, begin their final attack on Earth to eradicate humanity. The other sentient elemental entities, the Verdani and the Wentals, join forces to attack the Hydrogues. And some other stuff happens too.
PROS: Interesting far future galactic setting, intriguing aliens, cool SF ideas abound.
CONS: Workman-like writing, illogical happenings and plot contrivances.
BOTTOM LINE: Anderson has warmed up his characters for this, the fifth volume in his The Sage Of Seven Suns series, but overall it is still a competent space opera that doesn’t rise above its parts.
After five volumes, I still can’t say much more about this series than I already have. Aside from the characters growing into their roles, and some becoming more interesting, the rest of what I wrote still applies. Anderson has done a great job creating an expansive, complex and interesting future galactic setting. He also has a ton of interesting SF concepts on display. However, I feel his writing style is nothing more than workman-like, which causes the story to reach middling heights and nothing more. All the major players are on display again, and Anderson jumps back and forth among the different story lines. Normally this isn’t a problem, and it isn’t really here, except that some story lines are much more interesting than others. This causes disappointment when that chapter is over and he moves on to a less interesting storyline.
Another big problem I had is that none of the major characters have met with an untimely demise. Now, this doesn’t have to be a problem, Night’s Dawn or even Turtledove’s Tilting The Balance series follows that rule too, but they aren’t as in your face about it. Anderson is constantly putting his main characters into impossible (for them) situations and has to resort to pulling them out of the fire by various deus ex machina devices. Thus, there really is no suspense to any of their situations since you know something alien, or otherwise, will happen to save the day. This is a big downer, and along with the writing style, really knocks the rating down.
What Anderson has done right, though, is make his character less cardboard and more interesting. As the series has gone along, his characters do seem to change and some have grown considerably. I was actually pleasantly surprised at this. This is also a strong component in making some of his story lines more interesting than the others. I’m hoping that the future volumes, two left, will show more character development, making them stronger books.
As it is, if you’ve read the first four books, you’ll definitely want to read this one. Or, if you like space opera, The Saga Of The Seven Suns is worth a read. I know I will read the last two books when they come out.