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#292 Walter Jon Williams: Conventions of War (Dread Empire's Fall #3)

Walter Jon Williams: Conventions of War (Dread Empire's Fall #3)

Paperback: 688 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books; New edition edition (2 Oct 2006)
ISBN-10: 0743428994
ISBN-13: 978-0743428996
Category(ies): SF

This book has one of the worst blurbs I've read in a long time. Just read this: The universe has fallen into bloody chaos now that the dread empire of the tyrannical Shaa is no more at the mercy of the merciless Naxid who, freed from subjugation, now hunger for domination. It might as well be a Kevin J Anderson novel from that description. In the airport bookshop in Tallinn, I almost didn't buy it - I had to check with LibraryThing to see that we'd already got the first two volumes.

(There was a much better selection of English language books to read in that Estonian bookshop than I found at the airport bookshop in Charlotte, NC.)

Happily, the quality of the blurb is no reflection on the quality of the content, which is the third and final volume of a Space Opera set against an interesting background. To summarise the political situation: humanity and a number of other species were part of an autocratic empire, whose citizens were tightly controlled, to the extent that they worshipped their masters the Shaa. But now the last of the Shaa has finally died, and the resulting political vacuum has led to the Naxid (an insectoid race) attempting to impose their authority instead, much to the discontent of all the others.

So a civil war has arisen. On the world of the former capital, the Naxid have control. But Caroline, Lady Sula (a Peer - the political power under the Shaa resided in the Peers, with commoners a layer further from the rulers) has stayed behind to try to lead an insurgency against them. Unfortunately, by now, she's just about the only person left. What can a handful of people do against an entrenched ruling class? She needs to invent new tactics.

And out in space, her former lover and former colleague Martinez may be the best chance for the allied fleet, if his and Sula's battle manoeuvres can be brought to bear. The problem is, bright young things aren't really popular in a space navy with thousands of years of cultural inertia and bureaucracy. And when to that is added the fact that Martinez is a very junior Peer (though one whose family is moving up, due to advantageous marriages), there's a distinct possibilities that the possibilities for military victory will sacrificed on the altar of "Well, that's how it's always been done".

Of course, this being the conclusion to the story, you know that all will turn out OK in the end.

I liked this whole story. The setting is unusual: although our main protagonists are humans, they are but one species working together to try to preserve the structure of the old Empire, with no concept of possible independence. Long ago history, with religion and nations and all that sort of stuff, is regarded as outdated superstition: only the Shaa were worthy of worship. The concept of a true theocracy - one ruled not by priests but by the gods themselves - which then has to undergo a transition when the gods disappear is a strong one. More interesting in Sula's situation: she isn't really who she purports to be, and if the past ever catches up, she's going to be in deep, deep trouble. She'll also lose all the credibility that she's been building up, and which she has been wielding to such good effect.

</cite> A good end to a good trilogy.
Tags: books, reviews

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