Paperback: 727 pages
Publisher: Gardners Books (May 31, 2004)
As a reader, I like story. And I like ideas — that's a large part of why I like the SF genre. On the other hand, a piece that attempts to dwell purely on mood, something that is static, just leaves me cold. So I should be liking this. And I don't, which makes me wish I had the literary tools to work out why.
To start with, this is the second volume of 'the Saga of the Seven Suns'. In the first volume, humanity, or rather the part of it run from Earth, had attempted to ignite a gas giant into a temporary star. (Quite why, when there seem to be oodles of unoccupied planets around, is anyone's guess.) Not long after, irresistible attacks by apparently invincible aliens start to take place, both against humans of all factions and against other races. The connection between these two events is pretty obvious, and eventually even the characters realise what's going on.
In this volume, things heat up. More alien races come into view, and it becomes obvious that this is but the latest stage in a very old war — or rather, two wars. Not a lot actually gets resolved, but there's a certain amount of hope by the end that humanity (and friends and trees) aren't just facing genocide.
This is space opera on a widescreen. There are any number of different story threads, not everyone is either just hero or just villain (Basil Wenceslaus, as the most powerful man on Earth, is not a nice person, but he does believe in what he's doing and it's not always easy for the reader to disagree with his actions), and there is certainly plenty of story. As for ideas &mdash well, there's a decent number of those, too. But some of them are just plain daft. The idea that the Ilduran race (the natives of the planet with the seven suns) can interbreed with humans is bad.
I suspect, though, that what really breaks this for me is that there are too many threads, with too many characters. This leads to overly frequent flips between stories, with a handful of pages per flip, and the reader never gets to know the characters before they're taken away again. As a result, the characters never get a voice.
The overall result for me is a certain formulaic stiffness. I can almost hear Anderson saying "OK, it's been 1500 words, time for Tasia Tamblynn — hey, if I play this right, I can outlast Robert Jordan".
Hmm, my copy appears to be signed. Lucky me.
In the end, I just didn't care about the characters.