(2004) Kevin J. Anderson, Pocket Books, £6.99, pbk, 742 pp, ISBN 0-743-43066-2
This is Book Two of the Saga of Seven Suns, a galaxy spanning space opera of what seems will be an open ended series from this prolific author. It is five years after the events of Book One, Hidden Empire. The Terran Hanseatic League are suffering rationing because the supply of ekti, the starship fuel, has been all but stopped by the powerful alien Hydrogues who inhabit gas-giants. In order to fight this menace, the Ildirans, humanoid aliens the Mage-Imperator of which remembers the ancient menace of the Hydrogues, has embarked on a programme of genetic experimentation to breed hybrids between some Humans and Ildirans, specifically the humans who commune with world trees. Meanwhile, two archaeologists have discovered a teleport device in the ruins of an ancient and extinct civilisation; clearly this discovery could eliminate the need for the starships at all. Did I mention the space gypsies? No? Well, there are some fiercely independent space gypsies who perform the mining. So much for the (abridged) synopsis - suffice to say that their are enough plots and sub-plots for an even greater number of characters.
This really is tripe. It isn't just the use of the classical elements of Air, Earth and the others that we obviously expect to crop up as incredibly powerful aliens. It isn't just the array of strictly one-dimensional pantomime characters. It isn't even just the awkwardly small chapters written in a juvenile style packed with cliche after cliche. No, isn't just these, although they all irritate like hell throughout the seemingly endless pages. It is the sheer inconsistency of the science. I don't mind the suspension of disbelief, but I do mind the suspension of all brain activity.
I'll give one example. One planet crops up where Ildirans had once had a colony. Unfortunately, this colony was wiped out by a virus. Now, humans are colonising, but there are fears that the virus may return. Ah ha, but those in the know realise that Terran and Ildiran genetic material is sufficiently different to preclude such a species leap. OK, disbelief suspended. Back with the Ildirans, we have breeding pens where the human females are being impregnated by Ildirans Not with special genetic engineering or some such, but by the old fashioned way. But didn't I just read... As I said, pure tripe.
There's plenty of good, honest space opera around without having to resort to rubbish like this. Definitely not recommended.
See also Tony's review of one of Anderson's X-Files tales - Ruins (The X-Files 4).
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