Monday, February 4, 2008
Dread Empire's Fall, the trilogy by Walter Jon Williams
Walter Jon Williams was just beginning this series when I joined Critical Mass. In fact, the opening of Dread Empire's Fall : The Praxiswas the first thing I ever read for the group. This is space opera, and before you jump to the conclusion that all space opera is like Star Wars, perhaps you ought to read Destiny's Way, Walter's contribution to the Star Wars canon. He can write that sort of thing quite well, and has enough self awareness to include more than a little irony.
But back to the Dread Empire's Fall series. It begins with an ancient empire created and governed by an immortal race who, for reasons understood only by their immortal minds, decide to end their lives one by one. The suicide of the last immortal is the first scene of the first book, and the empire is then left to be governed by its constituents.
Humans, bird like aliens with fragile skeletons, furry humanoids, and an insectile race are a few of the races that make up the empire, and these races were kept segregated for the most part in a society that had a long and prosperous golden age. Without the immortals to run it anymore, though, things begin to fall apart. This series follows the ensuing civil war, which plays up strong parallels in our own, Earth history.
Now, it was from Walter that I learned how insane the publishing industry can be. I learned what the word "orphaned" meant (when your editor leaves and doesn't pass your project on to another) and that books that come out years later than they were promised may have been handed in on time, or even early by the writer, only to get mangled in the publishing process. In truth, Walter's got some of the worst luck I've had the misfortune to witness. The last book came out well after the first two, and yet the first two sell well enough that the entire series is now in print. Any bookstore I've visited in the past several years has all three sitting on its shelves. If you're a history buff, or just hungry for good space opera, I recommend this series.