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Jul 02

Hidden Empire – Kevin J. Anderson

From Library Journal:

An experiment in converting a gas giant into a star with the potential for transforming the former planet’s moons into environments suitable for human colonies awakens a heretofore hidden civilization and plunges the galaxy into a war for the survival of humanity. The latest novel by the author of Star Wars: Darksaber and the coauthor (with Brian Herbert) of Dune: House Atreides launches a dynamic space opera featuring political intrigue and intense personal drama. Anderson’s skill in delivering taut action scenes and creating well-rounded human and alien characters adds depth and variety to a series opener that belongs in most sf collections.

This is the first book in the Saga of the Seven Suns series. That is an important thing to remember when reading this. The series is quite long. The first book more or less sets up the world, cultures, characters and plot conflicts while leading into the larger, overarching plot element that will bring all the books in this series together. Now you, dear reader, may be rolling your eyes when you read that and saying, “duh, Sarah. That’s why there’s a cute number ‘1’ on the cover.” I don’t say that to state the obvious, I say it because unless you keep that in your mind while you read I think this book could become annoying and tedious, fast.
Each chapter is headed with a different character whose perspective is used in that chapter. Being an avid fantasy reader, multiple perspectives never really bother me. Well, I guess I should put that in the past tense. The multiple perspectives really grated on me in this book. Anderson just has too many people, too many perspectives he is telling the story from. The sheer number of his perspectives seemed to weigh down the book, rather than lift it up. Some authors, like Sarah Monette in her Doctrine of the Labyrinth series, can move from perspective to perspective flawlessly. Each of her characters has a distinct, unique way of thinking and speaking. Not so in Anderson’s book. His perspectives flowed together so seamlessly that, unless you read the chapter header, it was almost impossible to tell where one perspective ended and another began.
Furthermore, there were just too many points of view. Within the first hundred pages I was reading perspectives from so many people I couldn’t keep them all straight. That’s a problem I have never had before in a book. I also got frustrated with the lack of depth and plot with a lot of the perspectives. There were entire chapters that seemed to neither add nor subtract anything from the overall story. There were five perspectives that seemed to be important to read for the plot, the rest seemed to be, more or less, fluff.
Elements of the plot were rather campy and predictable. Some of the characters were too stuck in their role to be believable (too totalitarian, too good, too mysterious, etc). While the world and the conflict was interesting, I felt, in general, the book lacked a level of depth that could have spiraled it to a five-star read.
Which is why I say it is important to remember that this is the first book in quite a long series. I have a feeling that a lot of these characters were being set up for future important plot points.
Anderson’s writing isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s not bad, either. This book, in a lot of ways, is very average. What makes it stand out is the plot, the conflict, and the sheer magnitude of this incredible space opera he has birthed in these pages. While a large amount of the plot seemed overly predictable, the characters lacked depth and seemed to weigh down the book with their sheer numbers and the writing was very three-star I will probably read the next book in the series to see if it gets better.
I’ll recommend this book to anyone who is in the mood to read something very unique, as long as they keep in mind that this book suffers from first-book syndrome and is more of a fluff read than anything with any shocking amount of depth.
3/5 stars.

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