A Forest of Stars – Kevin J. Anderson


Back Cover Blurb: 
Five years after attacking the human-colonized worlds of the spiral arm, the hydroges maintain full control over stardive fuel…and their embargo is strangling civilization. On Earth, mankind suffers from renewed attacks by the hydroges and decides to use a cybernetic army to fight them. Yet the Terran leaders don’t realize these military robots have already exterminated their own makers and may turn on humanity. Once the rulers of an expanding empire, humans have become the galaxy’s most endangered species. But the sudden appearance of incredible new beings will destroy all balances of power. Now for humans and the myriad of alien factions in the universe, the real war is about to begin…and genocide may result.  
A Forest of Stars is the second installment in Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of the Seven Suns, a seven book long space opera. If you care, the review for the first book, Hidden Empire, is posted here.
This book picks up five years after Hidden Empire leaves off. Anderson still has a staggeringly large cast of characters and enough wars cropping up that reader will probably need a scorecard to keep track of them all in future installments. Anderson’s writing is strong and simplistic, his world is well built and epic. The action is exciting and the beliefs and cultures are, if not fully believable, interesting.
I still have the same problem with this book that I had with Hidden Empire. There are just too many characters and Anderson has a problem making each of their voices different and individual. While I don’t usually have problems with a large cast of characters, I do in this series.
Anderson’s books are incredibly easy to read and the amazingly short chapters make it a quick read, I feel the large number of characters actually serve to cover up a rather shallow plot. While I’m a newbie when it comes to all things science fiction, once the characters are stripped away the plot is actually fairly predictable and cliché.
The number of characters bothered me for another reason as well. The chapters were far too short. I felt as though I was skimming each storyline rather than being immersed in it. While the action does pick up in this book and I did find myself more immersed in it as Anderson hit his stride, at no point did I actually feel more than a bystander watching events happening.
While there was plenty of action going on and numerous different storylines to follow, I found some of them to be absolutely boring to the point where I would skip entire chapters just to avoid that little corner of the story. That’s fine, but it is a mark against the book. In the previous book I held out hope that the characters were being prepped for something more, but this book left me floundering. There was no “something more” there was just semi-predictable continuation. 
This is an enjoyable read if you suspend a reasonable amount of belief. Anderson’s writing is good. His characterization suffers and his world building, while interesting, can be contradictory in matters of science at some points. This is a book you’d want to read for entertainment purposes. I will hand it to Anderson for dreaming up some very interesting cultures, but if he was looking to write a multi-faceted book filled with complex characters and thought provoking drama, this fell well short of the mark. 
Anderson is well known for his other science fiction works (I believe he wrote some Star Wars books or something like that). He’s a good author and can weave together a nice tale. His writing is fluid and if his cast is far too large and his action and drama isn’t completely believable, it’s an entertaining read and worth checking out if you don’t take it too seriously. I’m just starting to explore space operas, and yes there are much better space operas out there, but this is worth checking out for a quick detachment from reality. 
3/5 stars