Book Reviews 2006 #40

My fortieth book of the year is the second of the “Dread Empire” novels by Walter Jon Williams, The Sundering.

The Sundering: Dread Empire’s Fall (Dread Empires Fall #2)

by Walter Jon Williams
Old School Space Opera really hits its stride in this second novel in the series by Williams. I reviewed the first novel last October.
I said at the time about the first book that I didn’t think the series was quite as good as Vinge, Hamilton and Cherryh. However, paradoxically, while second novels are often weaker than opening novels, this sophomore series is a little stronger. Plunged in medias res into things, there is a focus from backstory and scene setting to action and adventure, romance and politics.
The Sundering features a couple of set piece space battles, terrorism/freedom fighting on the home world, and even dynastic/marriage politics. The model of the Praxis universe being modeled around 18-19th century Britain is now clearly evident. While the status of women is very much in line with that culture, racism in this context is, thankfully, a non-factor. Williams takes pains to show that the aristocratic Peers in his universe come from all species and all races, with the nouveau riche Martinez family trying to marry into the long-established Chen and Ngeni families.
On the other hand, for those who like old school space opera, we get a couple of well drawn space battles. The Praxis universe has avoided Singularities, and with space travel being conducted by fixed wormholes, the tactics and battles are much in the vein of Weber’s Honor Harrington, the sort of “ships of the line” naval battle feel that adds to the period feel of the novel.
The novel makes little concession to those who have not read the first, so if you have read and enjoyed the first novel, you will definitely be very happy with the second, as I was. I look forward to picking up the third novel at some point and finishing the trilogy.