Book Reviews 2006 #55-56

The next two books is a novel split into two books by the publisher.
The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds, the two books that make up Succession, by Scott Westerfeld


The Succession novels are a mostly hard-sf pair of novels set an indeterminate number of centuries in the future. A number of interstellar powers have arisen, the novel focuses on the conflict between two–the Risen Empire, an Empire built upon a foundation of a technology that can grant a second, immortal life after death, and the Rix, a high tech power engaged in creating planetwide A.I.’s, even if the Risen Empire does not want such uncontrolled inhuman intelligences on their worlds.
The novel centers around a conflict between the Rix and the Empire, with the assault on Legis XV, current home of the Child Empress, the post-death immortal younger sister of the immortal Emperor. After her tragic death in a terrorist attack by the Rix, events revolve around the aftermath, focusing on two lovers, Senator Nara Oxham and Captain Laurent Zai of the Lynx, the first ship to respond to the crisis and the threat the Rix, and the compound mind A.I. that names itself Alexander.
Westerfeld plays with the net up, mostly, with no FTL, with hard physics of starflight and the implications of trying to run an interstellar empire under these conditions. The novel has an unusual structure, moving back and forth in time and in the development of the relationship between Nara and Laurent.
Some things seem a little unfinished, even after the two novels are done. The unique and special house of Nara, a character in his own right, for example, seems to have an underdeveloped story arc. The implications of the finale and what will result in the future are not fully played out, leaving, I suppose, room for sequels.
I don’t think its quite as good as other space opera I’ve read recently–Stross, Hamilton, Walter Jon Williams, but I think those who prefer the SF game with much of the net up will like the Risen Empire fairly well, as I did, anyway. I am not so enthused with Westerfeld’s work overall to try his other novels, but I’d read another novel set in the Risen Empire universe.