The tale my reading this book actually begins a couple years ago, when Borders was closing. I saw it then, wanted to read it, but already had a tall stack of books I was planning to buy, and I couldn’t justify the wildcard addition.
Not that Kevin J. Anderson is a wildcard author. I have read much of his work in the Star Wars universe, and – in general – I enjoy his writing. Having said that, though, I had never read his original work, so this book was beyond the scope of my knowledge, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to own it.
Now that I have read it, the short version is that while I am glad that I read it, I am also glad that I did not purchase it.
Let me reiterate that I am glad that I read it. To go along with that, I intend to continue reading the series (I have already requested the second book from the library). A lot of this is delightfully original, with the worldforest and the green priests and the hidden histories that have yet to be revealed (if they ever will be, which makes the universe a pleasantly real place). The characters are (mostly) compelling, and the propensity with which Mr. Anderson slays his characters is even more compelling. (Usually, the only signal that a character will die soon is their own admission that everything seems to be going well.)
I also appreciated his treatment of religion. While I don’t agree with the suggested route religion takes in Mr. Anderson’s universe (that is to say, I don’t think it will happen that way), he is also fair to religious folks in his representation of them. While religions are officially “unified,” Anderson admits that they are united under a meaningless figurehead; there are also still adherents to the original religions present on many worlds. This is far more accurate than the typical treatment of religion in science fiction, which is constituted of the erroneous belief that common space travel will disabuse us primitives of our silly religious sensibilities. (Ergo, I appreciate Mr. Anderson’s work in this regard.)
There are reasons, however, that I do not feel urged to own this book. First and foremost, and the only real showstopper in this regard, is the sexual content. While there is nothing explicit or graphic, there is still frank discussion of sexual activity. Provided it keeps away from pornographic content (which this book does, or I would not be continuing in the series), I have no problem reading that myself, but if we’re talking about a book I want to keep around the house, and around my family, then it’s going to have to be one hell of a book besides that.
And for all its pleasantness, this wasn’t “one hell of a book.” There are several science fiction tropes, such as alien benefactors bringing humanity into the rest of the galaxy, extinct predecessors leaving behind odd clues, machines that may or may not have any memories of the past, space gypsies, and an unfathomable enemy bent on genocide (another more recent source of all of these tropes is the video game Mass Effect, for example). These ideas have cropped up before, and they will crop up again (and, I readily admit, some of them are in my own writing). This use of tropes is not “unoriginal,” or at least, not in a bad way. It’s familiar, and it makes the universe easier to grasp (and with how many original ideas Mr. Anderson does include, any help grasping the universe is welcome). Even so, this use makes it “genre fiction,” not “incredible fiction.” Which is fine.
Long story short, it’s a good, solid book. I look forward to reading the next one. You may love it enough to own it, especially without my reservations.