61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I didn't really start to enjoy this book until I was about halfway through. Anderson starts off by introducing you to ALL the characters immediately, and there's a good number of them. I think this is mainly because he's trying to set up a whole elaborate universe, and wants to set down all the rules and history immediately, rather than exposing you to them as it becomes necessary. So it's a bit confusing at first. He does start bringing their plot lines together around the midpoint, and as I mentioned, that made it more interesting and coherent. However, I never really identified or personally cared for any of the characters. Anderson never sold me on any of them.
Also, it should be noted that this is indeed the first book of a series, and it can NOT stand on it's own. He leaves you with cliffhangers, so expect to read the sequel(s?) also.
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I love Space Opera. It is my favorite genre within Science Fiction. Peter Hamilton, David Brin, David Weber and Iain Banks are my favorite Space Opera masters. I love a big story, so I went ahead and read this whole series. But as I got closer and closer to the end of the final book the horrifically bad plotting just got worse and worse and I actually started to lose respect for myself as an intelligent reader. I will give you three examples of Anderson's ridiculousness and let you decide for yourself.
A fundamental constraint of Space Opera stories is the question of interstellar travel: how is it accomplished? how long does it take? The answers to these questions are critical to the issues of trade and warfare within the fictional universe. Anderson does not answer the question - sometimes traveling from star to star seems to take effectively zero time, other times travel time seems extended and slow. He writes about an interstellar drive and in-system drives without indicating when or how they are used. Sometimes ships seem to appear immediately above their destination planet without any need to travel through the system on a slower drive, other times it takes two hours to travel from Earth to the Moon. Multiple fleets, using different technologies, leaving from far flung destinations, all arrive more or less simultaneously for multi-sided battles on many different occasions. Space flight happens however Anderson needs it to happen for any given scene.
Anderson also has failed to grasp the basic concept of space being vast and empty. There are at least four separate times in the series where one group of ships just happens to blunder into another group of ships in the middle of interstellar space - without even the poor excuse of traveling between the same two points!
Finally, an interstellar empire of 100 planets or more is governed entirely despotically by just one man, the Chairman of the Hansa, Basil Wenceslas. There are no factions, there are no congresses or parliaments, he has one assistant and that is the entirety of the governmental system. Wenceslas's word is law and no one ever resists or disagrees with him. There is absolutely no representational government whatsoever.
I was flabergasted by the ridiculous simplicity of the plot until I discovered that this was a multi-media effort with a series of comic books that goes along with it. Once I realized he was writing for comic books it all made a lot more sense. Anderson writes things that would look cool if you drew them. The rigors of detailed thought that characterize a lot of Science Fiction are just not present. If David Weber's Honor Harrington series sometimes goes too far in detailing the workings of parliamentary government and 'showing the math' behind his warfare model, Anderson's Saga of the Seven Suns brushes all the details aside and simply says "wouldn't this look cool?"
I gave it three stars because I actually read all seven books and was pretty entertained most of the time. I read books very quickly so it wasn't that much of an investment on my part. If you like to be choosy about what you read and only want to invest in the best stuff, this certainly isn't it.
31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My main problem with this book is in the behaviour and thought processes of the main characters. These are people who are supposed to be highly intelligent leaders of worlds and yet who act and react with child-like simplicity. For instance, while it takes the reader mere paragraphs to realize what our protagonists have done to invoke the wrath of the mysterious race of "hydrogues", it takes the characters, in what can only be termed a truly world-class exhibition of monumental stupidity, many chapters to come to the same realization. In fact, said hydrogues have to explicitly spell it out for them. And this is representative of the whole book. Another example: I love how he has characters repeatedly proclaiming their desire to fight the enemy and, when they do, running for the hills when they realize, YET AGAIN, that they don't stand a chance against this invincible foe. Just silly silliness.
And clearly Anderson has absolutely no understanding of economics and geopolitics. The way that the job of harvesting the most valuable resource in the universe ("ekti") is delegated to others because the powers that be just can't be bothered to do the dirty work is simply inconceivable. If only our oil-based world was like that!
And finally, the pièce de résistance. I read my first book when I was six years old. A science fiction story complete with beautifully drawn full-colour art that I still remember fondly to this day. In fact, this is the book that started my life-long love affair with science fiction. I am now in my mid-fifties and have read many science fiction books over the intervening years, both good and bad. But in reading all those books, I have never had a reaction like the one I experienced while reading a certain passage in this book. It's hard to describe but basically I did the reading equivalent of a "double take". Anderson has these floating factories that harvest hydrogen in the upper levels of gas giant planets. He also has these factories completely open to the environment. Open-air factories in the noxious, poisonous atmosphere of a gas giant! Wow. I actually had to pause for a moment when I read this. And there are more science gaffes in this book; so many in fact that I just cannot fathom how someone so obliviously ignorant of science ever got started down the path of writing science fiction.
Another (smaller) gripe: It seems every page is laced with the phrase "Guiding Star". If I see that stupid phrase one more time...
Suffice it to say that this work is much too simple-minded for its intended adult audience and is probably best suited to act as an introduction to science fiction for children below the age of 13.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2002
This is like I like my space operas:big, brassy beautiful with worlds to explore, villians to hate and maximum excitement! This what I got in this novel. Kevin Anderson who cowrote those awesome dune prequels continues his quality writing in this his first sole endeavor.Hidden Empire introduces us to fabulous 25th century universe where human race has split into three parts:
Earth-based Hanseatic league with it's figurehead King Frederick but is secretly ruled by the ruthless chairman Basil Wenceslas.
Telepathic green priests of planet Theroc and gyspy-like starship dwelling Roamers who produce the starship fuel called ekti.Humanity shares the galaxy with the ancient alien empire of the Ildirans. A decaying realm that has passed it's glory. A experiment using technology of extinct alien race called Klikiss.
A device called Klikiss torch which scientists will use to convert gas giant planets into new life-giving suns.The result of this experiment has a tragic and horrifying side effect. A race of beings called Hydrogues who live in the core of this planet are killed! This accidental genocide results with the Hydrogues launching their vast planet-size armadas with purpose of destroying each and every human in the universe!Anderson's space opera has it all: incredible world-building as he takes you to his worlds of wonder like the beautiful planet of Theroc where green priests use their telepathic links to their worldtrees to communicate to vast parts of the universe. The Ildiran empire, decaying realm filled with centuries old secrets and intrigues and conspiracies.The characters(with are many) come alive in this book like ruthless chairman, Wenceslas who rules the terran empire behind the scenes and who manipulates who ever becomes king. Dr.Margaret Colicos, the scientist who's experiment will usher in a terrible interstellar war! Tasia Tambyn-the roamer woman who will leave her people to join the terran army to avenge the death of her brother.Raymond Aguerra
a young man who will fall in Wenceslas's web of intrigue. Adar Kori'nh, the admiral of the Ildiran fleet who seeks past glory of his people in battle.Jora'h-the soon to be heir of Ildiran empire and who falls in love with human woman. Nira-the young green priest who is Jora'H's lover and who find herself a victim of Ildiran's sinister breeding experiment.Anderson's lyrical prose makes his novel sing and his harrowing battle scenes and plot twists are wonderful. All this leads to shocking cliffhanging conclusion that makes me wait with baited breath for the next novel in this saga!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not a literary student so I'll try to explain my thoughts in my own words, though I'm sure that someone trained to review books would do a better job.
Dialogue: The dialogue is simplistic and open to the point of being clunky.
Story flow: The story flow lacks a sense of depth and background.. for example take the following excerpt:
" A spike-studded warglobe the size of a small asteroid streaked into the solar system and entered Earth orbit as fast as the distant-early-warning sensors could respond. Before the EDF could rally its troops, the gigantic diamond-hulled sphere disgorged a much smaller globe, like a droplet of dew, that made its way directly to the Hansa capital "
I feel no excitement when I read such a critical paragraph. Nothing really jumps up and makes me gasp with wonder. There is no presence within the words. There is no sense of majesty to a pivotal moment in the story. There is no personality behind the provided facts. WHO saw the warglobe first? Was it a midshipman on a battle cruiser? A sensor technician? How did they feel? Was there horror? Excitement? How crappy are earth's sensors that a huge enemy warvessel can just waltz in without anything or anyone interposing itself? Why not talk about Earth's lack of preparedness? Where is the PERSONAL touch to the paragraph that will make it dear and exciting to me, the reader?
Now there are other paragraphs following the one I posted that continue this lack of depth and background information. Thus, I don't feel a flow in the story just a statement of facts, like something I would find when reading an instruction manual for some device or another. IE: 1. Warglobe come. 2. Warglove send little warglove 3. Little warglobe go to Hansa capital.
So there we go, That's my big beef with the entire book. I didn't put any dialogues in there but they are equally lacking in depths. Childish even.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There is a good story here. Vast space empire, alien freinds and nemesis's... splinter groups, conspiracies, rebels, schemes and plots...all that you could expect in such an "epic" type of book.
Book is told from a "rulers" viewpoint. You follow the story thru the political rulers, kings, magistrates, etc...perspectives. Which always gives you the larger picture in such stories (hence, "epic").
I liked the book. For this type of story, I thought it was original and interesting.
It was a little too wordy and descripitive. I beleive this story could have been written at less than half it's current size...mebbe a third. If you've read any of Robert Jordans books, especially the latter ones...you'll understand what I'm talking about.
One description of the majistrates appearance would have been enough. One good description of the worldforest and I woulda got it. I don't need constant reminders of who the Roamers are...I got it the first time. Yes, the "Prime designate" is a hunk spreading his bloodline...I didn't forget, honest!
One of the advantages, in the "several storyline" format, is that they can keep re-introducing the people/places/things each time they get back to that particular storyline. You can create a lotta words that way. I guess this can be beneficial to an author. But, damn...it's annoying.
I was also a little annoyed at the flippant attitude this vast empire had on the most important resource in the universe...the "ekti" that fueled their stardrives. I mean, without ekti, the empire virtually collapses. They seemed to care less about who, or where it comes from. What empire takes that sorta attitude over their lifeblood?
Anyway, I still enjoyed the book. There IS a good story in here. It just took me a little longer than I wished to finish it (10 days, cuz I kept falling asleep while reading it.) It sounds weird, but the storyline actually moved along pretty quickly, it's just that the descriptions were somewhat overbearing. It got to that "I think I'll just read what's in quotes" point :)
Good book, but plan to spend some time with it (which can be a good thing)...it's not a 1 sitting novel.
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2002
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
In the opening of this book, we are treated to the concept of a Jovian planet with both a methane atmosphere and pockets of breathable oxygen. Not anywhere in the universe does this happen, sorry. Chemically impossible, Luke at Bespin not withstanding.
At another point we are told that light takes "decades" to cross the galaxy. Thousands of decades, I think.
SF requires "willing suspension of disbelief" and stuff like this, every dozen pages or so, will just slap anyone with any kind of education across the face a bit too often for that to succeed.
Now, maybe, if Mr. Anderson had the energy of a Doc Smith or the invention of a Larry Niven, or the sheer "sense of wonder" of Edgar Rice Burroughs, one wouldn't notice all the silliness as one raced through the story. But this book is neither fast-paced or inventive. So the errors are the most memorable part of the book.
A poor Star Wars wannabe with no characterization or particular literary skill. A good story setup, done very badly.
For younger readers wanting a good story, and not too critical of science or writing, try Galactic Patrol, Niven's "Known Space", or A Princess of Mars. There's a reason these are still in print many decades later. This one won't be.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Humanity has reached the stars--not through their own efforts, but largely through the gift of an alien race. The ancient Ildiran Empire has dominated the stars alone for thousands of years. They have willingly shared their technology with the humans, but are now increasingly concerned about the human urge to expand, and the risks that humans are willing to take. When the humans take one risk too many, creating a new star out of a gas giant, both humans and Ildirans must pay the price. The gas giants are inhabited--and don't take kindly to the genocide of their people.
Author Kevin J. Anderson delivers an impressive display of world-building. The divisions of humans into mercantile Hanse, mystic Theroc, and entrepreneurial Roamers, the all-knowing Priest-King of the Ildiran, and the enigmatic robots of long-extinct Klikiss make for a fascinating background. Unfortunately, Anderson's clunky writing, constant repetition, and the illogical actions of many of his characters mar an otherwise interesting story.
The humans have an ultimate weapon at their fingertips--the tool that created a star from a planet that set off the war in the first place, yet neither they, nor the inhabitants of the gas giants seem to recognize the power that this gives them--or the danger that it offers to the gas dwellers. With careful editing, this cuold have been a fine novel. Perhaps Anderson will deliver in the sequel.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2002
This is definitely one of the better books in the Galatic Empire/Space Exploration saga genres. Kevin Anderson has always been a very entertaining and engaging writer, as evidenced in his Star Wars books. Here again, he tells a complex yet believable story, or rather, the beginning of a story, effortlessly and with a well-paced style typical of him. There are more than a few original ideas in this book, and quite a few fully fleshed out characters that really brings the reader into their minds. It's refreshing to finally see someone do a good job of tackling the concept of a vast (mostly human) galactic empire without peppering it with well-worn cliches or ridiculously irrational circumstances or Forest Gump-like brawny protagonists. Here is an author that respects the intelligence of his readers and takes the time to develope the intricate yet plausible storyline. The only major criticism I have for this novel is that it can be confusing for people who are not as adept at switching perspectives multiple times in the same chapter. Anderson could use a little more polish in keeping the pace up without loosing the readers. All in all, this Book 1 leaves you hungering for more of Anderson's excellent story telling.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is the year 2427, and humanity has spread throughout the Spiral Arm of the galaxy. Assisted by the Ildiran Empire, successful colonies have grown in many exotic locations. Now the human race has split into three major factions. The Hansa is the Earth-based government; the Therons have adopted a forested homeworld where their Green Priests commune with the worldtrees; and the Roamer clans make up an industrious lot capable of almost anything.
The Spiral Arm is a relatively peaceful span of the galaxy--until a well-meaning experiment provokes attacks that wreck unimaginable devastation. Mysterious alien ships rise from the depths of gas giants to destroy the skymines that harvest ekti, a gas vital to interstellar travel.
As the introductory novel to Anderson's "The Seven Suns Saga," Hidden Empire is breathtaking in scope and depth. The characters are vivid, fresh and unforgettable. Although the story is told through many eyes, the reader will find it easy to distinguish between each individual and his or her point of view. Furthermore, the numerous settings are exquisitely described, but not overbearing. It's refreshing to get a clear picture of a scene without suffering through page after page of minute detail.
Anderson is a master at balancing action, characterization and setting. Hidden Empire is sure to whet the appetite of science fiction fans everywhere.
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer