Empire of Silence: The universe-spanning science fiction epic Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Hadrian Marlowe, privileged first son of a Duke, was destined for greatness, and he has become a legend. The Sun-Slayer. The Breaker of Sieges. The Crusher of Civilisations. His is a story which defined the course of worlds.
This novel is not that story - not the only laid out in the history books, charting the 300 years of his life. Rather this is Hadrian's story, told in his own worlds. Of being passed over by his father for rule in favour of his younger brother and sent to a military academy against his wishes. Of being kidnapped in transit to that planet and sold into slavery on a planet at the edge of our war against the Cielcen...and of how he used their eventual attack to claw his way back into the dangers and opportunities of politics.
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|Listening Length||25 hours and 58 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 05, 2018|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #167,850 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#867 in Dystopian Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,746 in Space Opera Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#3,350 in Adventure Science Fiction
Reviewed in the United States on December 22, 2021
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Top reviews from the United States
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Overall, I enjoyed the book and can recommend it to others. To be the debut work of such a young author, it feels incredibly complete and mature. You can just tell Ruocchio has studied the craft and that he is dedicated to making a career out of writing. The prose, in particular, is top-tier among sci-fi/fantasy and really sticks out. The narrator's "voice" also remains consistent throughout, an important point whenever an author takes the first-person memoir approach. Ruocchio has a firm grasp on and confidence in his use of language, and that helps power the story along through its many, many pages. The narrative itself might not always be as tight as it could have been, but it never really felt like a slog considering how well written it is.
Ruocchio seems to aspire to the heights of Dune and The Book of the New Sun, but I don't think he quite reaches it here, which is really the only reason I knocked off a star. If those illustrious works of speculative fiction are intended to be the book's peers, Empire of Silence falls a little short even if it gets closer than most. That may be unfair to grade a debut book against the heavyweights of the genre, but I do think Ruocchio may have it in him eventually so I am excited to read more from this young author and will be continuing the ongoing series.
First, I'll say that while I didn't need it, Ruocchio includes a glossary in the back of the book in case the vocabulary used isn't obvious to the reader. As a digital reader, I didn't even think to check, so I didn't find out until I was done reading. Did that maybe help immerse me into universe? Maybe. You decide for yourself which you think is best for you.
Please don't read the comments about how this is "like Name of the Wind in Space" and expect a rehash of Name of the Wind. The similarities are simply that they are both books of older men telling stories of their struggles in their youth and both are excellent reads. And that's it, really. It should be enough to have those two similarities, but if you need Hadrian to be another Kvothe then you'll be fairly disappointed.
Hadrian's recollections of his early years ring true to this old man writing this review who also thinks back to his youth and accepts that the mistakes made sense at that time. And like a fair storyteller, sometimes he has to admit he might be an unreliable narrator (as does the scribe that signs off at the end about translating the official writing).
The worlds we're introduced to are both alien and familiar enough to feel surreal and real in equal measure. Characters behave in realistic ways and if someone's motivation seems odd at first, give it a minute. Things almost always make sense in the end. The technology never feels like a McGuffin or Deus Ex Machina. Rules are explained early and so far as I can tell were always followed. Oh, we learned new tech or a bit more about things as we progress through the story, but that was natural and never felt like Ruocchio was writing himself out of a corner.
So, if you like coming-of-age, political intrigue, space opera, action, or adventure...consider this one. I think you'll like it.
Top reviews from other countries
You'd think I hated it having read that description. No. It was like eating cake. Good cake. Actually, maybe the best stew you've ever had, a sci-fi cassoulet compendium, a geek gumbo. Nothing in here is going to shake the pillars of the earth but damn I was looking forward to getting on the Underground to work so I could read some more, and I was sad when it ended.
So, leave off notions of originality and of literary criticism, read some cake. It's one of those books. You're not engaging intellectually (though it's definitely not badly written unlike this review), this is purely for the pleasure centres of the brain.
For gods sake someone post the references I missed. I should have made a list. If you know the guy post a picture of his bookshelf and tell him to write book two.
I'd of given it five stars if it surprised me.
The protagonist, Hadrian Marlowe, narrates his story, and we already know the ending. What we don’t know are the hows and the whys, the whos and the whens, the overall journey that led to that particular conclusion. Revealing the ending at the very beginning can easily backfire, and can be tricky for an author, but Christopher Ruocchio handles it magnificently. A lot of modern fantasy is enjoyable because of the unpredictability in terms of which characters will survive, but can also overdo it by killing characters for shock value. Here, given there is a single protagonist who already tells us what happened eventually, the author does brilliantly to keep us off balance. This is a very unpredictable story, and takes many twists and turns that keep us interested.
We find him as a late teen on his homeworld, where we are required to believe that the galaxy of the future has barred all but the elite from using technology, so that training for fighting in the colosseum is more or less a rite of passage. After being sent off to join the Chantry (a bunch of sadistic torturers masquerading as priests of old Earth) and getting side-tracked, he then spends a number of years on a planet far and away from his home. And we are treated to the minutiae of his life in excruciating detail, to the point that he is all of about 26 by the end of the book. If the rest of the series goes at this pace, and chronicles his life for the next 1500 years, then there are about 200 volumes still to go!
On the plus side, the author is erudite. The writing is entertaining and uses words like lictor that I haven't seen since reading Gene Wolf. But however good the writing is, and it is about enough to stop you putting it down, there is no real excuse for taking 600 pages to get nowhere of any great interest.
For my part, I shall wait to see how many volumes this turns into. Any more than two, at this length, would simply be taking a liberty.
Two stars, because the length makes one wish it had finished rather earlier, and because the whole thing does not feel like much more than setting the scene for the next 15 volumes in the series, and should probably have comprised the first half of a 300-page book. The author is talented, but not sufficiently talented to warrant screeds of this length with a wafer-thin plot.
When I did reach the end I was quite dismayed to find there are at least 4 more volumes in the series; one or even two I might have coped with(I knew there was at least one), but I didn't feel engaged enough to continue, so I won't be reading any more of this.
It was not his war.
The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.
But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.
On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.
Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.
Yes, Hadrian Marlowe is a man born to power and privilege. Yet, he sees such things as a living hell, and yearns to break free of the shackles chaining him to an unbalanced institution that panders to a privileged elite, while fighting a 300 year old war against the Cielcin. The society he was born into is rigidly indoctrinated by the elitism imposed by the Chantry, and enforced by the Emperor and his legions. Such elitism does nothing but to rob everyday citizens of their humanity and simple decency.
Hadrian realizes this, for he possesses something rarely seen in this far-future empire. A conscience. He knows things need to change and longs to travel the vast expanse of the stars in order to seek answers to questions that should have been asked long, long ago.
So he decides to do something about it . . . or at least, he tries to.
As a result, he is rendered excomminicado, his inheritance as first in line to his family’s wealth and power simply wiped away; he’s sent into exile; sold into slavery; ends up begging on the streets of an impoverished backwater planet; fighting as gladiator fodder in the colosso.
And just when he’s on the verge of throwing in the towel, discovers something that truly captures his heart and soul: clues as to the origins of life in the universe. And far from the rhetoric spouted by the Chantry, it isn’t anything to do with humanity. Oh no. Something more ancient and vaster than mankind can possibly imagine once used the cosmos as its playing ground. And humans?
Well, that remains to be seen.
Be warned. Empire of Silence is a lengthy tome. But it’s well worth the commitment it takes to read it. Ruocchio is an accomplished world builder, and weaves a rich tapestry of far-future, galaxy spanning expansion that maintains a brisk yet steady pace throughout, without losing the personal touch.
The main characters are detailed and credible. You can relate to – or hate – them in equal measure, while the supporting cast, though many and varied, add attention to detail that adds credibility to the star system spanning arena in which the story is set.
While reading, I was distinctly reminded of the scope of Frank Herbert’s, Dune; The scale of Arthur C. Clarkes, 2001: A Space Odyssey; and the poignant message conveyed in Barry B. Longyear’s, Enemy Mine.
It’s great, epically proportioned stuff, and will keep you turning the pages in your haste to find out what happens next. (And in all honesty, it’s a great way to while away the never-ending lockdown hours)