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Tsar Wars: Agents of ISIS, Book 1 Paperback – June 9, 2010
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From the Author
Back in the mid-1970s to 1980s, I took a novella called "Imperial Stars," originally written by E.E. "Doc" Smith, and expanded it to a full-length novel with the same title. The novella was somewhat creaky and simplistic, even by 1970s standards (its anti-Communist screed belonged in the 1950s), but it did have plenty of room for action. (Surprisingly, given Smith's talent for creating notable villains, the archnemesis never appears onstage in the novella; I remedied this in the novel version.) Smith had created no further plots, characters or story arcs, so I had to add my own original touches as I wrote nine brand new books set in that universe, thus creating what became known as the "Family d'Alembert series."
As the decades passed, I became increasingly dissatisfied with these books. The stories I told were fun, but like a tree planted in infertile soil it was stunted and unable to reach its full growth potential. Finally, in the late 2000 aughts, I decided to re-invent the series completely into what is now the Agents of ISIS.
I discarded "Imperial Stars" in its entirety. Gone are Smith's universe, Smith's characters, and Smith's simplistic world view (with the equally simplistic pseudo-Lamarckian evolution that led to the characters' greater strength and speed). I wrote an entirely new first novel, Tsar Wars, to kick off the re-envisioned series, introducing a new universe with new problems, a new background, and deeper, more three-dimensional characters. The stories and characters I created for Books 2 through 10 of the original series are basically the same, though I made major adaptations so they'd fit the new universe.
While I won't try to pretend Agents of ISIS is ultra-realistic--it still has its feet rooted firmly in the space opera tradition--I believe it's not quite as black-and-white as Smith's novella made it out to be. And there's still plenty of exciting action to keep the reader moving forward.
Tsar Wars is Book 1 of the Agents of ISIS series, replacing Imperial Stars from the Family d'Alembert series. I'll freely admit I borrowed some of the plot from Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, and I blatantly appropriated one of Mr. Twain's greatest lines. (Only steal from the best!) The quote is so famous, though, that it scarcely needs attribution.
If you're a fan of thee original series, I hope you'll give Agents of ISIS a try to see how I changed it. And if you haven't read the Family d'Alembert series before, I urge you to try the new, improved series instead. I think it's better designed and better written--and loads of fun.
About the Author
Born in Philadelphia in 1947, Stephen Goldin has lived in California since 1960. He received a Bachelor's degree in Astronomy from UCLA and worked as a civilian space scientist for the U.S. Navy for a few years after leaving college, but has made his living as a writer/editor most of his life. His first wife was fellow author Kathleen Sky, with whom he co-wrote the highly acclaimed nonfiction book "The Business of Being a Writer." His current wife is fellow author Mary Mason. So far they have co-authored two books in the Rehumanization of Jade Darcy series. He served the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for three years as editor of the SFWA Bulletin, and another three years as the organization's Western Regional Director. He has lived with cats all his adult life. Artistically, he enjoys Broadway musicals and surrealist art. Learn more about him at his Web site, http://stephengoldin.com. Many of his other books can be bought through Parsina Press at http://parsina.com.
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Top customer reviews
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Tsar Wars reminded me of Star Wars (go figure, only the S and T are reversed) with a few twists. The book starts out quite slow and confusing for the first few chapters, but as the story goes on, you start understanding more. The Empire consists of thousands of inhabited planets with Earth being the center of the Empire and home to the Tsar. Tsar Wars follows two show dancer cousins who are descendents of ISIS spies, giving them ties to high military officers. When called upon to step into their parents' footsteps, they leave the show biz behind and try to stop a rebel army trying to take over the universe. When the Tsar dies, leaving behind a 14-year old child to run the universe, the Empire begins to fall apart as sector leaders try to take the throne for themselves. All that is standing between them are two untrained cousins and a 14-year old child.
It has a Star Wars feel to it, having thousands of planets to fly between, however, from my understanding all the inhabitants are still human (some are genetically altered though). If you're a fan of Star Wars, be it the books or the movies and you want something similar, pick up this book and try it out. Space opera fans will enjoy this as well.
A few things that really annoyed me in this book were the overly difficult names and not spelling out abbreviations first. Over and over words like "Velikaya Knyaghinya", "dvoryane" and "knyazey" are used. They are all clearly Russian which is fine because of the story line but they are used far too often without definition during the chapters. It wasn't until about halfway through the book I found the glossary for some of the terms but many of the slang terms the main characters used were still undefined in this section.
The other issue was abbreviations. Personally I understand military rank abbreviations but some people may not. Introducing a character as Col. could be confusing to some people. There are many instances in the book like this and it could get frustrating very quickly if I didn't know them.
Overall, the book is a great read and any fan of the genre should check it out. You won't be disappointed. Great start to a 10 book series, I look forward to reading and reviewing the rest of them as I go along.
So... to the book itself. It is a story set several centuries in the future, with mankind living in an Empire of around one thousand planets, rules by a Tsar. The government and politics of the Empire is based on a feudal system, which becomes quite involved. The system seems based loosely on a Russian system from many years ago, and there is a strong Russian influence throughout the novel. To the story itself... The current Tsar is ailing and ill, and his successor is a 14 year old girl. The evil scheming bad guys want to eliminate them both and step in to take over - something which could realistically happen due to the twists and turns of the plot and the rich tapestry it weaves. Bring on the two main hero characters - Judah and Eva, both from a high-gravity planet where generations of evolution (and genetic enhancements) have gifted them with almost super human strength and reflexes. Their goal is to keep the young Tsarina alive and on the throne during the turbulent times throughout the book.
Overall, the book is fast paced and exciting. It pretty much grips you from page one, and doesn't let go. You can tell there is a lot of background, but it does not overwhelm the reader. Again, there is a hint of the big and complex Universe which I expect will be revealed as the series continues. In all ways I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to to reading the next one.
So, to my final thoughts. This set of books, as mentioned, is based on an earlier series. However, here is the twist: The story and characters are significantly different. Overall the Universe seems a much darker place, with good and evil more thoroughly mixed up within all the characters. As a huge fan of the old series, I was initially unsure how I would feel reading the new one when the old characters are so ingrained in my being. However, the new characters are so engrossing and refreshing that you soon forget the differences and enjoy this book for what it is - a new story, with new characters, written with at least the same skill and excitement as the old ones. A fine example of this are the two main characters. In the old series they were somewhat smug and overconfident, as well as being squeaky clean and well behaved. In the new series, Judah comes over as slightly immature, foolish, and very naive. Eva on the other hand is cocksure and confident, and is a real party-girl who is out to the small-hours indulging her vices.
All in all, a great start to what I am sure will be a great series.