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Tsar Wars: Agents of ISIS, Book 1 Paperback – June 9, 2010
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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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I loved the original books (Imperial Stars was first book of the Family D'Alembert series), but these seem to be a poor clone. Which is a shame since I really tried to get into this new re-telling. So...if you haven't read the original series these may appeal to you, but if you are like me I prefer the original series. Finally...I'm an avid reader of all types of SF...I can't write...but I love a good story. The author has done other fine writing...but IMO this was just a miss.
I would like to buy the other 9 books when I can afford to. These are the types I like to own. It reminds me of old-fashioned science fiction that I first discovered in junior high.
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.