Book Review: Hidden Empire (2002)

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Published on: 2010.12.02

Title: Hidden Empire
Author: Kevin J. Anderson
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Orbit Books

For a science fiction literary fan, it’s sometimes difficult to find a good book these days. There’s a lot of crap parading as good science fiction, and so I keep turning to older sci-fi novels, from the tried-and-true authors like Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, etc. After a while, though, I’ve read all their books twice. Three times. A few of them six times.

So I go hunting for good new science fiction. Most times, I leave the bookstore empty handed.

A few months ago, I picked up Book 1 of the Saga of Seven Suns septology, called “Hidden Empire.” I’d heard good things about author Kevin J. Anderson from known sci-fi writers, and Publishers Weekly gave the book an excellent review.

“Hidden Empire” follows several intertwined story lines set in the 25th Century, as humanity and another sentient species come to grips with a serious outside threat.

The story starts with an epic event: humanity is using newly-discovered ancient alien technology to turn a gas giant world into a mini-star. It also happens to be the event that ignites interstellar war. As it turns out, previously unknown aliens lived in the depths of the gas giant planets…

Though I prefer a story with one main character, I didn’t mind so much that Anderson didn’t have one. There are nearly a dozen main characters, none getting preferential treatment over the others. The story also deals with several societies, including the Terran Hanseatic League, the Roamers, the Green Priests, the alien Ildiran race, the long-dead Klikiss people and their still-surviving robots, and the alien hydrogues.

Anderson does well with giving each society a believable history and culture, without boring the reader to tears over details.

He also creates believable, interesting characters, each with a different agenda.

Overall, the book was a fun read.

A couple of downers:

* The story doesn’t end; it just cuts off, hoping you’ll buy the next book in the series. This is not my favorite type of story; I’d much rather the story come to a regular conclusion.

* A few times, I wondered if the book had originally been published as a serial… It seemed the author went to pains to reintroduce characters or redescribe planets or societies as if I hadn’t just read that description a few chapters before. This works if you’re a slow reader; it helps to remind you of things, but if you make it through the novel in a few days it starts to get tedious.

These complaints are not enough to keep me from reading the next book in the series; in fact, all six of the remaining books are currently on my wishlist. I may have found my new sci-fi author.

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