on October 10, 2000
This novel follows the adventures of Ivar Frederiksen, son of a nobleman of the planet Aeneas, who has dared to challenge the authority of the Terran Empire, and as a result must flee for his life, even while searching for some way to secure his planet's freedom. Having led a pathetically feeble revolt against an infinitely more powerful military force, Ivar has no choice but to hide among the various nomadic peoples of his planet, hoping that their innate distrust of outsiders will dissuade them from betraying him. He gains an ally in Erannath, a large, bird-like creature from another empire, but no one can say for certain what his real agenda is. The story climaxes when Ivar is introduced to Jaan, a prophet who is possessed by a 6-million-year-old member of the race of "Elders" whose archeological remains are venerated all over the planet. Can these two men set in motion forces that will free their people before being captured by Terran police? This reader found himself not caring well before the halfway point of this tedious book. Indeed, the first two-thirds of the novel are painfully slow and pointless, as various characters are elaborately positioned, analyzed, and persuaded. Although Anderson's powers of description are excellent, at times even poetic, and his use of the Elder, Caruith, is intriguing, his action scenes are too often abbreviated, or even skipped, showing us only the aftermath of the action. It was probably a mistake to choose
Frederiksen as the main character, since he does little of significance until the very end. Instead, he spends most of the book running and hiding, and there's very little thrill in this chase since his trackers are seldom close enough or dangerous enough to really engage the reader. Anderson had a good enough idea for this book, showing how a rebellious young man of privilege could join forces with a working-class visionary to shake up the establishment, but he took far too long to get his story started, and by the time things really got moving, it was nearly ended. It's hard to believe that the average reader will even finish this book, let alone enjoy it.
on September 14, 2000
... and I'm surprised it hasn't received more attention. A few years after the rebellion of "The Rebel Worlds," Imperial commissioner Chunderban Desai is trying to reintegrate the planet Aeneas into the Terran Empire. Ivar Fredricksen, scion of an imprtant family, gets a bunch of "freedom fighters" slaughtered by the Marines, and has to flee across the world's widely divergent subcultures, accompanied by an Ythrian whose motives are far from clear. He faces questions that his patriotic idealism can't answer so easily -- What is the nature of freedom? Of faith? Can their price be too high? (Flandry has an offstage cameo, and Aycharaych a major role.) Perhaps you won't agree with the resolution, but you won't be able to avoid thinking about it.