REVIEW SUMMARY: A rather pedestrian space opera that nonetheless, has some cool ideas.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the far future, Humanity unwittingly instigates a galaxy-wide conflict when they use a piece of alien technology to turn a gas giant planet into a star.
PROS: Some interesting ideas and sense of wonder.
CONS: Workman-like writing, cardboard characters, illogical happenings and plot contrivances.
BOTTOM LINE: As space opera, these books come up far short of The Night's Dawn Trilogy or the Revelation Space books. However, there is enough cool SF ideas to keep going.
Saga of the Seven Suns is author Kevin J. Anderson's foray into the space opera genre. Previously, he's written books in the Star Wars, X-Files and Dune universes. While he's done a good job in constructing the universe his characters reside in, those characters and the writing just don't live up to the world building. Its the 25th century, humanity has established a thriving interstellar civilization thanks to the fuel source ekti which allows for FTL travel. With the exception of one alien species, the Ildirans (who all share an empathic bond, thism with their leader the Mage-Imperator), only hints of one long-dead alien civilization have been found. These aliens, the Klikiss, left behind many advanced robots, although their memories have been erased, and bits and pieces of high technology. It is one such piece of tech, the Klikiss Torch, which allows for the conversion of a gas giant into an actual star. Humanity unravels the workings of the Torch and experiments on an out of the way gas giant. At the successful conclusion of this test, several globes are seen escaping the planet and disappearing into space. Humanity has unwittingly destroyed the home of unknown, advanced alien species, the Hydrogues. The Hydrogues aren't interested in negotiation, only the annihilation of human-kind. The struggle to defeat the Hydrogues will require the three splinter human factions (the Hanseatic League, the Roamers and the Therons) to overcome their differences and unite. The Ildirans have a plan of their own to appease the Hydrogues and the Theron's (who share a telepathic and FTL link with the sentient Worldforest) discover that the 'trees' they care for and plant throughout the galaxy have a hidden history with the Hydrogues.
The ideas presented above, as well as the universe created are all really interesting. The big problem with the book is the writing style. Pedestrian, mediocre, workman-like are all adjectives I could use, with some descent into being 'hackish'. The turns of phrases, the clunky sentences, the poor dialog all served to distract me from the story. There were several times I couldn't believe what I had just read, and not in a good way. Secondly, the characters themselves seem cookie-cutter-ish, as if Anderson has spent all his time on the world-building, and not on character building. Most characters were ho hum while some are obviously meant to be reviled. I didn't find any to be particularly interesting or appealing. Third, too many times, characters would 'intuit' what has happening for no apparent reason or, If the story needed something big to happen to rescue the characters, it did. I can handle a little Deus Ex Machina, but in this case, it became, Deus Ex-Haustion.
There is a lot here to work with. The sentient worldtrees, the hive-like (sorta) Ildirans, the Klikiss and their robots could have resulted in, in more capable hands, a riveting story. As it is, it took me two months to finish the books, which isn't a good sign. However, there is enough here for me to keep reading, as soon as John finds book 3 at Half-Price Books for me that is.....