The first book was excellent mind blowing space opera with ancient secrets, a multitude of alien races, a living planet and three lost tribes of humanity so it was with anticipation I opened The Orphaned Worlds. Here is what I found.
Darien is no longer a lost outpost of humanity, but the prize in an intergalactic power struggle. Hegemony forces have a stranglehold over the planet and crack troops patrol its hotspots while Earth watches, passive, rendered impotent by galactic politics. But its Darien ambassador will soon become a player in a greater conflict. There is more at stake than a turf war on a newly discovered world.
An ancient Uvovo temple hides access to a hyperspace prison, housing the greatest threat sentient life has ever known. Millennia ago, malignant intelligences were caged there following an apocalyptic war. And their servants work on their release.
However, Darien’s guardians have not been idle, gathering resistance on the planet’s forest moon. Knowledge has been lost since great races battled in eons past, and now time is short. The galaxy will depend on the Uvovo reclaiming their past – and humanity must look to its future. For a new war is coming.
Michael Cobley is a new author for me; the first thing I read was Seeds of Earth in September last year but it impressed the hell out of me.
The cover is of burning space ships that are leaving a planet’s night side. They leave paths of burning gas and dirt-brown clouds behind them. They are appropriate to the content. The first part had a cover of a blue planet with spaceships in front of it; this planet is shaded by night and looks brown and lifeless wonder what book three will hold?
The book is dedicated to David Wingrove author of Chung Ho and co-author of the three Myst novels. He is a friend of the author.
In the beginning there is a list of the Main Characters that is an important list good to have to handle the many characters in this book. It is followed by a list of the Main Sentient Species in Humanity’s Fire, there are 18 different main races in this story.
Way back in ancient times there was a cataclysmic war with a race from another universe. That race was imprisoned in the Warp Well on Darien but they left allies behind.
In this universe three colony ships where sent out from Earth, one of them ended up in the Hegemony where they become the commando soldiers and body guards of that techno-dictatorship, but their loyalty is built on a lie. The second ship ended up on a mining planet where they are kept as indentured laborer. The third ship landed on Darien, the final battle ground of that ancient war. Darien used to be a living world, a sentient world but it was deeply wounded in the war and has slowly been growing back. It became a new battleground when the legendary Warp Well was discovered there.
The worldbuilding is extensive in this series, Michael Cobley have created believable alien cultures, each are not described in detail but instead they are exemplified by the characters that represent them. There are 18 major races and numerous minor ones. Sometimes I wish the list at the beginning was a bit more extensive.
The human and Uvovo underground fight the Hegemon occupation of Darien, but other players involve themselves too. Especially Legion a technology construct that fight to free the prisoners of the Well and the Construct that strive behind the scene to gather allies to fight back. One novel and entertaining part of the story takes place inside hyperspace where ancient races live on in tiers.
Humanity fights its own fight to unite again, to free the indentured and liberate the minds of the other colony. Not much is known about the fate of Earth but it is believed lost to the Hegemony.
There are some ‘improbable’ plot twists but what do you expect from Space Opera?
This is very much a character driven novel with an important plot. Michael’s Characters be they friend or foe are complex full entities with understandable motivation. Many of the characters makes an inner journey of self discovery as they discover the realities behind the façade of the world they live in.
Each chapter is named after the character whose point of view it presents. There are many different main characters here but to my relief their stories start to converge and merge. The first book was worse in that respect. But it works great
The Orphaned Worlds is a well written, fast paced and coherent multi character novel that I enjoyed to read and had trouble to put down. The pace picks up and the novel ends in a cliffhanger. The players have been presented and the board is laid out for The Ascendant Stars in 2011. You should read Seeds of Earth before this one.