Share for friends:

Read The Praxis (2003)

The Praxis (2003)

Online Book

3.77 of 5 Votes: 5
Your rating
038082020X (ISBN13: 9780380820207)

The Praxis (2003) - Plot & Excerpts

‘The empire of the Shaa lasted 10,000 years. Years of terror, infinite violence and oppressive, brutal order. Now the Shaa are no more, but the terror and violence are only beginning…The Shaa, rulers of the universe, began to commit ritual suicide when it became clear that their minds – profoundly intelligent but limited – would accept no further information. near immortality was their one, great mistake. And so began the war between the Naxids, oldest client race of the Shaa, who believed themselves inheritors of the empire, and a frail alliance of other races, including humanity.Humanity had both suffered and thrived during the millennia in which the Shaa tried to compel the universe to conform to their notions of propriety – suffered because they were one of the first species to fall beneath the Shaa’s yoke; thrived because the Shaa found Humanity useful and spread them through out their empire, in positions of trust.As the empire expanded, through wormholes which crossed both space and time, the Shaa formulated The Praxis, a harsh ethic which they imposed on those they conquered. But it could also serve as a cloak for insurrection…Through the eyes of two humans, Gareth Martinez and Caroline Sula, amongst others, we see this mighty, calamitous war rage.And so, the story of a dread empire’s fall begins.’Blurb from the 2002 Earthlight paperback edition.This, the first in what one supposes is a proposed trilogy, spends much of its first half not only setting the scene, but also – in a series of flashbacks – examining the past life of one its two main protagonists, Lady Caroline Sula.The Shaa have spent over ten thousand years conquering races and ruling over an empire in which life and ethics are proscribed by The Praxis, a set of rules which govern all aspects of Empire life. Immortality and artificial intelligence are banned, amongst other things, and all subjects are encouraged to be engaged in sport of some form as – one imagines – a metaphor for war.Immortality, as the Shaa have discovered, is a curse, as now, despite cyborg extensions to databanks of memory, the minds of the immortal ‘Masters’ can accept no further information and one by one they are committing suicide.We start our story just before the death of the last Shaa – an efficiently choreographed political event seen through the eyes of the other main protagonist, Lieutenant (and Lord) Gareth Martinez, office of the Empire Fleet and member of one of the favoured elite human families known as The Peers.During the attempted rescue of a ‘space yacht’ involved in a racing accident, Sula and Martinez meet and become acquainted.Williams has made an impressive and successful effort to breathe life into his main characters. Certainly, the character of Sula is an interesting and complex one, while Gareth’s (an officer who is constantly judged by his broad provincial accent) is rather more straightforward. Martinez, however, is directly affected by the death of the Shaa since – as his superior intends to die along with his Master – his position in the Fleet will no longer exist and he will be forced to seek patronage from elsewhere.I like what Williams has done with the Shaa – since having arranged that their bodies and stored memories be cremated, nothing is now known of them, and details given of them in the text were cleverly sketchy and vague. Thus they have become an instant Elder Race. The question Williams eventually poses is ‘What will happen now?’. The Naxids – six legged reptilians – were the first client race to be conquered and enslaved by the Shaa and so now see themselves as heirs to the Imperial position.What is missing from this novel are those small elements of detail – Bob Shaw’s ‘wee thinky bits’; the minutiae of verisimilitude – and social development. Gadgets, technology, the things that make you go ‘Ooh!’. Once more we are presented with Twentieth Century attitudes and systems transplanted ten thousand years in the future. One accepts that the Shaa (rather like the Chinese in Wingrove’s ‘Chung Kuo’) find change and progress dangerous and seek to stifle it, but human society under the Shaa would have changed anyway. Herbert’s ‘Dune’ – from nearly forty years before – also portrays a far-future Galactic Empire but one which is so divorced from our own society as to seem truly alien. There is little of that here.And one has to ask – since it is the one thing in the book that stands out as being truly ludicrous – whether Football would really remain unchanged after ten thousand years?Martinez, you see, is posted to ‘the Corona’, a ship under the Captaincy of Tarafah, a man so obsessed with Football that he commandeers talented players into his crew in order to possess a class team capable of winning what trophies exist at the time, rather in the manner of contemporary US universities who offer scholarships to talented players for exactly the same reason. This is soccer we are talking of here, however. The ship is even painted lawn green with a midfield stripe and a repeated motif of a bouncing football. I imagine Williamson must be a fan. There seems no other reason for such anachronistic silliness. There’s even a joke about the offside rule. I sincerely hope that football is not going to be a re-occurring theme in this series, which is already marred by such muddy extrapolation.The aliens remain offstage for the most part until the Naxids decide to make their move and stage an uprising.I’m impressed by the Naxids – who communicate in such a sophisticated enough fascination by flashing patterns of scales at each other, why the hell would they need to evolve speech?Grudgingly, despite the football nonsense and the talking lizards I have to admit that it’s a page-turner and that I’m looking forward to the next instalments.The problem one has with the politics of the novel is that the Naxids – as far as I can tell – are perfectly within their rights to take over Martinez’ ship. In fact they’d probably be a vast improvement on Captain Tarafah who has proven to be an idiot.Technically, culturally, the Naxids are Martinez’ superiors, but suddenly he decides to reject their authority and hijacks the ship to boldly go off and find some other people who feel the same way.On a final note I was pleased to see that along with ships’ names such as ‘The Bombardment of Delhi’ there is also one called ‘The Judge Jeffreys’.

Walter Jon Williams is the author of the sleek, sophisticated ripped-from-tomorrow's-headlines series that kicked off so memorably with This Is Not A Game. Before he dipped his toe into flashy techno-thrillers, however, he penned the more stately Dread Empire's Fall series. How does WJW manage with grand spacer opera and military sci-fi? Based on the first book in the series, The Praxis, the answer is: quite well!The author has set a challenge for himself by putting the ending of the story right on the cover: we know there's a Dread Empire, and we know that it falls, right? So what else is there to say?Plenty, it would seem. For starters, the protagonists of the book are part of the eponymous Dread Empire and their interest is to preserve it, not destroy it. Turning our initial expectation on its head proves to be a clever move on WJW's part that pays off throughout the first book. Let me tell you about this empire: thousands of years ago, the technologically superior Shaa arrived in Earth orbit and bombarded humanity's major cities until we surrendered unconditionally. It then recruited humans to serve it and attack the next intelligent species, and them the next, until all known intelligent species were subjugated, eight in total. The Shaa imposed a law called The Praxis on its empire, which stated that 'all that is required is known'. In other words, there could be no further technological advancement beyond what the Shaa had achieved. Furthermore, the Shaa forbid research of any kind into specific fields including artificial intelligence and genomics, and enforced this prohibition with ruthless brutality.So humanity is ready to wake up and throw off the oppressive rule of the Shaa, right? No! The Shaa have now ruled for thousands of years and all the subjugated species completely accept the legitimacy of the Praxis. In fact, the last surviving member of the Shaa is not long for this world, and the empire it is leaving behind is extremely anxious that no rebels or mutineers disrupt the glory of the Praxis. The last wish of the Shaa and the empire they leave behind is that everything should continue exactly as it has been.Of course, that's not going to happen.Our protagonists are two humans. One is Gareth Martinez, scion of minor nobility and a junior officer in the imperial Fleet. Martinez, like most of his peers, is spoiled, arrogant and unaware of his privileges. Unlike most of his peers, he is actually a competent officer. Martinez will get the majority of the 'screen time' in this book, which is a bit annoying as his preening ambition and lack of self-awareness make him a bit unlikable; also, because WJW has a much more interesting character in Caroline Sula. Caroline Sula is also a peer, but her family is disgraced and she has a shadowy past involving a cast of marginalized teenagers scraping out a living in the slums of a far planet. WJW has much more of a talent for writing this sort of thing than most authors of space opera typically do, and I enjoyed these sections whenever they came up. I enjoyed Sula's character generally, as she is much more sympathetic than the spotlight-hogging Martinez. This tension is echoed early on in an accident in which Sula's quick thinking and bravery save the day, while Martinez gets the glory.Fortunately, Martinez eventually starts to grow into his undeserved accolades as a great threat to the Praxis reveals itself from an unexpected corner. I won't spoil this except to say that the greatest threat to fundamentalists is often other even more dogmatic fundamentalists.The Praxis also sets up several larger mysteries that will no doubt play out throughout the series: where did the Shaa come from originally? And why did they establish strict laws limiting technological advancement? We get hints that they were motivated not by a desire to dominate, but by something else entirely. I have my guesses.WJW does an excellent job of weaving together a tense story full of action, intrigue, humor and subtle social commentary. The setting feels suitably grand but grounded in a way that space opera usually isn't. WJW has previously penned a couple of Star Wars novels, and perhaps those were what inspired him to do this impressive 're-interpretation' of the standard tropes of the genre. I gobbled up The Praxis and am eagerly looking forward to book two, The Sundering. If you're a fan of smart sci-fi, especially space opera and military sci-fi, you should definitely look this up.

What do You think about The Praxis (2003)?

This is a re-read for me. I read the Dread Empire trilogy years ago and rembered it as a rousin space opera. My memory was that it was an excellent epic with lots of space battles. Well, my memory was partially correct. There are some space battles, though nearly as many as I remembered, which are all brilliantly plotted and presented. There is also a substantial amount of politics, class warfare (particularly relevent with today's "1%" disputes), and interesting aliens, which I had forgotten nearly all about. I think Walter Jon Williams series is even more topical today than it was 10 years ago when he began it.Other recent military sci fi, like Jack Campbell's Lost FleetConventions of War, so it is hard to know if there was actually any influence. Williams has far fewer actual battles, with political and class manuevering actually taking up more of the novels. This is what gives Williams opus more of a space opera feel than Campbell's straight ahead combat approach. Williams also invests much more effort into his key characters, imbuing them with real life problems and motivations. Both are excellent, however, so if you haven't picked up Campbell's work yet you may really like it.

Somehow I ended up with two copies of this book--one from the local thrift store and one from a used bookstore. I guess lots of people are getting rid of it, though I don't know why. I thought it was one of the best space operas I've read. I didn't give it 5 stars because it really isn't a complete novel. It is clearly just the setup for the main story yet to come.I like the way space travel worked in this one. There is the typical "magic wormholes" that let you go FTL, but between wormholes you have to go with good old thrusters. Since the holes are often on either side of the solar system you might spend months travelling from one hole to another. Much of the battle tactics are about slow travel, a nice change from the usual FTL travel.There is a nice love story that has only begun in this volume. I like the interesting setup for the interstellar empire and the relations between the races.All in all, very well done. Now, if only I can find the next two volumes...
—Michael Hirsch

I am going to start out by saying that Walter John Williams is an accomplished writer. He has begun to spin a tale here that has me very interested in the trilogy.No doubt that this is a space opera and it does have a fair chunk of your bog standard space story lines. But Williams creates a very interesting universe that you get to see at the end of its current cycle. A superior race has ruled for 5 or 10 generations (i forget which) and ha sbrought peace to, well everyone. But only because if you don't follow their way, they kill you. There are many races that fall under the Shaa (the dominate race) and have all fallen under The Praxis, a way of life that the Shaa preach. So you get all this in the first chapter. So this story is what happens when the last surviving Shaa dies and all races are free of their rule. For the first 60% of this book, Williams builds in depth two characters. Their backgrounds and their personalities are delved deeply and I can see a lot of people thinking halfway through this book that nothing is actually going to happen. But the book is based on a couple of interesting storylines. One being class, without war for hundreds of years, the ruling class of humans has developed a very clear sense of 'upper class'. The Peers and Lords, though births are key to the story and in the space navy it isn't what you know, but more who you know. Our main character Martinez comes from a well to do family from a backwater planet, so he has come quite far through the ranks but is stuck because of his provincial accent and his birth place. This makes him a character bent on doing anything to climb the social ladder. The other interesting storyline is that after hundreds of years of peace, the navy is basically just a show pony. All the senior officers are more interested in how the ships look and the quality of the uniform and staeroom. So when shit hits the fan, well everyone is really really crap at planning battles. So they have god awful tactics and you have that midshipmen with half an idea being told by Captains to follow orders that have been used in mock battles for 5 centuries. It makes for short battles :)Between 60% and 80% it picks up the pace well and you begin to realise just why Williams invested so much time in the two major characters. For a Space Opera, its fun, I am happy I found it and look forward to book 2.

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Read books by author Walter Jon Williams

Read books in series dread empire's fall

Read books in category Humor