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Read The Risen Empire (2003)

The Risen Empire (2003)

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3.88 of 5 Votes: 2
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0765305550 (ISBN13: 9780765305558)
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The Risen Empire (2003) - Plot & Excerpts

There is something unbeatable about being pleasantly surprised. This was my first time reading anything by Scott Westerfeld and I was extremely pleasantly surprised by The Risen Empire.It is bad form to quote oneself but here is what I said about The Risen Empire when I compared it very favourably to Foundation in my sacrilegious review of Asimov’s space opera: “Immediately after I "finished" Foundation, I picked up Scott Westerfeld's The Risen Empire… Intelligent turns of phrase? Break-neck action? Verisimilitude in the progression of civilizations? Technology that drives the plot, is extremely inventive and is extrapolated from today's knowledge base? Well-thought out characters whose behaviour makes sense but is not cardboard predictable? Other wicked-cool oddities like undead royal families? … Yes, I'm in the safe and familiar bio-tech embrace of a trusted friend: New Space Opera. The authors of this reinvigorated genre like Banks, Hamilton and Westerfeld (with all due respect to Stephen Baxter and his physics lectures some call novels) focus on quality writing, character development and social commentary. Oh and scientific accuracy verging on "whooooa there". A few, like Dan Simmons' gorgeous Hyperion, are masterworks in any genre.”Risen Empire hits on all the elements of successful New Space Opera. The crux of the first volume in this duology pits the 80-world empire ruled by an undead Emperor against an ultra-efficient transhuman cyborg civilization named the Rix. The action has purpose and grabs you from the first page with a hostage crisis of immense magnitude. The military scenes are technologically fascinating and are driven by multi-pronged political motivations and powers. They do not hinder the story, they enhance it. Westerfeld’s story is intelligent, very intelligent.Like in the military classic The Forever War, time dilation is properly accounted for and has an impact on the scope and duration of almost everything from military strategy to senatorial terms to romances.As other reviewers have pointed out, the most obvious comparison to Westerfeld’s galaxy of undead rulers, conflicts between technologically advanced civilizations and political intrigue is Iain M. Banks’ Culture. Banks is a marvel but the Culture’s motivations are often convolutedly subtle and their influence glacial. Some may find the end results unsatisfying (although I loved them). For those that do, you may appreciate Westerfeld’s shower of kinetic weaponry.Despite its immense scope, the story is very character driven. The author’s all important selection of point of view is very interesting and well managed. This is the element that can make (think Lolita) or break (think The DaVinci Code) a novel. Westerfeld has chosen multiple third person points of view, including characters to whom we may not have expected to get so close. This can either be a complete disaster which exposes an author’s laziness and lack of internal consistency (did I mention The DaVinci Code?) or can be a wonderful plot device that exposes character motivations that are unexpected, intriguing and deviously consistent. The Risen Empire is clearly the latter, in the same vein as George R.R. Martin’s use of the technique. Both sides of a conspiracy are unveiled at different paces, stereotypes are swept aside and assumptions are ass-out-of-you-and-meed.I find it extremely difficult to take stories seriously when evil empires do evil for the sake of doing evil. Westerfeld has none of this drivel. Diverse motivations and opposite sides of the same coin cause humans, undead humans, and transhumans to love, kill and conspire. This is all familiar to us. Except for the undead cat collection. The central argument in the book is whether immortality is a good thing. At first glance, anyone’s understandable sense of self-reservation would have an obvious answer for that one, but the events of the story and positions of some characters and political parties make you think. Think I said! In a space opera! There’s even a surprisingly interesting love story that makes good use of time dilation. I’m not the expert on the evaluation of love stories but it didn’t get in the way and instead actually advanced the plot. Even the slower scenes such as these evolve the characters and every page introduces clever forward-looking science.Westerfeld’s exposition is exceptional. Not only does Risen Empire adhere the “show, don’t tell” tenet, it does not “overshow”. The best example I can think of is Peter F. Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction. I thought this was an excellent read, but one of my nits, which is a factor in its doorstopper length, is the overshown detail. Enjoyable? Yes. Awesome? Yes. Too much? Probably. Westerfeld manages to walk that monofilament line of exposing enough to intrigue the reader, give enough context to understand the immediate passage and then move on. He then fulfills this promise to the reader by returning to that half-understood fact or concept later and blending it into the story in a more appropriate scene. There’s no factual vomit. Hyperion is a wonderful example of this, and I hold Risen Empire in high regard by putting it in the same sentence.A great example, which requires no spoiling because it’s on the very first page, is entitled “A Note on Imperial Measures”. The note describes standard measurements across the Risen Empire. Lesser authors would only use this as a Joy of Cooking conversion table in a lazy and off-putting initial fact-vomit. By ending with the generous: “The Emporer has decreed that the speed of light shall remain as nature has provided”, Westerfeld instead hints at both the Emperor’s power and arrogance.The Risen Empire contains few wasted words. In fact, it is very…Rix and may have very well been drafted by a Rixwoman. You’ll have to read it to know why it could not be written by a Rixman. I have to admit that I actually found myself agreeing with the cyborg civilization’s disdain for humanity’s exaltation in waste, excess and “dead hair”.Because this is volume is not complete without the sequel, The Killing of Worlds, I’ll reserve judgment on the series as a whole and any comments I’ll have on the conclusions to the various sub-plots. I’m going to go on a limb here and give The Risen Empire five stars. I reserve this for the books I remember with great fondness so I don’t do this lightly. Let’s hope the sequel does not make me look…unRix.

Action-oriented, classic space opera with a nice "clash of civilizations" woven in. The story revolves around an Empire of 80 worlds ruled by "the dead". When elite members of society die, they are "risen" via the use of a symbiant and become part of the ruling elite. It's essentially a perverse feudal society where the Living do all the work and the Risen possess all the wealth and power. But because they don't die, the lords tend to outnumber the serfs by a considerable number.The tale is told beautifully by Scott Westerfeld through shifting point-of-view vignettes and flashbacks, keeping the pace quick and the tension high. War hero Laurent Zai is captain of a new attack craft on the frontiers of the Empire when he finds himself thrust into an assassination attempt by the Empire's enemy, the Rix. When the rescue attempt apparently fails, Zai is supposed to commit ritual suicide, but he chooses not to, infuriating some of his crew and the ruling elite. Meanwhile, his lover, opposition Senator Nara Oaxham, finds herself in the crosshairs of a ruthless Emperor who's been on the throne 1600 years and will do anything to keep it. If it sounds complicated, it's not. The story unfolds at just the right pace and we find ourselves amidst a gripping world of political intrigue and deeply tactical space battles.Unfortunately, I think this may be out of print. Amazon only shows used sources for it. I was happy to find it in my local library.

What do You think about The Risen Empire (2003)?

Possibly I've just read too many space operas over the past few years. This wasn't bad in any specific way, just didn't fail to entrance me the way it's evidently done for other readers. I imagine that the desires and difficulties in coming up with new technology and effects in SF like this must be the same for fantasy writers attempting to deal with magic. Unless you get lucky and strike a previously unmined seam of ideas or metaphors, it all suffers from being much the same as the other ten authors published recently. That's got be both annoying and a challenge as a writer.I also wonder if I'm the only one to notice the influence of the Warhammer 40K universe here. The not-quite-dead (or undead in this case) Emperor holding onto to order against perceived chaos, and utilising some pretty horrible methods to do it. The vast military and religious apparatuses. Marines welded into their combat suits, to the point where human and tech are more philosophical questions (borrowing directly from the text). And so on. The possible influences are not screaming, and not boringly derivative, but I did pick up on them myself.For some reason this just didn't seem to have the charm that Leviathan did for me. Possibly it was deliberate, with a whole Empire based on half its population being undead, needing to feel less alive than pseudo-early-20th century Europe; or possibly it just turned out like that anyway. Either way, there feels like there's just something missing. I'll give the sequels in The Succession series a go I suspect, but I'm certainly not going to rush out after them.

I decided to try Westerfeld's grownup books out, and this definitely was not the breezy page-turner his YA books are. The first half dozen chapters were frustrating, though kind of clever in retrospect, once you began to understand the technological minutiae of the intelligencer ships. I liked the sentient house. I thought the imperious immortal cats were a nice touch. But I give it the extra fifth star mainly because I appreciate his inclusivity of women as commandos and senators without making a thing of it; you'd only really know because of pronouns. He needs to school some video game writers. I'm going to be very disappointed if what I think is being hinted at toward the end doesn't happen in the second book.

Honestly one of the best sci-fi books I've read in a while. The Succession books are a space-opera genre of sci-fi books cut from a similar cloth as Dune. The setting focuses on the conflict two major galactic empires; the story takes place within the Risen Empire, which is ruled by an Emperor who has made himself immortal through the use of a strange symbiotic organism and has used it to create a ruling class of undead immortals. I say undead, because you have to die for the symbiote to work. The Empire has been in conflict with the Rix, a strange cybernetic cult/organization that worships AI's that are on a planetary scale. This is all laid out within the first chapter/back of the book, so I'm not spoilering this. Westerfeld uses individuals and their perspectives from these two interesting cultures to amazing effect, creating an exciting story that combine to make events of major importance for this universe he's created. In a co-primary storyline he also uses romantic love as a transformational influence that causes drastic changes in two major characters, something I don't see often in many books; often romance is romance, and that's about it; the characters tend not to be changed except that now they're in a relationship. Westerfeld totally changes the way I've ever seen nanotechnology used in a book. If you like sci-fi, you should read this series. It = awesome!

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