The Praxis by Walter Jon Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Surprisingly good. Not freaking fantastic, but really, really good.
Of course, I have to discount the opening which made me want to run and hide, saying, "no, no, this book is so not for me," with all its stuffy space fleet stuff, but once we got into everything else almost immediately after the slog of a beginning, I was hooked.
One really shouldn't judge a whole series based on the first 30 pages. I should know better. And I was right. The life on the planets set me right. We got to see how the rich versus the poor live in a very cool setup that satisfies, we got to get knee-deep in the politics, but what caught me most was the steady, careful worldbuilding. The alien species are interesting, but not as important as the political moves and the attempted coup.
Sound like standard stuff?
Well, here's where it gets kind of interesting. This came out in 2002 and yet I was getting some serious Battlestar Galactica vibes... as in the remake, the gritty terror. And then there was the serious satire and weakness of the ancient military and this one captain's obsession with football that matches the entire fleet's idiocy. And then there was the homage to the end of the Senate in Star Wars, some serious culture vibes that would make it into the later Mass Effect games, and much more.
It's almost like this book inspired all the modern breed of space operas. Not the single-minded pursuit of space opera, but the celebration of all the things surrounding a big space battle while also delivering on that space battle.
For that, I really appreciate the novel. The writing isn't always what I'd call fantastic, but the ideas and the steady inclusion of so many different aspects of SF in general WAS. I enjoyed it quite a lot ever since we got through the opener and actually grew to love it by the end. It snuck up on me. :)
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