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3.7 out of 5 stars
The Orphaned Worlds: Book Two of Humanity's Fire
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2010
Mmmmm, Seeds of Earth wasn't too bad, though hardly worthy Iain Bank's 'review' (or the Guardian one I bought it on the back of), and I'd hoped Cobley would have settled down a bit in this one, but it's just too disjointed, the characters are one dimensional, retro explaining missing sections just doesn't seem to work, and whenever the various plot sections are geting a bit boring, he just adds another plot line. Don't get me wrong, this is not really, really bad, but it's more Elizabeth Moon (I just couldn't be bothered by the last part of Vatta's War) than Banks, Asher or Hamilton for space opera or anywhere near Morgan for SF; lets just hope the third part is better - this has good potential, but could do with some decent structure and editing, and in some parts, I'm afraid to say, a second draft/rewrite would not have gone amiss.
Perhaps he could re-issue the trilogy when it's finished as a cut down single volume?
Sorry Michael, when I write my galatic busting mega novel, I'll send it to you for first digs, but until then, you've just got me saying, "I could have enjoyed this a lot more if you'd....."
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
To be honest I wasn't that enamoured with Michael's Seeds of Earth offering so was pretty apprehensive about what was to unfurl within this title. Whilst this title can concentrate more on the overall story arc (as most of the world building was done in the previous) it is a title that loses its way as the author seems to keep piling more and more on top of everything else that's happening in a mishmash sort of way. Whilst this could be seen as a strength as it keeps the reader exploring it's a bit off putting as at times it feels that the author seems to lose focus as there's so many separate story threads woven throughout. A shame to be honest but it is a definite improvement for my money on the previous and with luck the third part will clearly demonstrate the readers continued faith in this author.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2010
I read Mike Cobley's first epic space opera book, Seeds fo Earth, prior to its release last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Orphaned Worlds, the sequel and part two of the trilogy, was a highly anticipated release for this year and upon getting a copy through the post I made sure it was high on the list of to-read books. While not quite on the same level as Seeds of Earth, The Orphaned Worlds delivers a whole lot of action, adventure and politics on a canvas even bigger than the first novel!

The foundation laid down in Seeds of Earth gets us introduced to the lost colony world of Darien, the surprise arrival of an Earthsphere ship and the discovery of an ancient and powerful relic on Darien as well as delivering an excellent cast of characters that kept the story focused. The Orphaned Worlds picks things up without holding its breath and delivers very much more of the same sensawunda that I got from the first book. The characters return and we follow the trouble and strife they now must struggle through in the face of powerful adversaries.

Widescreen isn't quite the term I'd use to describe this book, it goes far beyond that in many ways! From the guerrilla conflict on Darien to the immense journey through the ancient hyperspace layers, The Orphaned Worlds certainly doesn't take things lightly. The characters are also relatable and enjoyable to read, especially as we start to get glimpses of Legion and it's own quest. Greg and Theo are left on Darien trying to survive and lead the attack on the invaders; Robert is on a mission to the ancient Construct deep in hyperspace; Kao Chich is journeying to try and find help for the colony of Darien; Catriona and Chel are learning more of the ancient ways of the Uvovo and the secrets the forest moon of Segrana; Legion is slowly fighting it's battle to free the ancient evil that was imprisoned thousands of years ago. There are also a host of other characters supporting these main ones, including Julia who is a little out of the action after being captured in Seeds of Earth.

However, The Orphaned Worlds loses it's focus slightly because of the sheer number of plot threads we follow. While all individually adding to the bigger picture, the pages pass without much feeling of urgency. For instance, the first seven chapters are each from a different perspective and last 90 pages, so when we finally catch up again with the characters it's with a feeling of detachment. I sometimes had to stop reading and go back to remind myself of the situation they were in last time they had some page time - it can be a frustrating read because of this.

Don't get me wrong though, The Orphaned Worlds was very enjoyable and delivers a good story on a huge canvas with more than its fair share of great scenes and interesting developments. Being the middle book of the trilogy hasn't helped matters and much of the time it feels like a big build up to a grand finale - without the payoff. Because of this it's very difficult to say how successful the novel is as part of the series, but it certainly gives the reader more than enough to come back for the third installment, The Ascendant Stars.

Humanity's Fire is definitely a series worth reading and I'll be eagerly anticipating the final book next year!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2011
I had read Book One, Seeds of Earth, only one month ago but I found it hard to start to get into Book Two right from the start. The character appendix in the back of the novel was too limited to refresh one's memory and the additional species appendix was just a terse blurb about the average height, body hair distribution, locomotion and vision of each species. A heftier appendix would have been much appreciated but instead the reader is left with a rather unhelpful few pages.

Once the plot gets moving, the bits and pieces from Book One begin to slowly fall back into place. Like Book One, each chapter shifts point of view between the characters and in Book Two we experience about nine perspectives. Like Space Opera ought to be, it's a large platter to eyes and mind to digest. As a means of synopsis, I'll review the nine perspective alphabetically and sequentially:

1) Cat has risen to become the keeper of the forest on the Nivyesta moon, where she witnesses the continual destruction of the forests by invading forces. 2) Chel assumes the role of middle-man between the Sentinel and Greg as the both begin to understand their true role. 3) Greg is the head of the rebel force on Darien and continues to hide and resist the Brolturan forces. 4) Julia and her Enhanced counterparts are raided by pirates and forced to use their minds for the evil purposes an organized quasi-religious cult. 5) Kao Chih remains a pawn in the great game of the galaxy he he finds himself used yet again, this time as he visits his home world. 6) The Knight of the Legion of Avatars is still striving for access to the warpwell through victories and setbacks after arriving on Darien. 7) Kuros, the Sendrukan occupier on Darien, maintains a calm demeanor even amid critical appraisal of his activities surrounding the warpwell. 8) Robert, the ex-Ambassador from Earth, continues his ethereal journey through the scores of tiers of hyperspace in search of deities and salvation. 9) Theo leaves his world of Darien for the realms of space with the captured Tygran soldier and his cohorts who aim to overthrown Marshel Becker.

Some of these storylines cross paths and some diverge through the 603 pages of text but there are two separate lines of activity going on. The one line Chel, Greg, Kuros and Cat limits itself to the planet of Darien is, for about 90% of the book, keeps a fairly low profile with more suspense building that actually getting things done. The other line of activity rests with Kao Chih and Theo, who are traversing the great expanse of the galaxy from base, to planet, to orbital and back again all the while collecting more minor characters amid minor skirmishes and observations... which is exactly the more exciting line of activity where the "deus ex machina" pops in.

OK, it's science fiction. All the sciences of ancient races can't exactly be known to everyone (especially the reader) and these science can seem like magic sometimes, as it has been said by Clarke. But when beams lock-out ship control, when wormholes are spawned between ships, when hyperspace missiles go undetected, when psi-symbiotic motes repel any given attack, when a handmade remote control tricks surveillance, when a pilot casually records and loops video footage... the long combination of the easy use of technology at hand teeters on unbelievability. One or two technological punches through the plot would have been acceptable but the wanton use of it is sloppy.

One more paragraph with minor quips... I felt that the pages from 150 to 160 were inconsistent with the rest of the book. The plot went through a transition from being like Book One to being inconsistent with its precursor. For example: After page 153 the now-dead drone of Drazuma-Ha* loses the star at the end of its name. The once amicable relationship between Greg and Chel begins to feel washed out after they urbanely reunite and exchange cold greetings on page 158. The dialogue between Kao Chih and Silveira seems to be missing another paragraph or two as Silveira refers to something Kao Chih didn't even mention (pages 150-151). Again, minor gripes but a little sloppy.

Not bad at all. A little long winded with all the inclusions of the ever present deus ex machina, but nevertheless it's an eye-opening space opera- it offers a sense of wonder at the array of species, planets, customs, modes of thought and visions of the future. Sometimes it's difficult to understand what the F is going on (like all the oddities down there in Hyperspace) but in the end I'm left wanting more. Bait and hook... ready for Book Three!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2013
The first book was kinda dodgy, it could have gone either way.. The author could have concentrated on good plotting, or could have kept on throwing random "whacky concepts" onto the mounting pile of dross.

Regrettably, it's the latter, and the second book in the series just gets unreadable. I kept on trying, but eventually gave up before the end.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2010
I've been so frustrated by this book that it has spurred me to submit my first review.
Like others I bought Seeds of Earth because of Bank's cover quote and I while I thought that it was far from perfect i felt that it was worth sticking with Cobley. Goodness knows that we need some fresh blood in the Space Opera genre, and writers do grow in confidence and ability over the course of a series. But dear oh dear what a mess Orphaned Worlds is. The book is filled with such unnecessary complexity - virtually every character and plot line sits within a maelstrom of political intrigue - that it is impossible to keep up with who is doing what and why. As a result of this tangle huge plot inconsistencies arise and characters frequently contr adict previously deeply held beliefs. Solid practitioners of Space Opera feed off complexity to spin a compelling yarn, but Cobley just gets lost. Plot lines fall apart and just end after running for 100s of pages, characters embark on epic journeys and then appear to have nothing to do when they reach their destination and so turn around and go back again. Timelines and galactic scale are ignored and narrative falls apart.
The scfi of the book is also weak. The levels of hyperspace thing is non-sensical and the mysticism of the forest would be more at home in a bad fantasy novel.
Cobley is not without talent - 2 or 3 of the human characters and well rounded and sympathetically drawn, and the basic idea behind the trilogy is strong - but the poor boy needs a strong editor to give him some firm advice to get him out of this fuddle. I read on wikipedia that Cobley is building a universe in which he intends to write several novels not just this trilogy. That would maybe explain why all the stupid twists, turns, and loose ends are being stuffed into this book but Cobley needs to realize that his future plans are ruining his present endeavor. It's unlikely that I'll be buying the final part of this trilogy let alone his future novels.
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on 30 September 2012
Having already gone through the first book, Seeds of earth' I was very much looking forward to this second installment.

I can honestly say that this book is a joy to read. The story and the whole scope of the worlds and characters captured are nothing short of magnificent.

There are a lot of nice twists and turns that keep you guessing. Lots of action and a off course, lots of SciFi goodness also!

It is as good if not better than the first book. If you have gone through the first book and you think you can guess and see where this is all going, you are most likely mistaken. The story is anything but predictable! Its very skillfully written and keeps you locked in and coming back for more and more.

Very much looking forward to the third book which I'm about to start now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2010
A plethora of aliens not very originals, a plethora of plots, and characters uninteresting. Lot of pruning needed. Couldn't say I was satisfied. More like confused.
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on 8 May 2013
A good series. Very unique in writing style and descriptive perspectives. There is a lot going on with many different characters which could get complicated, but the author makes it easy to read and follow.
However there is so much going on throughout most of the book that there isn't enough time to describe personal details/perspectives/feelings which i think is a shame.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2011
Cobley may live in Scotland but he does not have aa ear for the Scot's vernacular, but apart from that there is not much wrong with either book. The plot is rather dense and convoluted to start with, myriad characters, etc, but that is usual for 'space opera', and he is no less inventive with his characters than Ian Banks. Cobley is obviously influenced by Banks, and there are nods acordingly, but where Banks is subtle Cobley weilds the sledgehammer. Imagine Stargate mixed with Star Wars, liberal dashes of Hamilton and Banks written by a 23rd century Luddite. I am certainly curious enough to await the third (and final?) instalement, which says a lot about the previous two books.
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