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on 26 July 2009
I bought all 7 book sin the "Saga of the Seven Suns" on the basis of previous books where Kevin Anderson had been (co-)author of. I have read it all to the finish, but it was a big disappointment. I woul dnever have bought the rest of the series if I had bought the first one separately.

The biggest disappointment is the fact that it is all very poorly written. Especially the first 4 books are one big ugly repeat fest of what has been written sometimes just pages before. E.g. in one chapter (all chapters are around 3-5 pages) something happens, and in a later chapter (maybe just 10 pages on) a full repeat is written in the style "when such-and-so happened, she did not like it" or in an explanation style "such and such happened". Or as an example, the 'Roamers' call the 'Hansa' "The Big Goose" and during the first books, this is explained many, many times. It seems the author wrote with Alzheimer victims in mind so he had to explain everything in simple terms, assuming nobody could remember anything. Having this repeat barrage directed on you as a reader is very irritating. This problem was less in the last few books of the series.

Secondly, though this is Space Opera and not Science Fiction (and we thus ignore the fact that aliens speak English), the science in it is idiotic. Human-like aliens that can have children with humans? OK, remotely possible in some scenarios. But an insectoid race that can incorporate human DNA in its 'hive' and this then leads to human-looking insects with partly human minds? And this is done by eating human DNA? That is like me becoming part chicken because I eat an egg and that is even without considering the question about all this compatible DNA in the first place.

Thirdly, there are too many characters with pure character-traits of a four year old. All 'roamer' types are smart, agile, altruistic, etc. and the 'hansa' characters are bureaucrats, some of which are converted along the way.

Fourthly, the plot is very predictable. Stupid power-hungry bureaucrats, stagnated alien empire without the mindset to innovate. It all ends very predictably in rubble with a bright future.

Compared to the highlights of the genre (Vernor Vinge with Vernor Vinge Omnibus: A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky, Peter Hamilton, Gregory Benford and classics like Frank Herbert and Larry Niven come to mind) this is really extremely poor stuff.
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on 6 March 2008
I'm a big fan of space operas but I like a certain level of sophistication in the writing, the characterisation and the science. Unfortunately, this book is lacking in all three.

There is endless repetition in the description of the characters and their environments and no real insight into why anyone does what they do in the book. And the plot holes are glaring. Why anyone in the book can't work out why they are being attacked by gas giant dwellers when they've just blown up a gas giant is beyond me. And that's just one of them. Listing them here would be too much like reading the book again.

And the science is woeful. Humans breathing the atmosphere of gas giants? Not likely. And the description of how the star drives work was simply baffling as it contained no science just some contradictory babble about relativity.

I've never written a review before but I really feel you must be warned. Stay well away.
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on 31 December 2002
This is a thoroughly enjoyable tale weaving several storylines into a plot set in the reasonably near future. It examines attitudes towards minority groups as well as giving a stark and moralistic look at the motivations of the power-wielders and empire-builders. It produces plausible motivations and actions of the leaders of a civilisation in decline and twists in a war born of arrogance and ignorance.
It has a somewhat weak cliffhanger ending, but it should ensure most readers snap up Book 2 when it appears. I intend to be at the head of the queue.
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on 27 April 2006
If like me, you're a voracious reader whom spends a lot of his time commuting into London via train and tube then this is a great book for you.

The story is well-woven from many memorable and believeable (if not massively complex) characters and each of the 130 odd, 4 - 5 page(ish) chapters extends the story from the point of view of one of these characters.

There are some nice ideas - the worldforest I particularly like.

This is space opera at it's best - enough politics and plot to ensure it's epicticity (new word?), heroic characters, some cool techie stuff, fast flowing space battles and a page turner to the end of it's 600-odd pages. Recommended for commuters and holiday goers alike.

Some great (if not hugely suprising) cliff-hangers mean that I am already planning a route home via a bookshop to get Book 2.
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on 12 July 2003
I sell second hand books for a living, so rarely buy a new book, "coals to Newcastle". But I enjoyed this book so much that I bought the second "Forest of Stars" at Dublin airport for 16.95 Euro. The book could have no better reference. So much of modern science fiction is rather frenetic & crude throwing in so many concepts that the old fashioned virtues of good writting, mystery, romance, & magic are lost. The book is written in a number of short chapters each centred on a central character, a good format as you never have to put it down mid-chapter. The story builds slowly, which is brave, but you find yourself drawn into a wonderfully spun web as each character is developed & their motivations become clear or clearer! I see no point in going into the details of the story, as Kevin J is a great writer, not me, so why spoil the fun. This is an absolute must read, you will not be disappointed !
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on 12 August 2003
A new member of the space opera fraternity, Kevin Anderson has hit the nail on the head with Hidden Empire. If you're a fan of Peter F Hamilton or Iain M Banks' Culture novels you'll enjoy this. The book starts out well with humans arrogantly trying out technology from an older, seemingly extinct race while their alien 'friends' the Ildirans look on in supercilious disdain. The book then continues at a fairly pace with a description of the galactic scene, presumably necessary for you to understand the context for the books to come. Stick with it to the end though, it concludes with a rip roaring finish and a cliff hanger that's as well thought out as any other book in the category...
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on 17 January 2005
This book does not even deserve one star. It is terrible in so many ways and I find it incredible that some people have given it 5 stars. Were they reading the same tripe I was?
Reading this, I have been considering stopping reading science-fiction altogether. However, I've since discovered that this so-called author is part-responsible for the Dune prequel travesties.
I've just finished it and I was delighted to find that the paperback version I have has 50 pages or so of rubbish like timelines and so on. I was only finishing the book because it wouldbe waste to buy it and just throw it away.
Anyway, ekti? The only known allotrope of hydrogen which is extremely hard to produce. What?! Does the idiot author not know any chemistry?
The alien Ilderians (or whatever they're called) able to breed with humans. The possibilities are too tedious to bother to think about.
Birds flying around a gas giant. Sure.
No-one being able to figure out why the gas giant aliens are annoyed after they destroyed a gas giant. What's that all about?
So anyway, don't get this mind-numbingly awful book. Get something by Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M Banks, Ken Macleod, Richard Morgan or even Peter Hamilton.
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on 26 February 2003
This novel is well written and makes for a very interesting read and at times, features those 'can't quite put it down until I find out what happens' moments.
In his universe, the Hanseatic League, the ruling government of Earth, is full of deceptive characters and equally deceptive plans to ensure the peoples trust and loyalty is maintained.
The character development is better in some cases than others, for example Basil Wenceslas, the president of the Hanseatic League, is portrayed as a ruthless and cunning individual that gives you the feeling he would sell his own soul to accomplish any plan of his. Indeed, his plan for appointing a new King is a particularly devilish and, as a mark of a good storyteller, leaves you with a 'bad taste in the mouth' whenever the storyline converges on him.
However, the crux of the story, and perhaps where it will keep the reader intrigued is to do with the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Klikiss race and the robots that they left behind. In fact, the story is best when it is centred around this mystery and made the more interesting since Anderson is able to weave the mystery into other storylines regarding the other main two races of the book, namely the 'worldforest' and the Ildiran Empire.
Ultimately, the emergence of the Hydrogues, the all-powerful race living within the core of gas giants (and that includes our own Jupiter!) explains a great deal, but at the same time invokes other questions. This a clever tactic of course, since this is the first book of a series.
The story is intricate and if you have a few days spare, or indeed like 'space-mysteries' then this a good book. But one word of warning, DO NOT read or preview the last few pages as it is here that the greatest twist to the story is revealed with regards to the Klikiss robots. Something that is well worth the wait!
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on 11 December 2009
Our Kev. is the sort of person who likes numbers, he has the world record for book signings, and states without a hint of irony that he has out-worded Tolstoy in one of the prefaces to this saga. It is clear that he can string words together to make a product, and this book is the first of a batch of product.
I have now read them all, and I feel a duty to review them through this, the first book, in order to warn you if you are considering embarking on this saga.

The books are like fodder, they provide a balance of sustenance and padding that just about keep you engaged. Don't get me wrong, having a few months worth of plodding narrative can be a very good thing if you are sick, or are trying to avoid having an internal dialogue, much like a ten thousand piece jigsaw is.

My warning lies in the danger that you may well pick this book up cheaply (perhaps in a bundle with its sequels) and think that there is no harm in wasting a bit of time on a journey or such like.
Sadly with each book your investment in time makes the next book more necessary, and the next and so on. With this our Kev is a master, the first two books set the scene, the next two barely advance the plot, the fifth begins a resolution and stops almost mid-sentence, the sixth begins with a false ending and then moves the goal posts, and the seventh... well I'm not convinced there aren't another 47 manuscripts under his mattress.
If you need some sort of bland therapy embark upon this saga, if you like good SciFi read Iain M Banks, Orson Scott Card or almost anyone else instead.

One more thing - it may just be me, but every time the words, 'someplace', 'anyplace' and 'gotten' are used in written English, I wince; I winced a lot during these books. I also got very bored of his use of the word 'slick' meaning 'wet', at one point it appeared in almost every paragraph (perhaps I should aim my annoyance at the corporate proofreader though).

It is undeniable that the are some very profound concepts lurking within these books, but it is hard to find evidence that Kev noticed them at all, while he was knocking out his wordcount. He certainly managed to avoid anything bordering on the profound, even though he might well have.
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on 27 January 2011
The first thing I would like to say is that I don't mind reading shallow, ridiculous sci-fi every now and then. Not every book has to change my life or get me thinking. Sometimes I just want space battles and laser guns. Trash, in other words.

The second thing I would like to say is that my brother bought the whole set in the end, not me, and he got the last two from a charity shop for less than £1. He still felt cheated.

When I read Hidden Empire, I settled in for some guilty pleasure. It wasn't terribly written, had some entertaining action sequences and promised to be quite epic in scale. There is a huge number of characters and each short chapter is written from the point of view of one of them. Anderson isn't afraid of killing off a few of them, as well as adding others in later books. The premise is ridiculous, that of ancient elemental (earth, air, fire and water) based aliens battling it out across the galaxy while 'lesser' races (evil space industries, space hippies, tree-loving hippies, alien telepaths etc) help out, but it sounded enjoyable as well. I finished this first book without much effort.

However, as I progressed through the rest of the series, I felt more and more astonishment at the sheer terrible quality of the story. Although there I took a lengthy break after the fifth book, I read through to the end to see how bad it got.

Oh man.

If you've read in other reviews that the characters were bland in this book, they are practically spambots by the end of the series. To call them two-dimensional would be an insult to cardboard cutouts. Dialogue is so turgid and repetitive I found I couldn't tell who was meant to be speaking. A lot of the time, it didn't matter anyway. Certain characters, who were part of an astonishingly glorified space hippy culture, use the phrase 'by the Guiding Star' with such increasing frequency that if there were an eighth book, their dialogue would probably have consisted of nothing else.

And the plot, oh lord, the plot! What starts off with promises of being a complex political/moral drama slowly disintegrates into a kids cartoon show. Antagonists come and go like there is a revolving door marked 'bad guys' somewhere in the galaxy. Seemingly invincible foes are suddenly completely destroyed with little effort. There is no sense of time or scale, and sometimes characters wander around as if different planets are a brisk half-hour walk away. There are at least four plot devices of such staggering stupidity that I think Anderson was trying to deliver an insult to me personally.

And do you know what the worst thing is? The most terrible thing about this diabolically hack-tastic, intelligence-insulting excuse of a sci-fi series?

Some part of me, deep down, still enjoyed it.

I feel so dirty.
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