Sunday, April 29, 2018

James Review -- The Span of Empire

This week I decided to review Jao Empire: The Span of Empire by Eric Flint and David Carrico. 

The story begins with an exploration fleet from the alliance between the Jao, humanity, and the Lleix  exploring the Orion Arm seeking possible new allies. But they’ve only found the ruins of civilizations destroyed by the Ekhat. After discovering and destroying an Ekhat outpost, the fleet returns to base and decides to shift is explorations to the Sagittarius Arm following an uncharted trail of stars to the Arm unexplored by any Alliance members.

Shortly after arriving, they encounter the Khurush in their home system. But despite the fleet broadcasting a message of peace, hostilities break out. Eventually it is decided to disable one Khurush ship in hopes of capturing and beginning talks with the crew. The Khurush commander is killed and his son, Kamozh ar Mnuresh, surrenders in the hope that the rest of the crew, all retainers of his clan, will be spared. Even as the various allied personnel try to forge a bond with Mnuresh and his followers, they make contact with a new power, the Eleusherar Path, which includes some Khurush.

This leads Mnuresh to explain the xenopophia of most of his people. Centuries before, the Khurush had been visited by another species, identified by the Path as the Veldt, who claimed to come in peace. The Khurush welcomed the Veldt but their guests soon launched an invasion. When the Khurush Resistance began to claim victories against them, the Veldt retaliated by launching asteroids against three Khurush cities, including their capital. Shortly after the bombardment, the Veldt ships exploded, and when the war was won the ruler of the Khurush forbade his people from contacting other species.

The Path reveals that they are the enforcement arm of the Eleusherar Array, a loose alliance of thousands of worlds with only one common law, attacks that threaten the habitability of a world are forbidden, except for retaliation against worlds that have broken that law. But as talks between the Path and the allies continue, it is discovered that the Ekhat, while they can’t use Jao Frame Points, they can identify systems added to the Frame Point Network used for faster than light travel by the Jao. And soon a massive Ekhat attack fleet begins to arrive, leading to Mnuresh making a desperate plea to his people to join the allies and the Path in a desperate battle to prevent the annihilation of the Khurush worlds…

There is also a plotline following a young commander who first discovered the ruins of the outpost destroyed early in the book. This covers her training and rise to the heights of power in Ekhat society.

I give the book 9.5 out of 10. I greatly enjoyed the battle scenes. I also liked the exploration of the various cultures introduced in this book, and of the Ekhat culture as well. However, I wish we had learned more about the history of the Eleusherar Array and Eleusherar Path. Also, there are a few points where I feel that the jumps between the Ekhat plotline and the main plotline were occurring too frequently.

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