Book Review : Hidden Empire – Saga of the Seven Suns by Kevin J. Anderson

I’m not new to Kevin J. Anderson’s writing by any stretch but this is certainly the first novel of his that has left me in such an undecided state. I’m not a fan of his style but I did enjoy several of the Dune universe extensions he wrote with Frank Herbert’s son. What differs here is that this is something entirely of his own creation and something he obviously has a very clear vision of. The book itself has believable and likeable characters occupying a well thought out universe with a pretty damn good plot to tie it all together. It ends a bit abruptly but I find that entirely forgivable seeing as all seven books are out. It may feel derivative to someone who has read a lot of space opera with the usual diplomacy, suppressed peoples, mystical/religious cultures and of course impending doom but the book never felt too derivative in that respect.
I enjoyed the book and indeed want to know what happens both to some species and individual characters/relationships. I will without doubt read the next one in the series, although I probably won’t devote the same amount of time to absorbing each word like I normally would diovan medication. So what has spurred me to write a review? Something has always niggled about Anderson’s writing and I’ve never been able to characterise why in the past, reading this novel solidified why. The main problem is two fold, repetition and repetition. Err.. sorry I meant repetition. Did I write that again? Maybe I thought you didn’t take it in properly in the preceding sentence. I understood very quickly that several things were true, the proud Ildiran Solar Navy was undefeatable for example. Or the Klikiss robots made some uneasy. Or that the Theron Green Priests could communicate instantly via Treelings and that they represented a huge knowledge base etc. etc. That’s fine but telling me the same thing over and over again every time they are mentioned or perform an action is unnecessary at least and at worst insulting. Each time the solar navy performs a manoeuvre or a general is mentioned you do not need to remind me how proud they are, normally using the same sentence structure/adjectives. Another issue is that the book rarely surprises as the author’s intentions are telegraphed too far in advance, this isn’t always related to the repetition but is certainly a bedfellow of it. Consequently you know many of the stories key moments chapters ahead of schedule and in some cases at the beginning of the book.
It’s a shame in a way as I can’t shake the feeling that with a better editor the story being told here would truly shine and deliver some genuine moments along the way. That’s not to say it doesn’t or cannot surprise but I get the feeling it could be so much more. I’m also not saying it wasn’t an enjoyable enough read. Perhaps that’s the highest compliment I can give it. I enjoyed the book enough that the problems it does have inspired me to complain about them. If the story and characters were not compelling I would simply dismiss it and move on.

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