By: Kevin J. Anderson
Format/Source: Mass bound paperback; my purchase
For years, the alien Klikiss robots have pretended to be humanity’s friends, but their seeming “help” allowed them to plant an insidious Trojan Horse throughout the Earth Defense Forces. Now, in the aftermath of a devastating war, swarms of ancient robots built by the Klikiss continue their depredations on helpless worlds with stolen and heavily armed Earth battleships.
Among the humans, the Hansa’s brutal Chairman struggles to crush any resistance even as King Peter breaks away to form his own new Confederation among the colonies who have declared their independence.
And meanwhile, the original, voracious Klikiss race, long thought to be extinct, has returned, intent on conquering their former worlds and willing to annihilate anyone in the way.
Here we are at the sixth installment of the Saga of Seven Suns (100 Things) science fiction series. Up until now I’ve more or less paced myself with reading the installments of this series but with the craziness of the last volume, Of Fire and Night (review), I just had to find out what happened next. Spoilers if you haven’t read the first five installments!
Firstly, can someone please just do away with Chairman Basil Wenceslas already? The previous two volumes have already shown how out of his league/out of control things are and how he’s failing to adapt to the situation around him, choosing instead to hold on to his pawns with an iron grip. Now he’s just plain out of control, tightening his grip but resorting to acts of violence against colony worlds, using fear to keep people in line with Hansa. He’s also becoming extremely paranoid, suspicious of anyone and everyone. It’s amazing that the EDF is still loyal to him on some level. But guh, I just want someone–Cain, King Peter, Sarein, anyone!–to just shut him down already. Ugh, he’s really up there as one of my least favourite characters.
As a side note, I’ve been wondering about this for some time now: why on earth did Sarein stay (quite literally)? She should have left with Peter and Estarra when she had a chance, there’s no reasoning with Basil now =S
I’ve read a few criticisms about this novel, that at this point of the saga it just seemed a little too drawn out and unnecessary. I personally can’t see how it could have been condensed any further (save maybe the Klikiss but it feels like a mess when I think about it), it seemed natural that the faeros would end up being trouble (especially with Rusa’h now running around like a large undead fireball) as well as the Klikiss robot conflict coming to its climax and resolution. It wasn’t as drawn out as the hydrogues war but they certainly kept everyone busy. The first half of the novel was just bam-bam-bam! in the action and progress of events.
I continue to enjoy reading characters chapters from Peter, Estarra, Jora’h, Admiral Willis, Basil, Sarein, Cain (who’s really grown on me over the past two volumes), Margaret Colcois, etc. Other characters continue to leave me rather indifferent, although of course their stories show how the various wars are affecting other peoples/societies. But sometimes it felt a little much, a little too Roamer-heavy in the character line-up and I was more interested in how everything was unfolding in the Hansa/Theroc spectrum of the saga (though I did enjoy Patrick Fitzgerald III’s storyline, it was quite intense).
Metal Swarm was an action-packed sixth installment to this series and certainly sets the stage for the final battle/climax of all of the storylines that I’ve been following for the past six novels. Will Basil’s plans work or will they unravel before his eyes? Will Admiral Willis make it in time to Theroc to help King Peter? And what about the Ildiran Empire, will Rusa’h be triumphant in his plans? There was a lot of burning going on in the last hundred pages of this novel, hence why the last volume’s title is quite apt: The Ashes of Worlds.