By Cynthia Ayala
The Spiral Arm is being torn asunder. King Peter is fighting the Earth Defense Forces and the paranoid Basil Wenceslas while the Ilidiran King Jora’h faces his own threat from his former brother who tried to usurp the throne and his new allies. However now the abandoned Klikiss worlds are being invaded by their former inhabitants and the Klikiss robots are finding out that they have their own enemy they need to fight. With wars scraping the stars, there is only one thing going through everyone’s mind: survival. But that is easier said than done…
Published on June 1, 2008 by Orbit books, Kevin J. Anderon has added another novel in his bestselling space opera that spreads across the Spiral Arm and revitalizes hope during a state of war.
Metal Swarm is the sixth novel in The Sage of Seven Suns that closes one door on an enemy only to open the doors to older enemies and forgotten foes. The war has evolved and grown so much since the first novel and the way it evolves both the story and the character keeps it fresh. After all, it is the same war that began in the first novel, but there Anderson just keeps on introducing new elements to connect to older books in the series in order to keep the momentum up and the story fresh and his ability to do that highlights how well of an author he is.
The story ends the war with the gas giants’ inhabitants, the Hydrogues, and in that wake, reveals two new villains: the Klikiss who were long thought dead and the Faeros who are now tied to the mad Ilidiran Rusa’h who was driven to become the new Mage Imperator. Then there is Basil, the Chairman of the Hansa who is driven by paranoia and his obsession with control who is leading the EDF against the new Confederation of Planets under the rule of King Peter on Theroc. So there is a lot going on here but it’s still a very easy and captivating read. The energy of the plot line and the way the events effect the characters really is unique and very believable considering the personalities of the characters. Basil’s continued downward spiral fits everything that Anderson has laid out for readers in the previous five novels. He is obsessed with order and control and his inability to rationalize facts is insane. He’s insane because he’s a character that only thinks short term and he thinks his short term and highly aggressive actions are completely justifiable because he is doing it all in the name of humanity. However, Basil doesn’t advice, doesn’t see past his nose and refuses to listen to people because of his pride, if nothing else, and it is both very obnoxious yet very fitting for his character. No doubt about it, everything that the writer has laid down about this character has been leading up to these moments in this novel where readers really get to see him fall apart at the seams. Then there are those are the eye-roll moments where it fits and it’s just bewildering to see this character act like he does, but it’s believable and slightly humorous. Basil dug himself into hole after hole after hole and refuses to ask for help, so watching flounder; pager after page is enjoyable because he really is the character you love to just hate.
What’s more is this sort of character evolution fits all the characters. There are so many major shifts that define them and so many hardships that every one of them has encountered, that their initial personalities and how they have evolved given their hardships is very believable and captivating to read at the end of the day. Believable character and evolutions are part of the recipe of making a good book, and with a premise that has been dragged out for six books now, they are the key to keeping everything fresh and fast, the characters are the solid foundation of this series and it shows in the writing. It’s obvious that the author put a lot of work into developing them to fit the context and keep the momentum up. There’s so much going on, so many plot twists and closures that following them would be hard if not for the clear scene specifics, narration and overall story telling of this novel.
It’s a clear constructed novel that shifts between many character perspectives in order to bring to life this very expansive universe and story and the length can turn away some readers, but it is so enthralling and fast paced that it really is a quick easy read. (★★★★☆ | A)