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  1. #1
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    April 2005 SF BOTM -The Risen Empire- by Scott Westerfeld

    I know, based upon the discussion in the main SF forum a handful of people have read The Risen Empire. I am approximately 75-80 pages into it, and thus far, I'm enjoying it very much.

    The opening scenes were a little disconcerting, not realizing the ships were so small. Westerfeld is laying out an intriguing story and peopling it wih interesting characters. The book is moving pretty fast, I have to say.

  2. #2
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I really enjoyed this one. The tiny ships was a great idea, I thought. For more, I'll be back in a few days to post more. I'm away from home and don't have very much time to geet thoughts together and post them right now. Really enjoyed it.

  3. #3
    BookWyrm Archren's Avatar
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    I enjoyed the plot, and the tech and the future and the society BUT... I can't say I enjoyed the writing. Westerfeld seems to have a real problem with run-on sentences. Sometimes I would have to read a paragraph two or three times because in the middle of a long sentence I would get lost and my mind would wander. It was a bit of an issue for me.

    Other than that I really need to go out and buy the second half. All the people saying that it's a travesty that they took one story and split it into two books are right on; it's an annoying play for more money. Of all the various 'secrets' alluded to in this first half, I really felt that at least one should have been revealed by the book's end. Still, it has piqued my curiosity enough (particularly about what is the secret with the symbiont that the Emporer needs to protect) that I will definitely get the second book.

    One plot hole that I might have misunderstood: why does Alexander need to get to the Quantum Entanglement communications facility? He won't be able to communicate with the other Rix worlds with it since they won't share particles with the facility he's using. And the Emporer should be able to censor any messages coming through because he should be in control of all the facilities that do share particles with the facility Alexander's trying to use. Am I missing something? Why doesn't Alexander just radio his info out in all directions and deal with the fact that it'll take a very long time for it all to disseminate? At least the Emporer wouldn't be able to censor it that way.

  4. #4
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Ok I have read both books, so I have the whole story. I will try to keep it to the first book and won't reveal any spoilers.

    Let me say that Scott Westerfeld was not an author I liked much going into these books. I read his first book Polymorph , and it was just blah. It hit all the right spots (character, description, plot, dialog, self-reflection) but it was blah. It left no impression. So I decided not to read this guy. This was the first time I had read him since then. I will say he has improved, he is no longer blah.

    Unfortunately I still didn't think a lot of his books, even though I did eventually enjoy them a bit. I don't blame him for the mess TOR made of the one into two.

    I disliked the short chapters that each POV character had as a way to tell the story. I felt it was very choppy, and like I was reading little press releases about the characters, rather than a story. Other authors have used this, but Westerfeld's were so short that they were mostly narrative and description, with very little dialog and character interaction. There was way too much telling and not enough showing. Also the chapters weren't evenly distributed so that you saw/learned more about some characters than others. The Emperor for instance was mostly a stereotypical sketch.

    The one good use of the format was when you went from one character in a crisis to the other character in it, often the bad guy or other side, and it helped you get a full perspective and made the bad guy, more like the other guy - just someone with different goals as opposed to someone who was evil.But there weren't enough of these moments to make it a flowing story.

    The other real flaw with the book for me was the whole premise. A far future, far-flung space empire threatened by machines. Lets see we have Battlestar Galactica - Cylons anyone, then we have The Terminator Machine Culture, various Star Treks Series and movie: VGer, and the Borg. Then for me the kicker was the dark, secretive, all-encompassing, Empire - Star Wars anyone, especially the prequels it seems ( have only seen clips) with the painted queen who seems to be one of the 'walking dead'.

    I find it a sign of the end of times when non-media-tie-in hacks are trying to write fake media tie-ins. {shudder}.

    I did like the idea of the walking dead, the cats, the Error of the Blood. Some of the miniaturized stuff was cool, but at the start I couldn't figure out what was going on. I also liked Herd, the enemy cyborg, who fell in love. The symbiote and the political caste, was also cool.

    I agree that the idea of using the entanglement facility didn't make sense if Alexander was trying to communicate to the Rix, but I thought he wanted to broadcast the secret to the rest of the empire. The war council didn't say that because the Emperor couldn't admit the secret - so the war council should have caught the mismatch of technology. Even if they weren't techs they had staffs to prepare them with the needed info. You are also right Arch that Alexander could have used radio, especially as a last resort (due to time lag).

    Why the Rix battlecruiser suddenly showed up with an array, also doesn't make sense. It couldn't have communicated with Alexander, nor did it know that Alexander had come into being and was ready to broadcast, or launch himself into space. It didn't sound like any previous machine mind had left a planet, so why would they expect Alexander to ? Why have the big sand patch for him to land in ?

    I didn't really understand why the empire objected to the machine minds, since they didn't cause any problems or do anything detrimental to humans or civilizations, if left alone - at least that was what the book said. Yet the Rix took or created human/machine cyborgs as their soldiers - who had no real lives, or free will, and were basically disposable. So was that because of the empire's attacks, or would they have created Rixwomen anyway for some other function ?

    My favorite character was probably the House, which is a comment on the strengths of his characterizations.

  5. #5
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I, for one, sort of liked the short chapters. I was very busy and on the road a lot while I was reading this one and the short chapters were great as far as being able to take it in in small chunks when the need arised. For some reason, smaller chunks always get me through books faster.

    Some issues and points of interest I have with the books:

    In the first book, Westerfield mentions Home's sister world. I believe it was called Shame. Why? I kept expecting that to tie back into the secret or something, but it was never mentioned again. That bothered me. It seemed very compelling to me that it would be called Shame for some reason. (though I may just be completely misremembering the name.)

    He actually uses the word "sluff" at one point. I have only ever seen it as "slough." Apparently "sluff" is an acceptable spelling, though.

    The Symbiant is never explained. How does it work? How did the emporer discover it? Why is it that the things contained in the secret are happening?

    SPOILER FOR KILLING OF WORLDS:
    Spoiler:
    Why is it that everyone else who has the symbiant is dying in roughly 500 years subjective but the emporer is still alive after 1,600? Is he traveling that much so that he's still below 500 subjective?


    I did find the action sequence at the beginning of Killing of Worlds to be way, way too long for my tastes. It seemed like he went from one thing to the next to the next. I don't know why the people didn't just fall asleep where they were standing or have the Lynx just fall apart around them. Seemed a little overdone. And i wonder if that was how it was written in the first place or if TOR had him expand the "action sequence" at the beginning from something short up to the 150 pages or whatever it was by the end.

    Also, something felt a little awkward about the acceleration of the pace of the novels by the end. Everything seemed to take place in a very short period of time up until the last section of the second book. Then, all of a sudden, months are going by without a mention. We're in the middle of things and find out that they've trained people for a month and then set off for some stretch of time.

    I have to say that he did surprise me a little. After reading everything that had happened so far, I thought he would be shallow enough to perhaps turn the ship's singularity into some sort of missile weapon to be fired at Alexander to wipe it out, especially when the orders started to fly to light the thing up. It was at least interesting that he didn't ultimately go down that road.

    All for now.

  6. #6
    BookWyrm Archren's Avatar
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    I bought "Killing of Worlds" last night and started reading it, so hopefully I'll have a better perspective on the story soon.

    I totally agree with Ficus that House is by far my favorite character. It seemed like the only place where he allowed a genuine sense of humor to shine through. I don't require every book to be "Hitchhiker's," but some books have a tendency to take themselves much too seriously, and House helped save "Risen" from that fate.

    I didn't mind the short chapters too much, but I still have a personal pet peeve that if you need more than 10 POV characters to tell a story, something is wrong. And why only have one chapter from the Child Empress' POV? If that character had been more thoroughly established, there would've been a little more impact when she got killed.

  7. #7
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Am I missing something or is there a typo in my edition of The Risen Empire? On page 47 of the MMPB just above the chapter title, it states Ten Years ago. Obviously a flashback scene, I get that.

    The next flashback scene is called out as One Hundred Years ago and details the House. Oxham says at the end of the first part (which was called out as Ten Years Ago) for Zai to come to her House "tomorrow." The last chapter in Part 2 begins with header "One Hundred Years Ago," some narrative background about the house is provided, then Zai and Oxham enter the house, which I assume to be the "tomorrow" referenced at the end of Part 1.

    It is very disjarring to show something sequentially in such a manner, kind of showing some flashback events occurring right after each other, but the second flashback episode, while sequentially directly after, is shown to be 100 years ago? Sound confusing? I was.

    And this is coming to me right now, but I guess it took 90 or so years for the House to build itself to where it is at when Zai and Oxham come back get there?

    Did anybody else feel disjointed at this point in the book, time placement wise?

    All that aside, I'm still enjoying the story.

  8. #8
    Sci-Fi Addict KrullSlayer's Avatar
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    Left

    I have 100 pages left. So far ... so good. Not the best sci-fi book I have read. A solid "average".

    I agree with all of the above. Flashbacks out of order suck.
    I think the story would be better if it was written in order from 2 or 3 characters POVs.

    This book seems more action based rather than thought provoking. Everything in this book is nothing new, just repeats of old material. Even the microscopic ships are an old idea.

    I also did not understand why Alexander needed to use the entanglement facility to communicate to the Rix. The a character stated that cell phone signals (although faint) could reach the Rix ship with the big communications array (that appeared out of nowhere).

    I like the Rix race better than the Risen.
    The Rix are so much cooler! Who doesn't like compound minds.

    Favorite Characters : Laurent Zai and Alexander
    Last edited by KrullSlayer; April 5th, 2005 at 01:09 PM.

  9. #9
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I didn't find any of the flashbacks confusing. It seems to me it would have been more odd to have the history of the house introduced before anyone would even imagine going there. At least this way, we have the house in mind as a destination before we get how the house is created. I thought it was pretty clear that the house sat for years and years virtually unused.

    As for the entanglement facility, I guess that would require we go into KOW spoilers. Who has and who hasn't read that? Perhaps if we preface our posts with what we've read, we can avoid any nastiness of spoiling things and such.

  10. #10
    Sci-Fi Addict KrullSlayer's Avatar
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    New

    I forgot to post one more thing...

    At the top cover of my book it states "In the tradition of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and Frank Herbert's Dune books." Quoted by The New York Times

    I have never read the Foundation series but this book does not even come close to the masterwork called Dune. This book seems to have been written in order to produce income. Dune was written from the heart.

    Frank Herbert lived and breathed in his world he created. Westerfeld's writing feels .... detached.

    Herbert's writing enternains and inspires.
    Westerfeld's writing entertains.

    This post may give the impression that I dislike the book. I do not. I recieved ample entertainment value for the price I paid. I just wished it was more thought provoking.

  11. #11
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    I have read both books so I don't have a problem talking about Killing of Worlds , though I know others may not have read it or finished it yet. I don't know if we should wait, or else we might have whole screens blacked out.

    I think you're right about the name Erf, Shame, which is intriguing. I wondered what being elevated meant. At first I thought it was becoming an imortal, but though Zai was elevated - he wasn't dead. So what was it ?

    I thought the battle scene at the start of KOW was fine. I preferred it to the long drawn out minature one at the start of TRE .

    I was ok with the nested flashbacks. It showed the evolution of the House.
    I actually thought the House was becoming or had become a mind like Alexander, but it kept itself under wraps.

    Funny but even though KOW was just last week, I have no memory at all of the ending.

  12. #12
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FicusFan
    I think you're right about the name Erf, Shame, which is intriguing. I wondered what being elevated meant. At first I thought it was becoming an imortal, but though Zai was elevated - he wasn't dead. So what was it ?
    I sort of thought elevated meant that once they died they would get the symbiant, while those not elevated wouldn't. So performing a great service to the Empire gets you elevated, including dying in battle (unless there's some shame attached). Zai suffered through the torture of whatever the planet was, so he was elevated to get the symbiant when he died. Could be wrong about that, but that's what I thought.

  13. #13
    BookWyrm Archren's Avatar
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    I'm halfway through KOW, should be done by next week at the latest. Feel free to discuss freely, though. As long as no one ruins the surprise of what secret the Emporer is hiding w/ the symbiont, I don't mind spoilers.

    BTW, question for y'all. Would you describe this as pure space opera? Or is it also/instead military SF? Just curious what people think about that.

  14. #14
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael
    I sort of thought elevated meant that once they died they would get the symbiant, while those not elevated wouldn't. So performing a great service to the Empire gets you elevated, including dying in battle (unless there's some shame attached). Zai suffered through the torture of whatever the planet was, so he was elevated to get the symbiant when he died. Could be wrong about that, but that's what I thought.

    Makes sense, but if you are in the space service wouldn't you get vaporized when you die ? Any military seems to lose as many as they are able to reanimate.

    And what about the grunts who died in the battles on the Lynx and the ground. The Captain asked how many could be revived with the symbiote. He didn't ask for details like it had to be a spectacular death, nor did he check to see if they were on some eligibility list. So if you die in battle and it is an automatic that they try to revive you and make you immortal what does it mean then to be elevated ?

  15. #15
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Archren
    BTW, question for y'all. Would you describe this as pure space opera? Or is it also/instead military SF? Just curious what people think about that.
    Ok will try to keep that secret. I think it is a media-tie in wanna-be


    Oh and Erf, I have never seen or heard of 'sluff' as a word, and wouldn't consider it acceptable for anything.

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