1/09/2010. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
pub: Orbit. 467 page enlarged paperback. Price: £10.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-633-7.
check out website: www.orbitbooks.net
In 'Seeds Of Earth', Book One of 'Humanity's Fire', we learned that when insectoid aliens invaded Earth, colony ships were sent out to preserve the race. Earth was saved from the swarm by the Sendrukan Hegemony and became its ally or puppet. The ships founded colony worlds that had no contact with the home planet. Then an Earth starship found the planet Darien and it has become the centre of a budding galactic conflict involving several humanoid species and also ancient powers that fought a great war a hundred millennia ago.
Like Book One, this tome, 'Orphaned Worlds', uses third person narration of several different characters to tell the big story. Greg was an architect on Darien, investigating an ancient mysterious temple, but is now fighting for freedom against the forces of the Sendrukan Hegemony. His uncle Theo is similarly engaged but gets carted around the galaxy by Tygrans, military men from another lost Earth colony. Catriona, Greg's unrequited love, is on Darien's moon where she is psychically linked to the sentient forest which covers that world so that the creatures in it are her eyes and ears. She is also trying to fight off invading hordes. Robert is an ambassador from Earth who has been sent on a mission deep into hyperspace to contact the Godhead and get its help. Kao Chih is an Asian chap from the third lost Earth colony and he has tied up with Baltazar Silveira, a secret service agent from Earth, also fighting the good fight. He is especially concerned with freeing his own people from slavery on a mining world. Kuros is evil overlord of Darien for the Sendrukan Hegemony and is aided and advised by an artificial intelligence. The AIs have distinct personalities and are always there for a chat and advice, sort of tied into your brain. They are catching on with high-ranking Earthmen, too, and Ambassador Robert used to have one. Some think the AIs are too influential and might even have a secret agenda of their own. Some Sendrukan's, called the Clarified, have let their AIs take them over. Clarified Teshak is Kuros' superior and makes life hard for him.
There is lots of action, well-described and entertaining. There is tons of invention and a nicely simmering sense of impending doom for the good guys. There are likeable heroes and dastardly villains to cheer and boo. There is one gigantic flaw: no summary of the last book. If, like me, you read the last book a few months ago, you will remember most of the characters and have some idea of what is happening but not a very clear idea. It's easy enough to follow the action but I was never quite sure why they were doing it and read the whole book with a nagging sense of irritation. There's a lot of sound and fury signifying...what? Well, something pretty cosmic, man.
An editor should have sat Michael Cobley down and told him that the readers do not live with this mighty work day in and day out as he does. Readers have read other books since 'Seeds Of Earth' and even have lives, too. A summary is needed!! Those who have an eidetic memory and like Book One should enjoy this, too. Those who have lots of time can re-read 'Seeds Of Earth' before starting this one. Everyone else is probably going to find it entertaining and annoying in equal doses and really this is an editorial error. Mister Cobley is obviously far too close to his magnificent octopus to have any perspective on such matters. He needed help and he didn't get it. A shame.
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