“Horns of the Ram” by Austin Rogers

There is always a problem in writing a sequel. You have to decide what was good about the first book and try to replicate that in the second one. As movie fans are aware, that doesn’t always happen, because sometimes writers miss the boat on what’s good in their first work.

I reviewed “Sacred Planet,” the first book in this series, last year, and I really enjoyed it. The sequel starts out the same: hard science fiction in a nobility-ruled future galaxy. Once again we have the interwoven stories of a war at all levels – in the parliament, in the admiral’s office, on the battlefield and in the dark corners where the spies ply their mysterious trade.

But what’s missing in this second book is the fun of getting to know the characters. Now we are expected to know who they are, and all we are watching is what they do. So the story becomes plot-driven, instead of being influenced by character.

And the plotlines are exceptionally complex, reaching too complex at times. It is a dangerous trick for a novelist to demonstrate the stupefying complexity of his universe by stupefying the reader. After all, that’s why we read books; we live in a complex world, and we need to spend time in a less complex one. That goes double for Space Opera.

Likewise, the author seems to feel that the hi-tech battle scenes are what the readers want. We are treated to six full pages of excruciating and gory detail as Kastor takes out a company of enemy soldiers, one at a time, with his hi-tech sword. Another problem; it is difficult to describe the movements of fleets of starships on a galactic scale, revealed on a hologram for the characters discussing them. It might work in a movie, but a novel just isn’t that type of medium.

The hard Sci-Fi and the political intrigue have taken over, and the rollicking space opera takes a back seat. Life in the Interregnum has become far too serious. And this issue of the serial ends in the middle of the action as well. I hope the next installment gets back to the original fun.

Still recommended, but not so highly.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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