RogerBW's Blog

Impersonations, Walter Jon Williams 11 April 2018

2016 short space opera novel, postscript to the Dread Empire's Fall trilogy. Having won battles by means that weren't approved of, Caroline Sula is promoted to a backwater post: Earth. That's fine; it gives her scope to study Terran history. But she's also a large pebble being thrown into a deep pond of convenient arrangements…

There's personal drama when a long-ignored relative turns up and Sula has to work out just what she can be allowed to know, but other people keep behaving oddly to her, and it's clear that she is being set up to take the fall for a variety of peculations. At the same time, she's achieved the goals that have driven her life for many years, and now has to wonder what she should be doing next, and indeed what sort of person she is. This doesn't work quite as well as it might, but something is starting to emerge by the end of the book.

There's an action sequence as well, but Williams' heart doesn't seem to be in it: things go wrong to set up a tense situation, but the fixing of them goes right, and then it's all over.

One of the more effective themes here is the way that Earth's history has been turned into a footnote to the Praxis (which conquered it many generations ago): these things were good because they were dim imitations of the Praxis which is perfect (and were long gone by the time of the conquest), these other things were bad because they fell before the Praxis, and anything which might have offered a viable alternative path is simply suppressed and forgotten.

It's enjoyable but perhaps tries to do a bit too much in the space, not really developing any of its themes in the depth I'd like; but it's interesting as a bridge and setup for future stories.

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