RogerBW's Blog

Investments, Walter Jon Williams 06 April 2018

2004 space opera novella, postscript to the Dread Empire's Fall trilogy. Three years after the Naxid War, new star systems are being opened up for development. Which means that there's lots of scope for serious money to be made, legally or otherwise.

There's a surprising amount here that reminds me of Hardwired, Williams' breakout novel from 1986; it's not just the presence of coleopters and cargo hovercraft even in this world that's much higher-tech than that book, it's a certain gritty style when it comes to up-close conflict – though matured by plenty of practice writing other novels.

The story stands on its own, though it benefits from knowledge of the events of the trilogy. The major characters here are Gareth Martinez and Shushanik Severin, one of the few non-protagonists who showed much potential for original thought. Here he comes up with an idea for stellar engineering that seems at least somewhat cosmologically plausible; perhaps less so is the idea that the people who surveyed this system didn't notice the hazard in the first place. Still, it's pleasing to see an appropriate use of Chekov's Megafreighter Full of Antimatter.

This is a book of two parts, though, and the first part is politics shading into fraud investigation. It's well-written, perhaps a bit too close to the same frauds in our own world, but that just gives it a feel of crunchy detail that serves it well. Then there's a sudden shift to Big Events in space, but oddly the story feels more closed-in, more reliant on the protagonists rather than on the array of supporting characters.

There's nothing here to change the world, and it's not worth seeking out as an entry point, but if you enjoyed the trilogy this is a decent addition to the series.

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