RogerBW's Blog

Rhythm of the Imperium, Jody Lynn Nye 31 August 2022

2015 humorous science fiction, third and to date last of its series. Lord Thomas Kinago, foppish distant cousin of the Emperor, is travelling to watch the enigmatic alien Zang bonsai a star system. Meanwhile the rocky Kail may be trying to open diplomatic relations with the Imperium.

I enjoyed the first book of this series, and very much liked the second, but I'm afraid I found this last one something of a let-down. I think it may be that there are too many things happening, with too many discordant tones. Sometimes this works, as when an AI is murdered by software corruption:

Parsons felt regret and sorrow as he turned away. The fugue for a fallen hero should not have been Ninety-Nine Horns Play Easy Listening.

but all too often we switch between Kinago doing something trivial and amusing and Parsons (factotum, naval commander, Kinago's superior in the secret service) doing something important and not funny at all. It certainly doesn't help that the climactic plot point, which is clearly meant to come as something of a surprise at the 95% mark, is utterly spoiled by the blurb, and so is a major secondary revelation – though of course that isn't Nye's fault.

Pacing is strange too: that climactic point is introduced, but then first thing done to try to resolve it works perfectly, and then the book is over with nothing else resolved. (Presumably it was Nye's intention to revisit those dangling threads in later books; there's no sort of series conclusion here.)

It's not that Kinago has become at least moderately competent at the things he does, because his utter incompetence was always a social disguise; but we get very little of the double act between Parsons and Kinago that was the anchor of earlier books, and we spend a lot of time with the various aliens (the Kail coming over as petulant and violent children, the Zang as artists who'd rather bicker than do art, and neither seeming anything like alien).

Earlier volumes have been enjoyable light reads; this one, though it's broadly of the same length, felt like a slog. So I wasn't sufficiently distracted when Nye came up with utter nonsense like

"The detection and anti-viral software has only just been installed. Ormalus and her staff are exploring the root directories and data libraries for intrusion beyond the scan that the ship experienced this morning."

Well, the root directories shouldn't take long.

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