The Orphaned Worlds by Michael Cobley

Orbit, 2010. 467p

The Orphaned Worlds cover

This is the second in the Humanity’s Fire trilogy, the first of which, Seeds Of Earth, I reviewed here. The usual caveat applies to the following.

Once again the narrative is multi stranded and, once again, that makes the story fragmented. A new ingredient to the eclectic mix of races in the scenario this time is the introduction of another set of aliens, the Legion of Avatars, who have been kept imprisoned in the depths of hyperspace for aeons but who are set to break out and wreak havoc.

In The Orphaned Worlds there is less emphasis laid on the Scots/Russian/Scandinavian planet of Darien and more on the interplanetary manoeuvrings – though at one point Cobley has one of the Scottish characters say, “no one strikes at us with impunity,” a nice restructuring of the old motto of the Kings of Scots.

There is once more a surfeit of plot, so much so that the writing can seem rushed. Its exigencies, the necessity of moving characters from place to place, leads to phrases such as “en minutes later,” “after two hours,” “in half an hour,” abounding. Space for character development and exploration is thereby restricted. Those who prefer their plot to rampage, however, will find The Orphaned Worlds compelling. I wish though that Cobley had not chosen the name Uvovo for the aboriginal inhabitants of Darien. It reminds me too much of Vic and Bob’s Shooting Stars.

Being the mid part of a trilogy there is some sense of marking time, of things moving into place. The denouement is, of necessity, not really conclusive but it nevertheless makes sense in terms of this book while setting up the trilogy’s final volume The Ascendant Stars.

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