The Ascendant Stars by Michael Cobley

Orbit, 2011. 467p.

 The Ascendant Stars cover

This is the third and final part of the Humanity’s Fire trilogy which I have reviewed previously here and here.

The Ascendant Stars follows the template set out before, a multi-stranded narrative which tends to break up the story’s flow. Indeed, Cobley’s fertile imagination has stacked his tale with so many alien races, so many strands, that sometimes it is difficult to keep track – even with a glossary and a dramatis personae.

As in Humanity’s Fire’s part 2, The Orphaned Worlds, the focus is not so much on the Scots/Scandinavian/Russian world of Darien and its attendant moon Nivyesta – though the Legion of Avatars is finally loosed from its long imprisonment in the warpwell – and yet another new race, the Imisil, pops up to play a bit part. The Darien Scots are occasionally allowed to speak broadly but this dialogue, when it appears, somehow seems too out of place in all the intergalactic mayhem. Paradoxically if all the speech were in this vein it would perhaps be less noticeable.

Two writerly tics were particularly in evidence here. Quite often our viewpoint character is in danger of some sort – of imminent death even – only to be saved by the intervention of a companion/third party and, as in The Orphaned Worlds, the formulations “seconds later” and “minutes later” abound. There is an almost breathless rush to pack in all the incident. And incident there is aplenty. There is so much plot going on here that in many cases it has to be told rather than shown.

It may be that Cobley’s canvas is just too broad. Scaling down the action of a Space Opera is perhaps counter intuitive but doing so might have enhanced the human aspects of the story. With so much going on the characters do not get enough time to breathe as people. As a result the emotional pay-off of the dénouement lacks the impact it might have had.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

free hit counter script