Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Book Rec: The Exordium Series (Sherwood Smith & Dave Trowbridge)
This week's rec: the Exordium series, by Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge. Five volumes of rip roaring yet intelligent space opera (The Phoenix in Flight, The Ruler of Naught, A Prison Unsought, The Rifter's Covenant, The Thrones of Kronos), originally published by Tor in the 90s. I myself didn't stumble across the series until long after the books were out of print. I was poking around the archives of a Dorothy Dunnett discussion group (having just finished and been blown away by her Lymond Chronicles), and found people talking about characters in other novels that reminded them of her protagonist Lymond. Brandon vlith-Arkad from Exordium was mentioned as being "Lymond in space." Well, since I'd adored Lymond, and loved SF, I thought: what could be better? I promptly hunted down all five volumes of the series via Alibris - and found myself delighted by the read.
Brandon indeed bears a certain resemblance to Lymond (frighteningly intelligent yet wounded character skilled at getting people to underestimate him). Some aspects of the narrative style are also reminiscent of Dunnett, like the use of viewpoint characters who intensely dislike the protagonist & misinterpret his motives. But Exordium is all its own creation: jam-packed with nifty SF technologies, great space battles, fascinating alien races (it reminded me a bit of Brin's Uplift books in that regard), and a hefty dose of humor to leaven out the characters' angst. The characters are terrific, by the way - Smith & Trowbridge do a great job balancing viewpoints and including a pretty hefty cast of folks while making them all feel real and distinct, no easy task. Maybe the best thing about the series, though, is that the ending felt truly satisfying. I find that pretty rare among series longer than trilogies: kudos to Smith & Trowbridge for pulling it off.
Used to be that I'd recommend the series to friends and then hedge with, "But you'll need to find them in used bookstores...", all because I was so loath to part with my precious paperback copies. What if someone lost one? Or dumped coffee on it? The horror! But joy of joys, Smith & Trowbridge are re-publishing the entire series in e-book form. I can't tell you how excited I am about that: the books deserve to be better known, and I'm certainly hoping they reach a whole new set of fans. So hey, if you've been hankering for an exuberant, sweeping space opera complete with great action and characters - give Exordium #1 (Phoenix in Flight) a try. It's only 99 cents right now at Book View Cafe - a steal. You can even read a free excerpt.