cover image Empire of Silence

Empire of Silence

Christopher Ruocchio. DAW, $26 (624p) ISBN 978-0-7564-1300-2

Space opera fans will savor the rich details of Ruocchio’s far-future debut, which sets the scene for a complicated series. The Earth is long dead, but humans have spread to many other planets, where they now practice a heavy-handed, dangerous religion. Humans are also at war with vicious aliens. In the frame story, protagonist Hadrian Marlowe, onetime presumed heir to an empire, explains why he is now waiting to be hanged in front of all the worlds. His is a gritty, bloody, mostly sad journey: he starts out wealthy and powerful, wakes up one day on a planet he’s never heard of, is reduced to living in the streets, and eventually becomes a lord again. At times the heavy description and flashbacks reduce the momentum, and there’s very little action—a bit surprising given the backdrop of interstellar war and religion-mandated torture—but readers who like a slow-building story with a strong character focus will find everything they’re looking for in this series opener. Agent: Shawna McCarthy, McCarthy Agency. (July)