I stumbled across this wonderful space opera by stumbling across the author on social media, going on to prove that Twitter is not only poisonous. It really is a great series, hitting all the crazy space opera notes you might want.
What does the Sun Eater series offer? Well. What are our space opera staples? Strange politics and cultures? Check. Sufficiently advanced technology? Check. Long lost and mysterious history beyond our ken? Check. Aliens, battles, references to this, that, and the other? Check, check, check. All of it with a unique spin making it well worth a read.
The Sun Eater follows the saga of Hadrian, a noble and accomplished-for good and ill and eh?- son of the vast Solan Empire. It’s written in the first person as a memoir.
The echoes of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun are strong, though- and I like that series- the Sun Eater is much easier to read. The similarities are intentional, which I think is a great thing.
A rather major difference is that I feel Hadrian is a much more reliable narrator than Wolfe’s Severian. Both men are shaped by their messed up worlds in profound ways, but Hadrian does not pull Severian’s “I never forget anything and I am not lying in this account ever”. This is one of Wolfe’s interesting narrative tricks and is one of the reason New Sun requires rereads. Severian is also by training and frankly lifestyle until adulthood, a torturer. He does and witnessed horrible things and his response is “it’s being done properly.”
Hadrian is a product of his twisted times, too, and it shows, though it’s not quite so shocking because the twistedness is very…reasonably extrapolated from modern attitudes. He regards the series’ vat-grown heavily genetically modified humans as abominations, but the difference between him (his social class only consists of vat-grown people) and them is a matter of official Imperial sanction and in part degree, or what he perceives as degree. The book points this out but it seems he will never get that point. It’s a nice touch. Human beings do this all the time, now and in the past and no doubt in the future.
I have to wonder what it means when you understand all the likely references in a space opera. Does it mean you are a throughly cultural contemporary of the author? Some things I think were references (Varric Cousland?!) but I’m not sure. The ancient AI muttering “be not evil” as a sort of verbal tic/religious incantation was a nice touch.
For those who know and enjoy Warhammer 40k fiction, it’s a good fit, though more on the Dune side of it, not the Lovecraftian Chaos one. I suspect the WH40k similarities are really Dune similarities. The aesthetic is sleeker and the dystopia is less, uh, angry nerdy 1980s British atheist leftist good old boys club (with a sense of humor), but it’s got a lot of the same vibe.
Understand the Sun Eater fills the space opera Bildungsroman niche that has fallen out of publisher favor but not reader enjoyment. The original Star Wars was this, and the prequels gave it a good try. Sun Eater is of the gothic and sprawling variety, though it’s more focused than the Book of the New Sun and, thus far, much more chronological.
If you want something to scratch your space opera itch in a great way, you can find the two books in the series so far, Empire of Silence and The Howling Dark, on Amazon or wherever you get your books. The writer told me himself on Twitter that he recently submitted the draft of the next book to his editor, so hopefully we’ll get it soon!
On another front, I will soon have some announcements of my own in regards to a new book by yours truly! Stay tuned!