Tor, Mar 2003, 24.95, 304 pp.
The Emperor has ruled over the eighty planets of the Risen Empire for over fifteen centuries. When it is time the emperor kills himself in a sacrificial way so he can return being one of the few chosen for immortality. Only the ultra wealthy or the highest nobles can access this immortality technique.
Though much of the populace resents the hierarchy they react as sheep. However, for the first time in centuries a threat has surfaced. The Rix believes society needs to evolve into an artificial intelligence of one mind. They have captured the Emperor's sister, The Empress Child, and are in the process of terraforming a planet to suit their philosophy. A rescue mission led by Imperial Navy Captain Laurent Zai tries a desperate rescue attempt before the orb is bombed into oblivion, the only way to stop the Rix incursion.
When the space opera remains in the present, the story line is loaded with exciting action that grips the audience who wants to come along for the full ride. When flashbacks occur, the plot slows down as a sidebar that typically provides societal background surfaces but also takes away from the rescue effort.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner