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The Praxis
Walter Jon Williams
Earthlight, 417 pages

The Praxis
Walter J. Williams
Walter J. Williams (aka Walter Jon Williams) is the author of Knight Moves (1985), Hardwired (1986), Days of Atonement (1991), the Nebula nominee Metropolitan (1995) and its sequel, City on Fire, and the Drake Maijstral Series (The Crown Jewels, 1987, House of Shards, 1988, and Rock of Ages, 1995) among other books. At his site you'll find a complete bibliography and sample chapters.

Walter J. Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Metropolitan
SF Site Review: The Rift
SF Site Review: Metropolitan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Space opera, here we come. It had been too long since I had read anything by Walter Jon Williams. Hardwired and Aristoi were old favorites, but I hadn't yet read The Rift or Metropolitan, so when his latest showed up on the SF Site's books available to review list, it seemed like a good way to get back in touch with Williams, and have some fun reading a good space opera at the same time. For the most part, The Praxis lived up to those expectations.

The Praxis begins as the empire of the Shaa is about to end. Having dominated and conquered every other species they encountered for ten millennia, including humans, the last Shaa is dying, and no one really knows who or what will take their place. The two main characters, Gareth Martinez and Caroline Sula, are military personnel whose careers bring them into contact just as the crisis caused by the end of the Shaa is beginning. They are also social opposites. Martinez is an aristocratic officer, Sula a cadet with a hidden past. Gareth and Caroline are drawn together first by a shared adventure and then by the political and military machinations that are now revealing themselves.

The Praxis is a good example of how the level of technology assumed in the story can affect a science fiction novel. The Shaa had long enforced an edict against nanotech and genetic engineering. The result makes the setting, and the novel itself, feel rather old-fashioned. Space battles are fought with missiles and laser, there are no threatening clouds of nanotech or biologically engineered foes to vanquish. As space opera, The Praxis is much closer to the traditional styles of Lois McMaster Bujold and David Weber than the new space opera of Iain M. Banks or Peter F. Hamilton.

Depending on what you're looking for, that can be either good or bad. The Praxis is not on the cutting-edge of science fiction in either its ideas or its style, but it does present a classic historical situation; the power vacuum created by the removal of a governing entity. The Praxis also features a couple of interesting characters and plunges them right into the action, and headed right towards each other. Williams writes a good space battle scene, and the mismatched relationship between Caroline and Gareth looks to be the glue that holds the series together. For, as has become traditional in these kinds of stories, The Praxis is the first novel in a series. Judging by the first book, the Dread Empire's Fall series should prove consistently entertaining, but contain few surprises or ideas new to the long-time reader of science fiction.

Copyright © 2003 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson is looking forward to the power vacuum created by the fall of Dread Empire BushCo. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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