Art by Mintaki.
For the TL;DR crowd, this seven book series by Kevin J. Anderson has been called a space opera in regards to its complexity. Imagine breaking down a game of Stellaris with active empires, fallen empires, and diverse species interacting in the series’ political web of intrigue. I’m talking a corporate empire with a puppet monarchy, theocratic aliens, xenophobic elemental aliens, and even hive minds. Once you finish the series, you’re going to wonder how so much content could be contained within just seven books.
For those looking to hear a little more substance, here’s the longer version, with some minor spoilers to allow for a feel of the story. To start things off, Earth is ruled by a puppet monarch, controlled by the CEO of the Terran Hanseatic League. As the population grows and the need for expansion peaks, humanity launches a number of generational ships into space to find new homes. Interstellar traveling aliens, known as the Ildirans, encounter them along the way. Benevolent, they retrieve most of the human ships and return to Earth. A treaty is signed, the Ildirans turn over the knowledge of their interstellar drive, and assist humanity in colonizing new worlds and space. Most of humanity remains under the rule of the Hansa, and the current Chairman Basil Wenceslas, whose designs and machinations never cease to grow in complexity to the point of madness. Several colonies become independent. Theroc, a world of immense forests, and the Roamer colonies made up of space dwellers live free from the corporate empire.
Saga of the Seven Suns follows several key figures from major alien species – and of course, humanity. While the humans are a little more politically complicated, and the minor species do not receive as much development, there are a few major groups that will give you a taste of the book’s universe.
Theroc is an independent colony of humans on a planet completely forested by worldtrees. These trees are semi-sentient, and over generations of evolution, some of the inhabitants have become sensitive to this connection. Called the Green Priests, they can instantly communicate with one another across the vastness of space while in physical contact with a worldtree. They live communally and the green priests are sought by others for commerce and politics for their ability to instantly communicate long distances. One such young green priestess, Nira Khali, is selected by the royal family of Theroc to go to Ildira and study their history to disseminate the information through the worldtree memory. Her unyielding curiosity leads her through one of the most turbulent storylines in the series.
The Roamers are basically space-faring nomads. They carve homes out of large asteroids or assemble them together in large, growing complexes. While these structures house families and clan leaders, many others live on large gas mining barges that skim the upper layers of gas giants for the components used to refine interstellar fuel known as ekti. The roamers are the primary source of ekti in the known universe, and are seen as the simple, backwater folk that do the job nobody else wants to do. Jess Tamblyn starts off the series quietly brooding of the love he shares with the woman engaged to his older brother. His sense of duty and honor is a dependable rock that won’t let him sit on the sidelines as everyone else jockeys for power and control.
The Ildirans are a race without ambition for expansion or conquest. They’re ruled as a theocracy by the Mage-Imperator who is psychically connected to all others through the thism. They are also a caste society with individual appearance and responsibilities varying based on the group (kith) to which they belong. While the leadership caste appears humanoid, other castes can be described as nearly reptilian or avian. The name for the series comes from the history of their race which is documented in a poem called the Saga of Seven Suns. Jora’h the Prime Designate, son of the current Mage-Imperator and heir, could best be described as a naive, rich kid. He’s generous, benevolent and the example the Ildirans like to present to the outside universe. That is, until he falls in love with the Green Priestess Nira, leading him to a startling discovery which rocks the foundations of his beliefs.
The Start of Something Great
This is only the beginning of the series. The kind of thing you might find on the back cover to catch your intrigue. It all kicks off when the technology of an extinct race is utilized by the Hansa to ignite a gas giant. From here the books cascade into an ever growing field of races, players and plots. Individuals within the empires choose sides, make alliances and devise plans, far more than I mentioned above. Don’t be fooled and think you finally have it all worked out, because a new scheme, character or disaster is about to explode from the depths, the sun or even from the dead.
If you enjoy science fiction, you could do far worse than reading this series.
The Saga of Seven Suns also has a sequel series called the Saga of Shadows which is comprised of three books. There’s also a bridging book between the two series called “Whistling Past the Graveyard”.