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    Review of DREAD EMPIRE'S FALL: THE PRAXIS by Walter Jon Williams (see his website)

    HarperTorch, 2002

    The last of the Shaa is about to die and the great empire of the Praxis trembles in anticipation. For Lieutenant Gareth Martinez, the future looks bad. His boss and mentor has decided to commit suicide to mark the Shaa's passage and Martinez is abandoned. But a space yacht accident gives Martinez a chance to plan a rescue--and to meet the beautiful but troubled Cadet Caroline Sula. Any chance at bliss falls quickly when Sula runs and Martinez detects a plot by the Naxid, formerly one of the races subject to the Shaa (along with humans and others).

    Author Walter Jon Williams (see more reviews of books by Williams) creates an exciting SF adventure that will remind readers of classic space opera. Williams balances political maneuvers with military maneuvers, develops the beginnings of a romance between the two lead characters, and provides enough science to satisfy hard-core SF readers.

    Of the characters, Sula is the deeper and more fascinating. Sula hides a secret that is likely to be discovered at any time and that will destroy her when the government finally learns it. Her brutal past motivated her actions and molded her into the person she is in the story. Some readers, including me, will be uncomfortable with how she finally replaced Caro Sula despite all of Williams' efforts to make Caro an unsympathetic character.

    Williams' writing is strong and engaging and he develops a number of secondary characters (especially Martinez's football crazy Captain) to the point where they come alive.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 11/28/03

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