You’ve picked up a copy of Orphaned Worlds, lured by the cool spacescape on the cover and Iain M. Banks recommendation, but haven’t yet encountered the first book in the series. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to read it before hunting down that first instalment, Seeds of Earth. Orphaned Worlds is very much a mid-series book and as this space opera adventure is on an epic scale, trying to work out what exactly is going on means some serious flailing around. I know – I tried it…
Seeds of Earth has mostly been very well received by critics and readers alike who enjoy this sub-genre. So, the question has to be – does Orphaned Worlds manage to sustain the standard set by Seeds of Earth?
Darien is no longer a lost outpost of humanity, but the prize in an intergalactic power struggle. Hegemony forces have a stranglehold over the planet and crack troops patrol its hotspots while Earth watches, rendered impotent by galactic politics. But its Darien ambassador will soon become a player in a greater conflict. there is more at stake than a turf war on a newly discovered world. An ancient Uvovo temple hides access to a hyperspace prison, housing the greatest threat sentient life has ever known. Millennia ago, malignant intelligences were caged there following an apocalyptic war. And their servants work on their release.
I believe this sequel would have benefitted with a Story So Far summary. Cobley did try to help by providing both a list of characters and the 18 different species of aliens that crop up in the story (I wasn’t kidding when I said it was ‘epic’…) and while they were useful reminders after having read Seeds of Earth, neither list was much help when attempting to read Orphaned Worlds first time around.
After completing Seeds of Earth, I found that Orphaned Worlds plunged straight into the story. This is a much faster-paced book as Cobley had already set up the dynamics of his world and we are now in the throes of the conflict, so there are a variety of battles with all the main protagonists – and the antagonists – fighting for their lives both in space and on a number of worlds. As in Seeds of Earth, the story is narrated in third person pov by the various characters, with each chapter titled by the viewpoint character’s name. This gives the reader a great deal of help – absolutely necessary while the action keeps rolling forward.
There is a lot less of the scene setting that silted up Seeds of Earth and I feel that Cobley really hits his stride during this instalment of the Humanity’s Fire series. If you enjoyed Seeds of Earth, I believe that you will certainly find Orphaned Worlds an equally engrossing, entertaining read and I look forward to getting hold of the final book in the trilogy, The Ascendant Stars.