Reviewed by Daniel
S. Andrew Swann had me hooked before the last page of the prologue to Prophets. Mallory is a priest and former marine living a quiet life teaching at a university. Nicolai is outcast royalty, alone and disgraced on the anarchic world of Bakunin. Flynn is a societal reject because of his choice not to accept his culture’s norms. Tetsami is the ancestor that lives in Flynn’s mind. Parvi is the pilot and mercenary who is increasingly the pawn of events beyond her control. And all of them are about to find themselves at the mercy of a power greater than stars.
Prophets takes place in the twenty-fifth century, a time when man has reached the stars, made contact with alien civilizations, and already survived both an interstellar war with some of those civilizations and civil war with itself. The Confederacy, the one government that held humanity’s far flung planets together, has collapsed and divided into factions, some along secular lines, some aligned with the Vatican, and some a part of the Islamic Caliphate.
A balance exists between the worlds of the Caliphate and all others. But when shadowy forces start moving on the fringes of civilized space, speaking of lost human colonies and astral anomalies, everyone must race to be the first to arrive, to lay hold of what might tip the balance of power in their direction.
Swann spins a tale that is cinematic in vision and has echoes of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion series. He fills the story—equally mystery, cloak and dagger, political intrigue, and science-fiction—with characters that are mercenaries, scientists, priests, A.I.s, aliens, spies, saboteurs, and mutants. And there are also, of course, lots of space ships with faster-than-light travel drives (what would space opera be without that?). Almost none of the characters are clearly hero or villain, and each is a well drawn composite of traits that are likeable and flawed. Their interactions are unpredictable and gripping, each pulled by the plot in ways neither they, nor the reader, expects. By writing his characters credibly, and not balking at their pain or suffering, Swann creates a story that is both enjoyable and that the reader cares about.
Unlike many scifi and fantasy authors today, Swann is willing to tell the story in under five hundred pages. The length keeps the story alive, stopping on characters just long enough to paint a portrait of their history and relationship to the plot, then moving along again. Chapters cut to the chase, inserting the reader as far into the action as possible, then leaving them right at the point of greatest impact. The result is a page-turner that demands to be finished.
I have a bad habit of parachuting into authors worlds mid-series, and while Prophets is definitely the first in the Apotheosis series, it is the third series that Swann has written in the so-called “Moreau” universe. The first two—the Moreau series and the Hostile Takeover Trilogy—occur hundreds of years earlier than the events in Prophets. I had decided, upon picking up Prophets, that if I liked it I would go back and read the Moreau and Hostile Takeover. The good news is that I enjoyed it immensely, and as soon as I finish the Heretics and Messiah, the next two books in the series (which are both waiting on my bed stand), I’ll go hunting for the previous series.
About Daniel Burton
Dan Burton lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he practices law by day and practices everything else by night. You can follow him on his blog lawafterthebar.wordpress.com where he muses on the law, current events, books, and ideas. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.