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    Review of THE COURSE OF EMPIRE by Eric Flint and K. D. Wentworth

    Baen, September 2003

    Although it was conquered twenty years earlier, Earth remains restive--and the cruel and unimaginative Jao governor manages to stir up resistance--which he ruthlessly but casually puts down. With control of space, the Jao cannot really be threatened by humans--but they can prevent the Jao from using the planet's resources for their own conflict. And the Jao do have a problem--the Ekhat race threatens to overwhelm the entire galaxy, eliminating all other life. Survival requires humans to work together with the Jao--but the Jao governor seems to have eliminated that possibility.

    Into the equation comes Aille, a high-status Jao who has been assigned as sub-commander, responsible for ground-based planetary defenses. Aille upsets the equilibrium established by the Jao governor, accepting both Jao and humans into his 'personal service,' and looking for ways that human technology and tactics can add to the Jao ways rather than requiring humans to become the type of mini-Jao that other conquered species became. But by doing so, Aille simply earns himself the hatred of the planetary governor. Disobeying orders will make Aille outlaw and destroy everything he's worked for, but following orders seems to lead to an even worse situation.

    Authors Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by Flint) and K. D. Wentworth combine to deliver a fascinating tale of colliding cultures. Flint and Wentworth personalize their story with multidimensional characters--both Jao and human, giving the reader an emotional stake in the outcome. Their descriptions of Jao customs and communications patterns add interest and deepens the story.

    The role of empire, whether human or alien, is complex with the conquering people being influenced by their conquests as well as influencing them. Flint and Wentworth have obviously given this subject a lot of thought--adding to the richness of their world-building and reader interest.

    I have no hesitation in recommending THE COURSE OF EMPIRE.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 3/20/05

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