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Land of the Dead: Time of the Sixth Sun    by Thomas Harlan order for
Land of the Dead
by Thomas Harlan
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Thomas Harlan's Land of the Dead is third in a military SF series, Time of the Sixth Sun, set in an alternate world future, in which space has been explored from an Earth ruled by an alliance of Japanese and Aztecs. I had not read the earlier books, and recommend that others take them in before this one, as it was challenging to follow without the previous context.

As the novel opens, newly minted captain Susan Kosho visits her disgraced superior, Mitsuharu Hadeishi to inform him that he's been placed on reserve duty. On her way to her new ship, the Naniwa, she meets master manipulator Green Hummingbird, an agent of the Mirror Service, and demands that he help Hadeishi. Of course Hummingbird does it in a way that will support his own goals; Hadeishi is offered a position as a junior engineer on a tramp steamer - that turns out to be more than it seems on the surface.

In a distant region of space, three Imperial cruisers are destroyed by an artifact of the Old Ones. Susan's Naniwa is part of a fleet dispatched to investigate. Hummingbird makes his way there on a small ship, accompanied by archeologist Gretchen Anderssen, a specialist in First Sun artifacts. And the alien Hjo find out about the artifact and insist on sending their own representative, young Sahane, on a flagship commanded by Prince Xochitl (who has been betrayed by his own father).

These disparate groups come together, along with an attacking Khaid armada (also after the mysterious weapon). Though they take Hadeishi's ship, he fights back, and soon has his own command. Both he and Susan lead their crews brilliantly against horrific odds, and fate brings them together once more. Though I enjoyed its fascinating cultures and exciting space battles, what I liked most about Land of the Dead was Hadeishi's habit of musing on relevant episodes of the Japanese legend of Musashi. I recommend this series to military SF fans, but do read the episodes in order.

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