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A Forest of Stars: The Saga of Seven Suns Book 2    by Kevin Anderson order for
Forest of Stars
by Kevin J. Anderson
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

This continuation of Anderson's epic tale of intergalactic exploration and discovery intensifies the conflict begun in Hidden Empire. The mysterious alien hydrogues' interdiction of hydrogen harvesting has resulted in much hardship for both the humans and the Ildiran people. Hydrogen is essential to produce ekti, the fuel necessary for the faster-than-light transports of both civilizations.

Defiance of the hydrogues leads to disaster, as the aliens' weapons prove to be unstoppable. Members of the mighty Ildiran empire, which has endured ten thousand years, are stunned at this setback; and the brash humans continue to probe and test the limits of the hydrogues' control. The summary of 'The Story So Far' at the front of this book is an excellent aid, as are the appendices at the end.

Against this backdrop, Anderson tells the stories of many individuals who are caught up in the conflict. Prime Designate Jora'h, heir to the Ildiran empire, still mourns his lost love Nira, a green priestess from the world of Theroc. Unknown to him, she has been kidnapped by his brother, the Dobro Designate, with the knowledge and approval of his father, the Mage-Imperator. King Peter of Earth continues his dangerous resistance to wily Basil Wenceslas, head of the Hansa League (Earth's empire). Basil's puppet-king is proving more intelligent and recalcitrant than Basil ever intended.

Adar Kori'nh, commander of Ildira's space force, is becoming more and more uneasy at what his Mage-Imperator demands of him. Similarly, Tasmia Tamblyn, promising young officer in Earth Defence Forces, is questioning the draconian measures instituted by Basil in the name of King Peter. Cesca Peroni, Jess Tamblyn, and other energetic Roamers (space gypsies who have rejected Hansa authority) are working desperately to survive in the face of the hydrogues' ban on hydrogen-harvesting. Ekti is essential to the Roamers' nomadic way of life.

Anderson juggles these and other stories with a sure hand. His characters provide the human touch in this novel of interstellar war. These are interesting people, with gripping problems to solve. By the end of A Forest of Stars, Anderson has upped the ante: whole planets face destruction at the hands of the hydrogues, and the conflict has widened to include ancient enemies who once fought to near-extinction.

In the face of this wide-flung conflict, human nature remains true to itself. Some people manage to focus on their own selfish interests despite the challenges they face, and others rise to heroic efforts. Anderson has also created fascinating aliens and plot puzzles. The humanoid Ildirans share many of humanity's traits, despite the thism that links them all emotionally and mentally. The alien-built Klikiss robots, like the humans' compys (companion robots) are far from emotionless or soulless machines. And just what was the role of the Klikiss robots in the extinction of their parent race? A Forest of Stars is a good read and I look forward to the third in the series.

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