If an author is going to emulate works of science fiction, he could do worse than Star Wars and Firefly. Whether intentionally or not, Jay Allan seems to have done just that with The Emperor’s Fist, the upcoming fourth entry in the Far Stars series.
The Emperor’s Fist Feels Familiar
The series follows Arkarin Blackhawk, a captain of a space-ship-for-hire whose crew is composed of various individuals with special skills who have been brought together by Blackhawk. Once loners with their own struggles, this crew has become a family and quite the impressive operation. Surely that sounds familiar to anyone who still wishes Serenity was sailing across the stars.
Blackhawk and his crew operate as part of a rebellion of sorts against a galactic empire bent on total domination. In addition to a cruel and ruthless emperor, the empire’s forces are led by a feared general sent to complete the most crucial tasks to crushing the rebellion. All that’s missing from that part of the story is an opening scroll of text and some beeps from R2-D2.
Jump Into the Far Stars Saga
But fortunately for Allan, those familiar elements are not all that the Far Stars saga has going for it. Blackhawk is a complex and well-written character, and his story is a unique one. The author reveals the layers of Blackhawk’s story gradually, striking a nice balance on the scale of dramatic secrecy that leaves the reader wanting more without becoming frustrated at the lack of information.
What’s more is that once the opening concepts are established, the feel of the book departs dramatically from either of those popular franchises. The focus becomes Far Stars saga-specific relationships, as well as the technological advances of that universe. Because of that, the clear ties to earlier works become more of a respectful nod than laziness or something more nefarious.
Like many later entries into book series, the press materials for The Emperor’s Fist claim that despite being the fourth Far Stars saga book, this novel can be read on its own. Even the most staunch adherent to sequential order is likely to find this assertion to be true.
Personally, I would usually insist on reading the first books in a series instead of jumping in with a later work, but I decided to test this book out without the previous novels. Allan explains his characters’ backstories well without relying on long bits of exposition, even to the point that the reader could easily forget he or she wasn’t reading the first book of a series.
In fact, this book makes an excellent hook to the rest of Allan’s works, including the first three Far Stars novels: Shadow of Empire, Enemy in the Dark, and Funeral Games. If those works are as singularly enjoyable as the latest installment, Allan will have truly accomplished something.
The Emperor’s Fist will be available on August 20th, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon here!