I’ve never met Kevin J Anderson, but for some time, I’ve been thinking of doing a series of posts which I’m now titling [Author X] and me. In these posts, I’ll briefly mention each of the author’s works I’ve read, trying not to go into too much detail on any one of them. In Anderson’s case, I’ve read two novels, a novella, and a number of short stories.
House Atreides, a prequel to Dune, was co-written with Brian Herbert, the son of Frank Herbert. I remember very little about this book, which isn’t a good sign, but I do recall that it suffered from what I call prequelitis: pointless cameo appearances and a lack of suspense because the reader knows the ultimate fate of many characters. I was not motivated to continue reading the Dune prequels.
I remember more about the first book in Anderson’s “Saga of Seven Suns” space-opera series, Hidden Empire. The book has some fun alien races. A race of previously-undiscovered gas-giant dwellers is disturbed by human activity and launches its ships, presumably to become the series’ antagonist. Elephant-sized, beetle-shaped robots, built by a long-dead race, wander around human space for no known reason, but are tolerated as they don’t attack anyone without provocation. Alien trees have a form of instantaneous telepathic communication which is unaffected by distance, so a group of human druid-types transport trees to other planets and form a sort of space telegraph network. Important ships even get a sapling in a flowerpot on the bridge.
Hidden Empire is a fairly long novel (720 pages in paperback / almost 20 hours as an audiobook) with a lot of worldbuilding, but there’s not much in the way of plot. When I finished it, I didn’t feel like I’d read a story. I felt like I’d read the opening chapter of another novel. This is the first book of a seven-book series, but I won’t continue reading. I have no problem reading seven stories that are connected into a larger overall story, but I won’t read seven books that only give me one story.
One chapter in particular grated on my nerves. It involved a love triangle on a space station, between two brothers and a girl. I put up with it, thinking “OK, this is going to be some important factor in a decision one of the characters makes later, something that really drives the plot, so I guess I have to grit my teeth and get through this.” Then, one of the gas-giant alien ships shows up and obliterates the space station, killing all three points on the triangle. While I was glad all three characters were dead, there was no reason for me to sit through the love triangle in the first place.
Last year, I posted about the novella Mammoth Dawn, a collaboration between KJA and Gregory Benford.
I’ve recently read three stories by KJA in multi-author collections, but I’m planning posts about each of those collections for the future, so I won’t lay out the story details here.
Straight Outta Tombstone contained a short story featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. This is a KJA character who has his own six-book series, as well as other short stories. I haven’t read any other Dan Shamble stories, but if I’m ever in the mood for a humorous/lighthearted urban fantasy, I may check them out.
KJA’s story in X-Files: Trust No One really felt like an X-files story, which isn’t true of most of the stories in the collection. They usually felt like an [author] story which happened to contain the names “Mulder” and “Scully”. KJA has written a number of stories for whoever owns the X-files IP, so it makes sense he’d get the overall feel right.
Predator: If It Bleeds contained many good stories, and KJA’s was one of them. He has written in the Star Wars IP as well as the above-mentioned X-files, so again, it’s not surprising he got the right feel for a Predator story.
I’ve also recently read a collection of four stories by KJA, Alien Landscapes 1 (I haven’t read a second collection, Alien Landscapes 2). I was planning to describe the four stories here, but I know that as a blogger, I should be writing more-frequent, shorter posts, so I think I’ll try to hammer out a separate review next week.
I feel like I should conclude this post with some sort of definitive statement, like “I’m fed up with this guy, and I wouldn’t read anything else he’s written even if I were being held at gunpoint” or “I’m going to buy everything this guy has ever written, and binge-read it all this weekend without any breaks for bathing or sleep”, but I can’t come up with anything so simple.
KJA has co-authored a good number of novels, so for those, I’ll probably let my opinion of the other author drive my reading choice. When he writes within a corporate IP, he seems to get it right, so if I were interested in the IP, I’d look at his work. The drawn-out intro to the Saga of the Seven Suns makes me reluctant to start any new independent KJA series. It would need a killer blurb or a trusted recommendation to get onto my reading list.
If you’re curious about another author, ask me in the comments, and I’ll let you know whether I’m planning an ‘[author X] and me’ post about them.