Review: Empire from the Ashes

Empire From the Ashes - David Weber

Empire from the Ashes is an omnibus containing all three books in the Dahak series.  

The first book in the series quickly introduces us to the rather preposterous premise that Earth’s moon is actually a gigantic spaceship, disguised like a moon.  This spaceship is controlled by a sentient and likeable computer, Dahak, but he no longer has a crew for reasons explained at the beginning of the book.  One of the main characters, Colin, is a normal 21st century human with no idea that there’s intelligent life beyond Earth.  While surveying the moon with newly developed surveying equipment, he stumbles upon the fact that there’s more to the moon than meets the eye.  Before he can share his findings, he’s captured by Dahak who convinces him to become the ship’s captain so he can help Dahak deal with some pressing issues that affect the safety of Earth.  

I definitely had some quibbles with the premise, but the story started off in an interesting way that quickly caught my imagination and I was able to overlook (mostly) some of the crazier aspects of the premise.  The first book had a lot of enjoyable parts, but it also had some pretty slow parts, with long and drawn-out battle scenes that weren’t always easy to follow.  

The second book, on the other hand, started out quite slow with lots of detailed preparations for facing a looming threat.  It took me a long time to get through the first half of the second book.  However, I really enjoyed the second half.  The second half had a lot of long and drawn-out battle scenes but, unlike the battle scenes in the first book, I thought they were well-written and much easier to follow so that I could picture them in my head.  I also enjoyed the antagonists of this book which were much more interesting and multi-dimensional than those in the first book.

The first two books made up the first half of the omnibus and, after the slow parts in the first two books, I was worried I would get bogged down in the longer third book forever.  However, the third book was really good.  In fact, I wished it were longer.  I made time to read it when I really should have been doing more important things.  The first part spanned several years in which the offspring of some of the main characters from the first two books grew up and became young adults.  At that point, the story split off into two directions.  One part of the story focused on the older generation and had a lot of political intrigue.  The other part of the story focused on the younger generation.  The younger generation found themselves caught up in a major crisis that they had to deal with on their own.  Without spoiling anything, I wasn’t too happy with the way they handled the crisis, but I could understand why they made the choices they did.  In any case, their story was still very entertaining to read about.

I liked the main characters quite a bit.  I’ve definitely read better character building, but the main characters were reasonably well fleshed-out and likeable and I enjoyed the camaraderie between them.  I also really liked the sentient computer, Dahak.  Some of the main antagonists, on the other hand, were very one-dimensional, full of evil ambition with no moral concerns whatsoever, wanting little more out of life than ultimate power at any cost.  Those characters got tiresome.  But there were some antagonists with more depth to them, and I enjoyed those.  The first book was mostly the former, the second book was mostly the latter, and the third book had both types.  

All of the main threads were tied up reasonably well by the end of the omnibus.  There were some hanging threads from the second book, but mainly because the resolution was likely a few centuries in the future which was outside the time frame of the series.  I therefore wasn’t much bothered by it because the main events were wrapped up and I didn’t really want to jump that far into the future to find out what happened next in that storyline.  But I did wish the third book’s ending had been fleshed out better.  We were given a resolution for all of the main events, but things were wrapped up extremely fast.  When I saw I was at the 98% mark in the book, I remember thinking there was no way there was going to be a proper resolution within the remaining pages and I was afraid that it would end in an outright cliffhanger.  We saw what happened up to the point where the tide started to turn in favor of our main characters, but then we jumped immediately to a point after the final resolution.  We didn’t actually get to see the final successes happen or really spend much time with the characters after the problems were resolved.   This was why I mentioned earlier that I wished the third book had been longer – I wanted a longer and more detailed ending.

I had trouble deciding on the star rating since my enjoyment varied quite a bit throughout the omnibus.  If I rated the first two books by themselves, I would probably want to give 3.5 stars.  But the third book, which represented half of the omnibus, was definitely 4 stars.  So I’m going to go with 4 for the whole omnibus.