First in a five-book ""epic,"" Kato's story--based on a popular Japanese comic book and animated film--is set in a 25th century in which each of Earth's dominant cultures has settled in specific sections of interstellar space. Yamato, an imperialistic empire settled by the Japanese, is pushing into the Neutral Zone between their star systems and Amerika, that section of space settled by old America. A huge cast, too many of which are viewpoint characters, makes summarizing the plot difficult, but the story follows three main groups: Amerikan traders, Amerikan Power Brokers and Politicians, and Yamato Samurai. An Amerikan trading expedition is destroyed by Yamato forces deep in the Neutral Zone, fueling the dispute between expansionist and isolationist Amerikans and, ultimately, starting an interstellar version of WW II. Dedicated to James Clavell, this book owes a great deal to his writing: the Amerikan traders' behavior and schemes seem right out of Tai-Pan, and the Yamato Samurai seems right out of Shogun. If one can buy the historical premise and coincidences, the action scenes are exciting, and the Japanese lore seems well researched. However, keeping track of the myriad characters' plots and motivations ranges from difficult to impossible.