Anderson has keyboarded installments beyond number of the Star Wars, X-Files, and, with Brian Herbert, Dune series, hitting the bestseller lists, which he’s also hit in novels with L. Ron Hubbard, Doug Beason, the SF anthology Dogged Persistence (2001), and, most recently, a solo novel, Hopscotch (2002). Now he sets out to create an epic serial saga of his own, saying that his models come from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic fantasy series—and from Terry Brooks’s Shannara novels, which long ago kicked off the Ballantine Del Rey imprint and were indebted to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In Hidden Empire, humans are laggards in space exploration and development and find themselves assisted by the intelligent and advanced race of Ildirans, ruled by a Mage-Emperor. About 11 human generations ago, in the 1940s, the Ildirans discovered the empty cities of the insectlike Klikiss robots on the ice moons of Hyrillka. Now, in 2427, cosmo-archaeologists Margaret and Louis Colicos, who have dug through many lost civilizations, assemble the leaders of the Terran Hanseatic League to witness a discovery they’ve adapted from the Klikiss robot race that vanished 5,000 years ago: How to use the Klikiss Torch and turn a pastel globe of hydrogen gas five times the size of Jupiter into a small sun and, using its many moons, create a new solar system rife with commercial possibilities. But when they implode the ball of gas, a bad thing happens: the awakening of a formerly unknown race, the Hydrogues. Anderson thinks his story character-driven and has already keyboarded Book Two. We find it wondrously imagined and zip-driven in paper-thin rose.
Loyalists will leap aboard and groan with delight at a cliffhanger ending that arrives all too soon.