An intergalactic empire struggles under the weight of its resurrected dead, while a story struggles to get moving. In the first entry in this new series from Westerfeld (Evolution’s Darling, 2000, etc.), we have the Risen Empire, 80-or-so worlds bound together for the past 1500 years by the divine presence of the Emperor, who sacrifices himself in order to be risen again. Of course, coming back from the dead is only for the very noble or very rich, so with each passing generation spontaneity and innovation are leached out of the Empire by its young-looking but ancient-thinking leaders. Nibbling at the Empire’s borders are the fearsome Rix, who maniacally serve the idea of all minds becoming one. The action unfolds during the course of an Imperial rescue attempt on a remote planet where a small band of Rix commandos have taken the Child Empress hostage and are busy converting the planet to Rix-ian compound thinking. Once a planet’s data systems have gone Rix, the only way to fix them is to bomb the place back into the Stone Age. In between breathless action sequences, Westerfeld treats us to flashbacks, many horrendously slow, regarding some Imperial intrigue and a romance between a pacifist Senator and the hard-as-nails Imperial officer tasked with rescuing the Child Empress. By the time all that is handled, the story is over, seemingly before it quite began.
Not much more than an exposition-heavy introduction to a sequel—though sprightly enough for what it is.