Another entry in Harlan's Sixth Sun series (House of Reeds, 2004, etc.), in which a Japan-Méxica (Aztec) alliance has conquered Earth and established a galactic empire.
In a galaxy brimming with hostile and inscrutable alien races, the Imperials have discovered another dangerous, immensely powerful First Sun artifact in a remote region of space; it will shred any object that approaches too close. Intelligence agent Green Hummingbird and his psychically talented assistant Gretchen Anderssen have been assigned to investigate. Also drawing close to the artifact aboard a huge battleship is Prince Xochitl, along with a secret Artificial Intelligence. To everybody's astonishment, a massive alien Khaid battle fleet shows up and immediately attacks. Normally disorganized, the piratical Khaid somehow have acquired discipline and purposeful cohesion. The Prince’s ship is destroyed, and he takes to a lifeboat. Anderssen, using a weird antique alien computer given her by Hummingbird, guides a rescue ship towards both Xochitl and the artifact. Halfway through the book, neither we nor the characters yet know what's going on or why. To the fog of space warfare, Harlan brings crackling excitement if little realism: Think Star Wars rather than Heinlein.
Less culturally and psychologically complex than hitherto—disappointingly so—but with plenty of computer-game–style battle sequences to keep combat fans happy.