Talk about an epic space opera! “Luska”, the first in the Spearfinger series, is a robust story, both in terms of the world building, the amount of developed characters the reader is introduced to, and the far reaching conflict that is introduced. The story starts with the caretakers of the galaxy, the Idrix, being wiped out leaving a power vacuum that disrupts the once peaceful balance the galaxy had been in. Now the different factions that feel neglected or who chaff under a perceived yoke of servitude, rise up and cause wide spread havoc which gives the perfect cover to an even worse threat to come in. An ancient god-like race that is firmly anti-alien threatens everyone and everything, and only a few people are in a position to do anything about it. You can tell just from that really brief synopsis that this is a complex world and story, which I am all for—most of the time.
This is one of those books that requires 100% of your undivided attention. When I was reading it for hours uninterrupted on a plane, I felt the closest to really grasping all the characters and the new terms the author uses for world building purposes. Which may have been fine if the book wasn’t so long; there was just no way I could read this all in one sitting, or at least with enough focus for this nearly 500 page book. This is not the book to read before bed, not because it’s scary by any means, but because you really do have to pay attention to every little thing the author presents—including a host of new terms that are used for different curses, religions, and a bunch of complex names. There is a glossary at the back, but that didn’t house all the words and terms I was coming across, probably because it’s meant to become clear based on context, but the sheer amount of terms which change based on the characters ideologies felt rather overwhelming. This was the biggest barrier to entry for me in terms of really getting into the story and the characters. Because I was confused or lost when these new terms for titles or technologies were introduced with no explanation, I couldn’t really immerse myself in the story, which is too bad because all the different storylines present in the book are otherwise pretty interesting.
We get to see so many different sides of the conflict, both from the “good” and “bad” side of this struggle for dominance; it’s not something you often get in science-fiction! But there are a lot of different perspectives, sometimes of a character you only see a few times, which goes back to my point about how you really have to pay attention to what’s going on and all the different people that come in and out of the story. It was interesting to see how some cultures were so advanced compared to some of the colonies the characters were trying to help—characters travel by horse back, and yet also have an incredibly high tech spaceship equipped with a sentient AI! The contrast was interesting and led to a rich world, even if the shifts between high and low-tech could be a bit jarring at times. I also found the combat to be very well done and realistic in terms of what would happen if a character was injured, and while there is some gore and harsh language, I didn’t find it gratuitous in the slightest.
Robinson clearly poured a lot of time and energy into crafting the religions, races, creatures, and world his characters inhabit. I also found Eidi to be a really relatable character and enjoyed her sass when others tried to baby her or tell her what to do. A lot of research was done, and the fact that the author could keep all his characters and their languages straight is truly impressive! I just wish I didn’t feel so lost all the time, or kept at an arm’s length out of the story because of concepts or unique terms that get used so often but never explained and change from character to character to character. The combat was all well done and the central conflict was interesting—when I finally understood who was who in the greater scheme of things. Still, this is a truly epic read, so if you have the time and mental bandwidth to tackle it and devote yourself to it—and I mean 100% committed—then I recommend you give “Luska” a read! But because of my confusion leaving me with only a vague sense of what was happening for so much of this massive book, this is a 3.5 star for me. But thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review!
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