Tuesday, 3 February 2015
Shades of Empire - Carmen Webster Buxton
Title: Shades of Empire
Author: Carmen Webster Buxton
“Shades of Empire” by Carmen Webster Buxton is a Science Fiction novel set in her ThreeCon Universe. The novel follows events on the planet Gaulle which is ruled by a brutal, decadent Emperor. He forcibly drafts his male subjects into his army and, in the case of women, into his personal harem or military brothels. When, Alexander, a soldier in the Imperial Guard attempts to rescue a concubine, he is caught and sent into Space, contained within a lifepod where he is forced to watch the rape and torture of the concubine over and over again. However, as luck would have it, a passing smuggler rescues him from his torment and so begins an adventure involving, the imperial family, rebellions and ThreeCon’s own espionage network.
The first thing I need to mention here is that the book does contain a fair amount of unsettling elements. There is nothing graphic or explicit but there is quite a lot of rape present and even an incestuous relationship. For me, it wasn’t overdone and it helped to really drive home the decadence of the society and people on Gaulle but I suspect some readers may be turned off by its rather constant presence.
I found the story itself to be very interesting with a good mixture of action, intrigue and suspense. The beginning was a little bit slow as Buxton tried to introduce her vast array of characters but once they were all in place the pace picked up adequately. This large quantity of characters really pushed home the point that the book is on the whole a character driven story. You really get to see the story from everyone’s point of view, the rebels, the Imperial family and the various external forces.
The characters themselves were a mixed bag, there are people in there for you to love, people to hate and people that you just wish had been developed further. In the end though Buxton only has so many pages to try and explore everyone but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more development of the “bad guys” such as the Emperor and his sister as there was no real explanation for their decadence and brutality. The one character that really stood out to be however was Peter Barranca, he was wonderfully developed with a sense of decency that shown quite brightly against the darkness which surrounded him.
Overall, this was another thoroughly enjoyable Buxton novel that tries to provide the reader with a story from everyone’s point of view. Yes, this large array of characters does result in some lacking in development and slow initial period but the final result is entertaining and interesting to behold.