The Orphaned Worlds by Michael Cobley
Because I read about two-hundred books a year, I’m frequently in the position of having to come into a series at an intermediate point (note to publishers: not everyone likes series or serials). Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem. Although not entirely writing each book as a stand-alone, most authors take the time and trouble to structure the narrative so that newbies like myself can be given necessary background information as we go along. It’s also helpful to seniors like myself who often forget what happened in the last book we read in the series and need reminding as we start the next. The longer the gap between each new instalment, the more necessary the infodumps become.
The Orphaned Worlds by Michael Cobley (Orbit, 2012) Book II of Humanity’s Fire kicks off with six-and-a-half pages summarising “what has gone before”. I was filled with hope. The author and publisher had decided to help out everyone except those lucky enough to have inherited an eidetic memory. Except when it came to the text of the book itself, I didn’t find the summary of much use. I understood we were on a world called Darien and there were bad guys locked away in a hidden prison under the planet’s surface. So far so good. But the way in which this book begins completely failed to catch my attention. In part this arises from the author’s decisions about how the narrative is structured into separate chunks with different points of view and no apparent link between them. But my problems were enhanced by the prose style. I’m usually prepared to soldier on with the story if I find the prose accessible and interesting in its own right. Sadly, I found this turgid and indigestible. The result is that this book has become the first book of 2013 to be thrown away. I managed to get one-hundred-and-fifty or so pages through it, but just couldn’t take any more.
I see from this author’s website that all three books have been published in the UK and that he’s on to the next exciting book called Ancestral Machines. So if you enjoyed Seeds of Earth, the first in this trilogy, this is no doubt more of the same and The Ascendant Stars, the concluding volume, will be out in the US shortly. Otherwise, this is not a book I can recommend you pick up, let alone open.