Age of Empyre by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“The stories I write might be fantasy, but the depiction of the feelings people share for each other is real.”
I’m cheating. The above quote is not from the actual content but from Michael’s afterword. I chose it for the simple fact that, to me at least, this is what makes Michael’s books “work” for me. But we’ll come to that yet…
First, I have to admit that I was actually afraid of reading this book. “Age of Death”, this book’s predecessor, was not exactly my favourite. It felt long, uninspired, weighed down by metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.
The creative playfulness, the lightness, was mostly missing and those were important reasons I really liked the books before it. Would “Age of Empyre” “fix” this and as easily achieve what the first four books did?
“Brin felt altogether miserable. The written language was her one thing, her life’s achievement. She’d spent years creating, refining, and polishing the system. It was the accomplishment she was proudest of, at least until a moment ago.”
… where early on the wheel was invented and Michael actually managed to make me believe it could have happened the way he envisioned it, this feels a bit more heavy-handed as you can see.
And, yet, we do get a glimpse of the wonders that made the earlier books so good here as well.
Metaphysics are back as well but they feel less forced and actually intrinsically make sense – especially the idea of both literally and metaphorically becoming “light”(er) by freeing oneself from whatever bogs us down appeals to me.
Once more, Michael gets almost everything right – every loose end is wrapped up and seemingly disconnected events unavoidably lead to the brilliant conclusion not only of this book but the entire series.
Overall, all the choices Michael makes for his characters (and there are some I didn’t entirely like) are great. His way of telling his story is above reproach and I stick to what I wrote early about the series being his magnum opus.
Why is that? Because Michael.
The feelings he tells us are real, feel real. I don’t know Michael personally but after having read thousands of pages he wrote, I’ve come to see him as a bright beacon of hope, empathy and love.
In his protagonists’ darkest hours, there’s hope…
“That’s what stories are for, Brin realized. They are magic that aid people in times like this. They provide hope, a light to see by when all others are snuffed out.”
… and love of all kinds…
“A mouse trapped in a corner by a bear will still fight for survival. Love, he came to realize, was like that. No matter the odds, love refused to give up.”
… as well as empathy and forgiveness. That, basically, is what the tremendous and epic story Michael has told us is about.
The human warmth Michael’s books practically exude (combined with his good-natured humour) shine through in many places (major spoiler ahead so think hard before you reveal it!):
The afterwords of both Michael and his wife Robin shed light on some decisions and opinions and greatly helped to get “the big picture”.
Michael, Robin, should you read this: Thank you for doing this and allowing me to help via Kickstarter. It was a wonderful, amazing, brilliant ride and please, please, please keep on writing – whatever it is, I’m going to read it.
You two are the real Legends – and you didn’t even have to die! 😉
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