Rating: 5 out of 5
Michael Wallace is an author who cut his teeth on fantasy, then made a name for himself writing gothic contemporary thrillers, and moved on to finding even more success in historical fiction.
So obviously, when I went to dive into science fiction again after years of ignoring the genre, he’s the author I chose.
It ended up being a very wise choice.
A positive aspect of authors who find success in multiple genres is that the aspects of those different genres bleed into, even precept, their current projects. In Queen of the Void, the first novel in the Void Queen trilogy, Wallace uses this to great success. What the author has created is a universe hundreds of years in the future, where space travel is the norm and alien races have both been discovered and warred against, that reinvents facets of his vast knowledge of fantasy and history.
This is a space opera that borrows from our real, earth-time history. It’s a reimagining of the height of the
set on starships in the middle of the inky blackness of space instead of the
Celtic, North, and Norwegian seas. The various cultural sects directly correlate
to the players of 11th- to 15th-century European history:
Albionese are the Britons at the height of their colonialism; the Landino
represent Spain, Britain’s sometimes-ally and explorers of the high seas; the
Singaporians call on the Song Dynasty’s ingenuity and technological
advancements; and finally, the Scandians, the Vikings of lore, only here
Wallace subverts expectations—instead of a plague bringing an end to the
constant raiding and occupation of a hyper-aggressive people, it instead serves
as the reason for their burgeoning bloodlust. Rather brilliant, if you ask me.
The story itself is rather simple: Catarina Vargas, the youngest daughter in a longtime pirate family, has decided to settle her own isolated nook of the galaxy. Only her plans are thwarted by the Albionese Royal Navy, who then bring her on to help set up an outpost in Scandian space, to allow for the Navy to build a supply line for a continuation of a war with aliens (bird-like beings called Apex) that is sure to come. Of course, wackiness ensues, and it’s all rather glorious.
Wallace has done a lot of work to invent a concept of space travel and warfare that is believable, and again based on very real history. The concept of traveling through jump points to different sections of the universe is an old one, but the author does a bang-up job of making it not so easy of a proposition. The prospect of space-warfare-as-naval-battle is another tried and true model, used here to an effect that almost borders on hyper-realism. I really can’t say enough about how expertly these battle scenes are put together, how well they flow, and how gripping they feel. It all just seems so real, even the parts you know are logically impossible, which is the highest praise you can give to a work of science fiction.
In closing, let me say yes, this book is awesome. I’ll be checking out the rest of the series soon, and then likely dive into the set of novels Wallace published before this, titled Starship Blackbeard, which takes place in the same universe. So get this book, people. It’s a hell of a smart, enjoyable ride. You’ll have a good time, no matter what genre you prefer.