Sometimes it’s hard to pick up sci-fi books from the 80s and 90s because there is just too high a chance that it’s bad. The science has changed, and we are smarter people these days. But Timothy Zahn’s ‘Conqueror’s Saga’ is a triumph, and lacks all the cliches that can sometimes make older science fiction hard to read.
That’s why it’s the subject of today’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past.
The series starts ordinarily enough. A human ship encounters an alien species that has never been seen by the known galaxy. The captain, with visions of his name in the history books flipping through his mind, engages in all the common procedures for first contact. They proceed to hang out and wait for a response when… well, you guessed it… the aliens attack and demolish everyone in sight, with only one survivor.
Sounds typical, doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you, even when you know what the outcome is, the drama and mystery surrounding the attack is so well written, you feel yourself inhabiting the characters as they experience it. Though, no one should be surprised. Timothy Zahn is well-known in the writing community for writing vivid science fiction that engages the reader from page one.
The story focuses on the war that starts between Humans and this new race called the Conquerors while the other races scramble to take advantage and vie for more political power as the two move to annihilate each other. So while it’s a rough and tumble military book about a daring rescue, there is a lot of political meat to it as well.
The second book is interesting in that it takes place in the viewpoint of the Conqueror race, which is rare in science fiction. Engaging with “the other” is unusual, and Zahn does it deliberately, giving meaning to the possibilities of contact between two distinctly different species. It’s too easy to label an opposing species as “evil” and think about survival, but Zahn turns it on its head. He essentially says, “You know how you thought the Conquerors were evil? Well, it’s time you empathized with one.”
The third book? Well, I don’t want to spoil the ending. Needless to say, even with sort of trite ending, Zahn writes so well you feel nothing but satisfied.
You can pick up ‘Conquerors’ Pride’, ‘Conquerors’ Heritage’, and ‘Conquerors’ Legacy’ used or new anywhere. All three books are quick reads, and they are fun ones too. Go pick them up!