Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the first novel in the Humanity’s Fire series, a collection of Space Opera novels written by Michael Cobley and published in the United Kingdom by Orbit Books.
“Fantastic Imagination. Cobley’s series opener is certainly ambitious.” ~The Founding Fields
Every so often, you come across a book that you enter with high expectetations. For example, every novel in the Horus Heresy series, I enter with high expectations. Every Dresden Files novel I enter with high expectations. Most of the time, my high expectations are rewarded. However, I don’t exactly know why I began Seeds of Earth with expactations, and that was probably my mistake. But, that’s not to say I didn’t dislike all of the first installment in the Humanity’s Fire series, oh no – otherwise I wouldn’t have made it through the novel. But before we go any further, let’s take a look at the summary of the novel, stolen from Michael Cobley’s website because I probably won’t do the summary justice:
The first intelligent species to encounter mankind attacked without warning. Merciless. Relentless. Unstoppable. With little hope of halting the invasion, Earth’s last roll of the dice was to dispatch three colony ships, seeds of Earth, to different parts of the galaxy. The human race would live on … somewhere.
150 years later, the planet Darien hosts a thriving human settlement, which enjoys a peaceful relationship with an indigenous race, the scholarly Uvovo. But there are secrets buried on Darien’s forest moon. Secrets that go back to an apocalyptic battle fought between ancient races at the dawn of galactic civilisation. Unknown to its colonists Darien is about to become the focus of an intergalactic power struggle, where the true stakes are beyond their comprehension. And what choices will the Uvovo make when their true nature is revealed and the skies grow dark with the enemy?
And so, we have the backdrop for Seeds of Earth. There’s nothing there about the main characters, but from that blurb alone, I was drawn in and found myself wanting to find more. As it turns out, there were several main characters in Seeds of Earth, and Cobley introduces each chapter with the characters names as titles, in a similar way to the popular A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. Although I have no issues with this myself, (I personally loved the way that GRRM used them in his novels), it was just that the chapters themselves were too short for us to learn more about the character that this particular chapter was focusing on. Now, onto the main characters themselves.
First, we have Greg Cameron, a Uvovo Researcher who is friends with another one of the main characters, Chel, who is a Uvovo Scholar. Greg’s uncle, Theodore Karlsson, was once a major in the army, but now the Govenor of Darien. Other characters also include another Uvovo Researcher, Catriona Macreadie, as well as several others. Yeah, there’s a lot. But then, Seeds of Earth could only be told by a large variety of characters, for it’s not the sort of novel that could work with just one or two characters the focus of this novel’s third-person POV strutcture.
Seeds of Earth itself is a pretty hefty tomb, with the version that I have standing in at 620 pages – and it’s not a quick read, at least – throughout the first half of the novel, which I found a real chore to get through. However, through the second half, everything kind of shifted into gear and got moving – which I was thankful that it happened, but would ovbiously have prefered it the step-up in pace had happened sooner in the novel.
You can tell though, that the author put a lot of thought into creating this world. The scope is epic and the sequel has the potential to improve. If the novel had ended halfway through, I wouldn’t have bothered with picking up Orphaned Worlds, (Book Two), but I’m probably going to try and search it out when my book backlog is trimmed.
The aliens in Seeds of Earth are a somewhat dissapointment, feeling more like humans than they probably should be. Despite that though, Cobley’s novel is full with fantastic imagination, and if Orphaned Worlds can be better than the second half of the series opener, then it will have been worth a look into. Plus, the cover art for Orphaned Worlds looks awesome, check this baby out:
Pretty awesome, don’t you think? I mean, I always enjoy Space Opera novel covers, and this one’s no different. A burning spaceship floating above a planet, with an Iain M. Banks quote and a title that has to be one of the best uses of a title that I’ve seen in a while.
More Humanity’s Fire: Seeds of Earth, Orphaned Worlds, Ascendant Stars
More Michael Cobley: Iron Mosiac (Anthology), Shadowkings, Shadow God, Shadowmasque.