Dread Empire’s Fall: The Praxis

Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 1, 2004

Dread Empire’s Fall: The Praxis by Walter Jon Williams

Ten people attended this discussion on a hot n’ humid evening in central Austin at the home of Willie & Charles Siros. Nine people had started the book, eight finished, and eight had read WJW before.

Part one of a trilogy, The Praxis presents a galaxy of several races “at peace” after being conquered into submission by the Shaa. In place is an empire heavy with any corruption that can flourish between the lines of the Shaa’s ruling compact, the Praxis. After the last Shaa passes away, a rebellion pops up like a Texas thundercloud in June as various groups struggle for power or freedeom. The novel follows two very different characters through this change.

One reader felt the book was a wonderful parody of the space opera style. Rather than a tightly run, efficient empire, the Shaa’s style lends more to “the peter principle under murphy’s law.” Rather than noble characters battling evil, the protagonists are constantly fighting against incompetent shipmates and a social structure that celebrates a person’s money and connections rather than ability. The rest of the readers reported few funny or satirical moments, and although there were some amusing scenes, the book was not a comedy. But another reader equaled the book to an 18th century comedy of manners. Yet another was unsure of what style the book was in. Is it a character study? Story where stuff blows up? Neither style furthered the other which made for frustrating reading.

No one was surprised at the identify theft subplot and agreed that its presentation in an episodic fashion was so Sula could be presented as a sympathetic character. One reader asked does Gredel’s killing of Cora make her a villain? The method of the ID theft seemed too easy for future scope of the novel.

One reader thought the writing could have been smoother. A few readings from the text did have us twitching. Ex: “sodden despair” or the hero tasting and smelling vertigo. The space opera devotees again argued this was another aspect to the genre that was marvelously executed. Same for complaints against the info dump opening. Despite our quibbles there were also comments like “strangely entertaining…compelled to finish-and quickly.” Some people were already reading or had finished the 2nd book and are waiting on the 3rd.

Many people thought the novel was a obviously commercial attempt but wished the author success. One reader hoped WJW makes enough money to go back and finish Metropolitan.

Afterwards several people went to Hut’s Hamburgers for Chuck’s birthday.

–Judy Strange