Empire of Silence

Book Review

Book 1 of The Sun Eater Series

By Christopher Ruocchio

Science Fiction/Space Opera

5 Stars

Post one in my Favorite Books Series

Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

We all know by now that Dune is my most favorite book–still, after all these years and after reading so many other almost-as-good stories. When Empire of Silence crossed my path, I didn’t know how serendipitous it was until I sat down to listen. I thank the library app for its intuitiveness in offering this as a book I might like. Nailed it!

There are serious Dune vibes in Ruoccio’s Empire. Many call it derivative, but I thought it the perfect blend of a brilliant world mixed with its own elements to create its own thing. Calling Ruocchio’s work derivative, I think, is like calling anything with elves derivative of Lord of the Rings. Mixed with the prose of The Name of the Wind (another favorite of mine), with future-god vibes like Hyperion (a book I didn’t read until others compared this to that and loved), it is the greatest parts of so many great things. There was no other path than for Empire of Silence to become a new favorite of mine, rivaling the long top-ranked Dune (don’t go check my list. I have to update it *shhh* Just trust me).

Ruocchio creates (borrows and blends) a well-wrapped political system and stringently controlled machine and computer use over a multi-thousand world landscape that sets the perfect stage for this opera. With Hadrien an idealistic dreamer set against the backdrop of war and a no-nonsense father, there can only be hardships for him. His melodramatic flair, something I don’t typically appreciate, makes for the perfect center of this tale. First, in rebellion, next, in pushing his nose where it doesn’t belong sets him on a path not even he can anticipate. It makes me wonder just where the line is between forcing ones personal will on the world, versus towing the line because that’s what makes successful civilizations function. I feel like we all like to think we need to assert control over the things that happen to us, but is it our place most of the time? Is that assertion merely an oppression of someone else’s will and/or a combative stance against systems created to allow communities to sustain? I can’t answer this. I don’t even want to, but for Hadrien, I feel like this is the theme of his life. He happens to be correct much of the time, but I wonder, in the following books, if this hubris doesn’t finally catch up to him. If the first page is anything to judge this by, it definitely does.

Recently, I re-read the book and was caught by the perfect sculpting of sentences; each word formed perfectly with those surrounding it to create this story. Great prose is not mutually exclusive with great stories, but in Empire of Silence, it brings an extraordinary tale to another level. The quotables that come from the pages can fill a journal (I have an extensive notes category on my phone dedicated to quotes from this book. I’m on my fourth re-read in 2 years). Gibson should get his own book on philosophy, though I understand he is simply spouting wisdom from figures long past.

Gibson brings up another point about why I adore this book. It makes you think. It speaks of deep social and psychological issues always relevant to individuals and societies. Some passages will make me pause and consider. Certain characters juxtaposing the other will allow a look into multiple perspectives on social commentary not always allowed in our typically defensive natures.

The final book of this series is out, and I have put off reading it because I don’t like the idea of this story ending. I am re-reading the series to come into that final book full and fresh of Hadrian’s perspective Ruocchio created.

Read the next post in this series here.

Happy Reading 🙂


Re-reading my Favorites

There’s a certain nervous expectation when going back to my favorite things. Do you know what I mean? Especially with books (and movies). I’ve found so much of how much I like something depends on my mood and mindset at the time. When I dive back in, there’s always a chance I was somehow out of my mind on that first interaction…

That’s why it’s even more exciting when something is just as fabulous the second and third time. Here’s when you really know you have a favorite among favorites (a FAF? Can we make that a thing?).

The final book of The Sun Eater series came out in December. I was there on release day, picking up my copy, live and in person. Here is a series too good to get in electronic form. These books need to be handled in the real world.

Of course, to properly enjoy Ashes of Man, I had to reread the entire series before diving in. Naturally, my time management sucked and here we are a month later, and I have only just finished book 1 of 5. But that’s okay. This is not a thing to be rushed.

As with the first three (four?) times reading Empire of Silence, I was instantly taken in by the style. Reminiscent of The Name of the Wind (another favorite of mine), I got actual goosebumps as I settled in to read. My first experience with Christopher Ruocchio was through an audiobook, and reading it brought to light details I missed in the distraction of carrying out tasks while I listened. This second read-through had me tagging my favorite passages and quotes, of which there are many. I don’t usually do this, though I love collecting quotes through my Kindle’s highlighter. Here’s the bad thing about not having the e-version (though upon writing this, I’ve added them to my wishlist). I don’t have a system to capture favorite lines with physical books. Only with The Sun Eater have I ever stopped to text out my favorites.

When I think about Hadrian, away from reading, just as I think of Kvothe, I think of an over-dramatic, arrogant person who has more adeptness at whatever they do than is healthy for any individual. Then I reflect on everything that happens to them, and I reconsider. “With great power comes great responsibility,” but also a fierce probability of heinous things happening. Of being ostracized by the people you love and, most horrendously, facing the consequences of your grand gestures and decisions. Both characters share a similar fate in this. Here is why this series keeps me coming back. This equality of dark and light. Of the good with the bad. Of planning a path to find it crumbling beneath them only to see that this path was where they had to end up. On this newest re-read of Empire of Silence, I wonder if Hadrian’s course would have always brought him to his final point. If he hadn’t run, if he’d followed the plan set by his father, would he still have found this operatic end? I think so, but only in an obsessive, over-analyzing mindset can I even pretend to have the discussion. I’d be shocked to hear if even the author ever considered this. There is little point of considering these what-ifs and might-haves in our real lives. Still, I find it a fun thought experiment. And isn’t part of what makes these books so great the fact that we can have these discussions about them? Here is why they’re FAFs. And unlike many series, The Sun Eater gets better with each installment.

It’s strange. I’m a little hesitant to read Ashes of Man, because once I do, it will be over…

Of course, there’s always the coming back to look forward to…

Happy Reading 🙂