Kevin J. Anderson: overworked genius or soulless bot?

Circa six months ago I was walking around one of Changi’s bookstores, bleary eyed and grumpy, after a particularly gruelling first leg from Frankfurt to Christchurch. A nicely designed Science Fiction paperback caught my eye: ‘Hidden Empire’, (the first in a seven novel series) by a person naming him/herself Kevin J. Anderson (you never know with all those pseudonyms floating around) promised to be a ‘Space Opera at its most entertaining’ and because I wasn’t awake enough to read anything more sensible, I bought the thing. The cover design was just too nice and shiny and it promised aliens and spaceships. What else does a man need before attempting his second 11 hour flight in a row?

To come to a belated point: I read the thing in one go. Not because it’s astonishingly great, no. Kevin can’t really handle dialogue very well and some of his protagonists are rather contrived and not particularly multilayered, but it hums along at a nice pace, has a cast of literally dozens, and, by Shatner, the guy can spin a yarn. And he can hold it together. He is now writing the seventh installation of this pulp fiction epic and I imagine him standing in a room full of little notes pinned to the wall reminding him what actually happened and what his creations are a actually called again. Well, there are Jess, Rlonda, Jora'h, Dobro, Nira, Margaret, Lewis, Sirix, DD, UT, PT, Anton, Benuto, Peter, Esterra, Basi, Dean, Lanyan, Peter, Cesca, Osira'h and plenty of other people with apostrophes in their names.

So, it’s not great literature, far from it: He really doesn’t have a sense of humour, lacks Pratchett’s irony and sense for language, but if spaceships, nasty robots, insectoid overlords, cute AI’s and heroic aliens are your thing and you like your baddies wearing black and red and the heroes white and green then these are your books.

Not that I endorse that sort of thing.

I just bought the sixth installment. Just to leer at it, of course.

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