Ahh middle ground, that oft traversed yet little expounded area of contemporary literature criticism yet, funnily enough, where the majority of fiction lies. Much easier to give a thumbs up or thumbs down than precisely describe or recognize what makes a book average material, I hope my review of Walter Jon Williams’ 1990 space opera The Praxis, first in the Dread Empire’s Fall trilogy, holds to a different standard.
The few known alien species of the universe, humanity among them, have been united under an overlord race calling themselves the Shaa. Living for thousands of years and possessing unheard of technology, the Shaa enforce a draconian rule of law known as the Praxis that keeps all species living in relative harmony. But something has come over the Shaa. For several years they have been slowly killing themselves in announced, ritual ceremonies. Now, only one remains, the Shaa of Shaas, and it too has scheduled its own death, which in turn will leave all races without a leader. The Praxis is the first chapter telling of the resulting power vacuum.