Character & Culture: The Course of Empire | Review

The Course of Empire - Eric Flint, K.D. Wentworth, Chris Patton

A complex if slightly cliche SF with a great cast of characters.


Conquered by the Jao twenty years ago, the Earth is shackled under alien tyranny - and threatened by the even more dangerous Ekhat, one of whose genocidal extermination fleets is coming to the solar system. The only chance for human survival is in the hands of an unusual pair of allies: a young Jao prince, newly arrived to Terra to assume his duties, and a young human woman brought up amongst the Jao occupiers. But, as their tentative alliance takes shape, they are under pressure from all sides. A cruel Jao viceroy on one side, determined to drown all opposition in blood; a reckless human resistance on the other, which is perfectly prepared to shed it. Added to the mix is the fact that only by adopting some portions of human technology and using human sepoy troops can the haughty Jao hope to defeat the oncoming Ekhat attack - and then only by fighting the battle within the sun itself.


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The Course of Empire by Eric Flint & KD Wentworth, read by Chris Patton, published by Audible Studios (2012) / Length: 18 hrs 50 min



This is Book #1 of 2 (so far) in the "Jao" series. The 3rd book, The Span of Empire, has been long delayed due to the death of Ms. Wentworth, but is scheduled to be released on Kindle & hardcover today (9/6/16). I did not receive a response regarding the release date for the audiobook.



There are a lot of cliches present in this book: It takes place in America, which was among those who fought the hardest; our weapons might be superior to theirs & we might be able to help them win a war they've been fighting for centuries; we might have won if only we hadn't been so divided etc. But that doesn't mean it isn't well done. This is my kind of military SF - in that it focuses a lot on the characters, especially people who think, and not just on actions.


One of the things that determines if a book is a "repeater" for me, and thus a recipient of more stars, is whether or not it has memorable moments & scenes that I enjoy revisiting. This book has many such "highlights," making it difficult to limit myself to my usual 3 below.



There are 3 main POV characters in this book (and many minor ones). I don't like books with multiple POVs if they are in unconnected plot lines, but these are all part of one main narrative.


Aille krinnu ava Pluthrak: The primary MC. I really enjoyed following him through to the end. I love his openness and commitment to the truth regardless of its implications. I do think that he is a little too perfect, a small flaw or two might have been interesting.


Tully: He was my favorite MC due to his complexity. He is narrow minded & judgemental, but also intelligent & brave. He also experienced the most character growth.


Caitlyn: Her parts were least interesting until later in the book, although I like her as a character. She is "strong," but not in the kick butt kind of way (the Jao are so much stronger that she just stands back during a physical fight). Instead, she endured years of emotional abuse by her guard and didn't let it break her. She watched & learned and was prepared when an opportunity to made a difference arose.


My favorite side characters include: Tamt - I think she is one of most complex of the side characters and I would love to have had more with her / Wrot - he's just fun



This aspect of the book is very complex. There are two alien races, which are very different from each other, and a (semi-)conquered humanity. We are given many details about Jao society both on & off Earth, but not so much about humanity. On the one hand, I would have like to see a bit more about how normal (non-military) society had developed among the humans; but, on the other hand, the book is already a bit long anyway.


I think, perhaps, a bit more about the humans and a bit less about the Governor would have been perfect (and would have served the same purpose). Another complaint is that there are too few female humans (we do get some great new ones in the sequel though) and a complete lack of representation for non-Americans.


The Jao reminded me a little bit of the Martians in Double Star by Robert Heinlein.



It began well with Aille's arrival on Earth. We get to learn about things as he does. As stated above, I feel that the book was a bit too long. The build up to the whaling incident seemed especially stretched to me. Once they got to Salem, things moved much more rapidly.


There is a solid & satisfactory ending to everything but the war against the Ekhat. I like the final scene before the epilogue. I really really dislike the epilogue and what it says about everything that happened & the motivations of certain people. Thankfully I'm good at pretending that such things "never happened."



  • The old man they encounter in Salem (for some reason he reminded me of the MC in Up.)
  • Caitlin & Tamt post-Salem
  • General Stockwell & Colonel Wiley's conversation


I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Lots of swearing (but no F words that I remember) / Pretty much any scene with the Governor as POV / The violence committed by the Ekhat


OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There is a lot of violence -- There are lots of comments on the various mating practices of humans / Jao have "marriage groups" rather than couples (but are celibate except when mating with an assigned partner to produce children) / An engaged couple doesn't wait for their wedding / Certain Jao would like humans to help them change their biology so they can engage in uncommitted recreational sex. [This makes it sound like the book was full of sexual references, it wasn't; but I'm sensitive to such things.]



Character voices differentiated = Yes, for main characters. / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good, especially his use of pauses. I don't know if he was pronouncing Jao words right or not, but they sounded great to me / Emoting = Good / Speed = Good. I listened on 1.25, my usual, but it might be a bit fast for a first time read.


I especially liked the sound of his voice when he was doing all the exposition (i.e. non dialog). And I thought he did a wonderful job of conveying a sense of "accent" when the person was supposedly speaking in Jao but we were reading it in English.



The Course of Empire (Jao #1) by Eric Flint & KD Wentworth, read by Chris Patton, published by Audible Studios (2012) / Length: 18 hrs 50 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

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