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Scott Westerfeld – The Killing of Worlds

February 4, 2009

14. The Killing of Worlds by Scott Westerfeld (2003)
Succession, Book 2

Read my review of book 1, The Risen Empire

Length: 428 pages
Genre: Science Fiction

Started: 02 February 2008
Finished: 04 February 2008

How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 17 October 2008 (yes, I mooched the second book in the series without having the first. Shame.)
Verdict? I think this book actually even redeems the first one back up to Keeper status, pending bookshelf space.

More tech talk and space
fights, but I knew a story
was in there somewhere!

Summary: Following the Rix attack on on the homeworld of the Emperor’s sister, a new threat has emerged. Alexander, the planet-sized compound mind seeded by the Rix, is in possession of the Emperor’s greatest secret, and a Rix battleship with a communications array is moving to receive a message from the planet. Laurent Zai and the crew of the Imperial frigate Lynx must stop that transmission at any cost. For if they should fail, the Emperor is prepared to nuke the entire planet… because what are hundreds of millions of lives to protect the secret that holds the Empire together…

Review: I was about ready to give this series up after 50 pages of the first book, but I’m glad I stuck it out. I don’t know whether Westerfeld front-loaded the technobabble world-building into The Risen Empire, and left most of it out of this one, or if I just got better at skimming over the tech-heavy parts (or probably some of both), but I enjoyed this book quite a bit more than the previous one. The entire first half of the book is consumed by the battle between the Lynx and the Rix battleship, and it kept me entirely involved – not only understanding the maneuverings and their outcomes, but caring how each step of the process turned out. The rest of the book was similarly interesting, ultimately building to an satisfying conclusion. Part of me wished that Westerfeld had taken some more time to explore the ramifications of the conclusion, to untangle more of the philosophical implications, and to show us what happened afterwards… but part of me also recognizes the power inherent in the subtle and understated way he chose to end things. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I wasn’t mistaken when I could sense a good, interesting story underneath the techno jargon of The Risen Empire; Westerfeld really allowed it to come to the fore in the second volume, which meant I enjoyed it more. Still, I think the series is probably best for those who like extremely tech-y “hard” sci-fi, and may be worth a gamble for “softer” sci-fi fans who are willing to branch out of their comfort zone… or at least willing to skim in parts.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Unsurprising that since I couldn’t find any reviews of the first volume, I couldn’t find any for this one either. If you have one I missed, leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The contrail of a supersonic aircraft blossomed weakly in the thin, dry air, barely marking the sky.


  • p. 134: “And to clear the palette, twenty milliliters of vodka to end each course had been infused with lychee, rambutan, papaya, and mangosteen in turn” – the bright-red oval fruit of a Malayan, sapindaceous tree, Nephelium lappaceum, covered with soft spines, or hairs, and having a subacid taste; the juicy, edible fruit of an East Indian tree, Garcinia mangostana.
  • p. 147: “The ablative suit – recovered, like the rebreather, from a supersonic aircraft emergency store – was insulated enough to keep her from freezing.” – tending to ablate; i.e. to be removed or vaporized at very high temperature
  • p. 174: “Even now, all they had was an occultation: a milliseconds-long dimming of a few background stars.” – the passage of one celestial body in front of another, thus hiding the other from view
10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2009 11:09 pm

    I am so worn out that all I can think to say is, “Neato burrito.”

  2. February 6, 2009 11:39 am

    Nancy – Not that I don’t love getting comments, but they’re not worth you sacrificing sleep over! Also, “nifty enchilada!” :)

  3. February 10, 2009 8:00 am

    Ooh, cool idea to highlight vocab words in your review. Love it, and I might steal it! ;-)

  4. February 10, 2009 8:51 am

    Kelly – Please feel free to steal! I started it as a way of keeping track of my words for myself; it’s always nice to hear that other people find it interesting too.

  5. February 10, 2009 6:56 pm

    Scott Westerfeld suffers from FFF: Fervent Feline Fanatacism. The man has an unhealthy obsession with cats! Seriously, a book about a symbiote (not a parasite, Scotty) that uses cats as a vector, then a book about how cats supposedly created human civilization. My prediction for his next book: a post-apocalyptic tail (pun intended) about the rise of felinus sapiens as the scentient race after the humans wipe themselves out.

    I do enjoy his books though and am actually willing to give Uglies another try. He could have toned down the techno-babble, but after years of living amongst scientists, I’ve learned to tune out everything, but the essentials ;-D

  6. February 11, 2009 11:03 am

    after years of living amongst scientists, I’ve learned to tune out everything but the essentials

    Pppppbbbbbth! :-P

    I choose to believe that he’s actually warning us *against* cats, like any sane person would. :) Being a vector is not usually a good thing, and it’s the Emperor’s theory about cats creating human civilization, but the Emperor’s kind of a nutbar.

  7. trapunto permalink
    February 11, 2009 3:06 pm

    Exactly. See, in the throes of Fervent Feline Fanaticism, like religious fanatcisim, one can both love and fear the venerated object without any feeling of conflict. So far I’ve noted three fantasy/sci-fi novelists with severe FFF, all men. Maybe the women downplay their obssession in print? I have a mild case myself, but I try not to mention it so as not to alienate dog lovers.

    I read both of these books several years ago and retained absolutely no shred of the plot, just the vague sense that, “those were pretty good.” Tech-y space opera does that to me.

  8. February 12, 2009 8:48 am

    Well, The Book of Night with Moon had as rampant a case of FFF as I’ve ever seen, and that was written by a woman. What else… George R. R. Martin’s Tuf stories have it, but I don’t think it’s really characteristic of the author as a whole.

  9. May 11, 2009 6:20 am

    I grew up with rambutan and mangosteen and didn’t realize that people from the other part of the world may never even have heard of them :)

  10. May 11, 2009 11:31 am

    mee – Okay, so, help a girl from a different hemisphere out… what do they actually taste like?

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