The Killing of Worlds (Succession Series #2)

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Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial frigate Lynx is a walking dead man. Unjustly held responsible for the death of the Child Empress, sister of the Immortal Emperor, Zai has been sent to fight an unwinnable battle. The Lynx must stop a vastly superior Rix ship from reaching the planet Legis, a suicide mission that will almost certainly end in oblivion for Captain Zai and his crew.

On the planet Legis below, a Rix compound mind - a massive emergent AI formed from every computer ...

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The Killing of Worlds: Book Two of Succession

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Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial frigate Lynx is a walking dead man. Unjustly held responsible for the death of the Child Empress, sister of the Immortal Emperor, Zai has been sent to fight an unwinnable battle. The Lynx must stop a vastly superior Rix ship from reaching the planet Legis, a suicide mission that will almost certainly end in oblivion for Captain Zai and his crew.

On the planet Legis below, a Rix compound mind - a massive emergent AI formed from every computer on the planet - has been isolated by their Imperial Blockade. But the mind has guided a lone Rix commando, Herd, to the planet's frozen north, and will soon order a desperate attempt to seize a polar communications array and break the blockade. Herd is a single warrior against the Imperial army, but moving silently behind her is the intelligence of an entire planet.

Ten light-years away, Captain Zai's true love, the psychic (some say mad) Senator Nara Oxham is engaged in a deadly game of political intrigue. From her position on the Emperor's War Council, Senator Oxham must find a way to forestall the Emperor's final solution if the blockade is broken: a nuclear strike to destroy the compound mind, which will also kill millions of Imperial citizens. She suspects that the Emperor has a hidden weakness discovered, by the mind, a secret so dangerous to his immortal dynasty that to prevent its discovery the Emperor is willing to countenance the ultimate crime... The killing of worlds.\

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In the tradition of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and Frank Herbert’s Dune books. With a light touch all his own, Westerfeld illumines the clash of mighty galactic empires by focusing on individuals who, despite the distractions of war and politics, cannot help falling in love.”
—The New York Times on The Risen Empire
Publishers Weekly
After Westerfeld's excellent first installment, The Risen Empire (2003), in which a far-future empire of 80 worlds depends on its ruler's ability to give his most loyal subjects immortality, this concluding sequel comes as something of a letdown. That said, the author does a superb job of depicting an escalating space battle between human and rival Rix (cyborg) forces, with its constantly amazing but logical weapons and tactics, as well as political maneuvering back at the imperial capital. Vivid characterization and a witty, laconic style lift this far above the space-opera average. Readers, though, will need to go back to the first book to understand what makes the struggle between the empire and the Rix significant to meet Laurent Zai, brilliant space captain, whose allegiance to the emperor is weakening, and his lover, Senator Nara Oxham, who believes that the promise of immortality is choking human evolution. Without this personal perspective, the displays of military hardware come across as merely clever. At the end, huge promising and threatening changes have just begun. Despite the billing as the second half of the story, some may suspect that there's at least a third half lurking offstage. (Oct. 22) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.\
Library Journal
In a universe where the Risen Emperor has discovered the secret of returning life to the dead, the individuals known as the Risen form an elite ruling class within an Empire that fears only the Rix, a faction of machine-integrated humans determined to overthrow the Emperor and seize the Empire for their own. In the face of a new onslaught by the Rix, disgraced Capt. Laurent Zai finds himself forced to accept a suicide mission to halt a Rix invasion with his ship alone. In the meantime, his lover, a Senator in the Empire, discovers that the Emperor has a secret that could undermine his authority were it uncovered. The sequel to The Risen Empire combines fast-paced space battles with scenes of high intrigue and subtle danger and features protagonists driven by their sense of honor and loyalty to each other. With particular appeal to fans of space opera and sf intrigue, this title belongs in most collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.\
The concluding half of a superior space adventure yarn, filled with romance, betrayal, and terrific ordnance.
The successor to The Risen Empire is just as fine a rip-roaring space opera, with its strength residing in the characters, all of them involved in believable dilemmas, even Herd, the supposedly emotionless cyborg Rix soldier who finds love.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765320520
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Series: Succession Series , #2
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 549,439
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is a software designer, a composer of music for modern dance, and the author of four previous novels. He lives in New York City and Sydney, Australia.

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Read an Excerpt

The Killing of Worlds

Book Two of Succession

By Westerfeld, Scott
Tor Books
Copyright © 2008

Westerfeld, Scott
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780765320520

Militia Worker
The contrail of a supersonic aircraft blossomed weakly in the thin, dry air, barely marking the sky.
Rana Harter imagined the passengers far above: reclining in sculpted crash-safe chairs, the air they breathed scented with some perfumed disinfectant, perhaps being served some light snack now, midway to their destination. From up there, other contrails would be visible through windows of transparent hypercarbon. Most long-haul air routes on Legis passed over the pole. The continents were clustered in the northern hemisphere, far from the raging equatorial sea and the vast, silent ocean of the south. Air transit routes converged here at the pole like the lines on a dribble-hoop ball, this tundral waste an empty junction, overflown but never visited.
Rana had never traveled on an aircraft before Herd had brought her here. She could only blurrily imagine airborne luxury, the gaps in her vision filled with the sound of wealthy people’s music: soft strings repeating the same slow phrase.
She watched the wind move driftsnow across the plain, and noted the direction and speed of the few scudding clouds. Her brainbug made a prediction. The contrail reached a certain point and Rana said, “Now.”
At that moment, the contrail jagged suddenly, a sharp angle marringits slow curve. A few pieces of detritus caught the sun, flickering with their spin, falling from the supersonic craft with the apparent slow motion of great distance.
The plane quickly recovered, righting its course.
Rana imagined the sudden, sickening lurch inside the cabin. Glasses of champagne flying, trays and hand luggage upset, every object leaping toward the ceiling as the plane lost a thousand meters of altitude in a few seconds. The unexpected opening of the cargo hold would instantly double the plane’s drag profile, sending a shock through the entire craft. Hopefully, the smart seats would hold their passengers in. A few bloodied noses and wrenched shoulders, perhaps a concussion for some unlucky soul on her feet. But by now the plane had righted itself, automatically closing the offending cargo door.
Rana Harter had discovered that her brainbug worked better if she indulged these fancies. As she imagined the sudden jolt above, her eyes tracked the flickering fall of luggage and supplies, and she felt the whirring of her mind as it calculated the location and shape of the debris field. The sharp, determinate math of trajectories and wind smelled like camphor, rang in her ears with vibrato-free, pointillistic notes on a handful of flutes, one for each variable.
The answers came.
She turned to Herd, already dressed in her hooded fur coat. The sable had come from the first luggage drop arranged by Alexander. The stain that had once disguised Herd’s Rix eyes was faded now, and they shone in their true violet, beautiful in the frame of black fur. The hairs of the coat ruffled in the bitter wind, a fluttering motion that made Rana hear the small, shimmering bells worn by wedding dancers on their feet.
Herd awaited her instructions, always respectfully silent when Rana’s ability was in use (though the commando had squeezed her hand as her word now seemed to yank the airplane from its path).
“Seventy-four klicks that way,” Rana said, pointing carefully. Herd’s violet eyes followed the line of the gesture, checking for landmarks. Then she nodded and turned to Rana to kiss her good-bye.
The Rixwoman’s lips were always cold now, her body temperature adapted to its environment. Her saliva tasted vaguely of rust, like the iron tang of blood, but sweeter. Her sweat contained no salt, its mineral content making it taste like water from a quarry town. As Herd dashed toward the flyer, the oversized coat lifting into sable wings, the synesthetic smell of the commando’s avian/lemongrass movements mingled with the flavor left in Rana’s mouth. The joy of watching Herd never lessened.
Rana turned back toward the cave entrance before the recon flyer whined to life, however. Every second here in the cold was taking something out of her.
Inside, it was above freezing.
Rana Harter wore two layers of real silk, a hat of red fox, and her own fur coat, vat-grown chinchilla lined with blue whale from the ubiquitous herds of the southern ocean. But she was still cold.
The walls of the cave were hung with centuries-old tapestries earmarked for the Museum of Antiquities in Pollax. A vast collection of toiletries and clothing, the bounty of fallen personal luggage, lined the icy shelves Herd had carved into the walls. Rana and Herd slept on the pelt of a large ursoid creature that neither of them recognized—a customs stamp confirmed its off-world origins. The floors were covered with soft linings ripped from luggage, a pile of undergarments forming an insulating layer underneath.
The small, efficient machines of travel were everywhere. Handheld games and coffee pots, flashlights and sex toys, all for Herd to dissect and rebuild into new devices. For sustenance, they had only prestige foods. Rich meats from young animals, fruits scandalously out of season, caviar and exotic nuts, candied insects and edible flowers. It all came in morsel sizes, suitable for luxury airplane meals: canned, self-heating and freeze-dried, bagged and coldboxed, to be washed down with liquor in plastic bottles dwarfish enough to have survived the long fall. They drank from two crystal glasses that someone thought valuable enough to pack in thirty centimeters of smartfoam. Oddly, the glasses had been labeled as coffee beans on their packaging. A mistake, or perhaps they were smuggled antiques.
All this bounty from only three aircraft holds, Rana wondered. She had never seen such wealth before. She lifted a smartplastic tennis racket, its rim no wider than the strings it suspended, and wondered at the instrument’s elegant, almost Rixian lines.
This fourth luggage “accident” would be their last haul. The background rate of such events had already been wildly exceeded, and Alexander’s false clues explaining the cargo-door defect had begun to wear thin. But she and Herd had all they needed until the compound mind called them to action.
Until then, they would live in luxury. And they had each other.
Rana Harter sat and rested from the freezing minutes outside. She lifted up a travel handheld to read, and that simple exertion tired her. She slept longer each night, dreaming lucidly but abstractly in the strange symbols of her brainbug. Her happiness never wavered, though. The dopamine regulators saw to that.
The infection in Rana’s wound was gone, disappearing in a single fevered night after an ampoule of nanos from Herd’s medical kit. But the weight in Rana’s chest was still there, building and building. Her breath grew shorter by the day.
She activated the travel handheld; its screen lit up, bookmarked to its medical compendium. Rana flicked it off again. She had read this section enough times, and knew that her one good lung was slowly going. Fluids were slowly building up in the wall between ribcage and lung, squeezing the breath from her like a tightening fist. Only an operation could save her. However resourceful her Rix lover might be, surgery was beyond their means here in this icy cave.
Rana Harter’s mind had never possessed a sharp sense of irony. The mean circumstances of her life had never required one. But she saw the joke here: She was surrounded by everything she had ever desired. Every petty luxury and marker of wealth. An invisible god that she positively knew to exist. Free use of her brainbug in a safe retreat at the literal end of the earth. And a lover of alien beauty, a fierce and lethal protector, whose physical grace, novel mind, and violet eyes offered whole new worlds of fascination.
And the punch line: Rana, in the next few days, would almost certainly die.
She turned from these thoughts the way a child ignores a light rain. They did nothing to reduce her joy. Whatever occurred, she—one of the few among humanity’s trillions—had chanced blindly into happiness.
Death must have found me, Rana Harter decided.
She was already in heaven.
Copyright © 2003 by Scott Westerfeld


Excerpted from The Killing of Worlds by Westerfeld, Scott Copyright © 2008 by Westerfeld, Scott. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 10, 2010

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    Exactly as good as The Risen Empire

    As I mentioned in my review of The Risen Empire, this isn't really a sequel -- it's merely the second half of the story, which was broken up for publishing reasons. Unfortunately, it suffers more from this break-up than most novels do, because as far as I can tell Westerfeld did nothing to make the transition more seamless -- the epilogue of The Risen Empire is the prologue of The Killing of Worlds and otherwise the story just jumps right back into the action where it left off.

    Were the books in one volume (like, say the omnibus edition the Science Fiction Book Club put out) I doubt I would have even noticed when one stopped and the other started. However, I was reading the mass market Tor editions, and even though I picked up The Killing of Worlds the very next day, I was already a little out of the rhythm of the story. Everyone's decisions felt too weighted, too fraught with dire import for what my subconscious brain insisted (based on the evidence in my hands) was the start of a plot arc. The Risen Empire started with a plot-bang, a frenetic action sequence, and that worked wonderfully because my subconscious likes that sort of opening to a story; The Killing of Worlds started with an emotional-bang, a horrified Nara Oxham realizing the extent to which the Emperor will go to eliminate an embarassment and protect a secret, and that just doesn't work for my subconscious because at the beginning of a story that sort of hand-wringing doesn't feel deserved.

    Clearly, it is deserved because of all that went on in The Risen Empire, but the physical mechanics of turning the pages when so few were in my left hand and so many were in my right just threw me out of things.

    Once past that initial adjustment phase, however, The Killing of Worlds is exactly as good as The Risen Empire. The stakes spiral ever higher, complications arise, and no seeming victory is ever safe. The heart of the story is still the snippets from ten years earlier (Imperial Absolute); I particularly loved the section where Nara and Laurent went sledding. The pacing is sure and the climax wonderful, as all the disparate elements come back into play forging a resolution that fits just right, no matter how deeply you press it looking for holes. This is a near-perfect story, one I am sure I will return to again and again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2013

    Enjoyed it

    Looking forward to a potential sequel (?) to Killing of Worlds.

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  • Posted March 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is the second book in the Succession series, and it lives u

    This is the second book in the Succession series, and it lives up to the promise of the first, The Risen Empire. I recall seeing someplace that Scott Westerfeld only made this a series at the behest of the US publisher, which probably explains how thoroughly tied together the two novels are.

    In The Killing of Worlds, we start immediately where The Risen Empire ended. Captain Laurent Zai and his crew aboard the Lynx are engaging with a Rix battlecruiser in the Legis system, and the expectation of not only the Zai and the crew but also the Emperor and the War Council back on the planet Home is that it is a suicide mission.

    Westerfeld has a delightful way of writing quite technical descriptions while maintaining a sense of movement forward, and he does this time and again. The novel itself shifts from view point to view point. Sometimes you are with Zai. Others with Executive Officer Katherie Hobbes. Or Rix commando Herd. The Rix compound mind Alexander. And so on.

    The novel's ultimate plot line is simple: Battle, results. Another battle. Results. Secret revealed. But the simplicity of the plot in no way minimizes the success the novel. In fact, it probably assisted it, for the characters are wonderfully constructed, even the machine characters of the drones that fight the first wave of the battle. We get to bask in a richly constructed world whose full depths lay behind and as foundations to the novel. I consider this a good thing in a science fiction book when the history, the cultures, etc., live off the page and we, the reader, get only partial information. Westerfeld has definitely done that.

    And while the secret is revealed and proves cataclysmic, a theme of love emerges across the story. In all the science fiction, in all the wonderfully described scenes of technology and action and politics, much of the motivation of Zai and Senator Oxham is driven by love. And we got that in the first novel, but this is then given fresh life by the development of another love story that works against the expectations set in The Risen Empire.

    My one complaint (spoiler in this paragraph) is that the ships heading towards the Lynx at the end seemed unwrapped up. Granted, they are two years out and much about this story remains open at the end, I felt, for some reason, that those ships needed some "closing." But this is but a minor complain.

    To get the most out of The Killing of Worlds, one must read The Risen Empire. Westerfeld wrote these two books as one, and readers should approach it that way.

    Wonderfully written and engaging.

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  • Posted November 11, 2012

    No words for how AWESOME this is. I honestly think that the Rise

    No words for how AWESOME this is.
    I honestly think that the Risen Empire and The Killing of Words are THE BEST books I've ever read!
    The story is so original, the Characters so vivid, the plot so mind grabbing and the Pace is just superb! not slow at all, but not so fast fast that questions go unanswered.
    If you read the Risen Empire, you MUST get the Killing of words bc, in my opinion, they one ONE book.
    Now I use these books to measure all other sic-fi books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2004


    I luved this book even though the 1st one is much better I recommend it 2 fans of Scott westerfeld.

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