Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Risen Empire (Succession Series #1)

The Risen Empire (Succession Series #1)

4.6 19
by Scott Westerfeld

See All Formats & Editions

From the acclaimed #1 New York Times bestselling author of Evolution's Darling (Philip K. Dick Award special citation and a New York Times notable book) and Uglies, Pretties, and Specials, comes a sweeping epic. The Risen Empire is the first great space opera of the twenty-first century.

The undead Emperor


From the acclaimed #1 New York Times bestselling author of Evolution's Darling (Philip K. Dick Award special citation and a New York Times notable book) and Uglies, Pretties, and Specials, comes a sweeping epic. The Risen Empire is the first great space opera of the twenty-first century.

The undead Emperor has ruled his mighty interstellar empire of eighty human worlds for sixteen hundred years. Because he can grant a form of eternal life-after-death, creating an elite known as the Risen, his power is absolute. He and his sister, the Child Empress, who is eternally a little girl, are worshipped as living gods.

The Rix are machine-augmented humans who worship very different gods: AI compound minds of planetary size. Cool, relentless fanatics, their only goal is to propagate such AIs. They seek to end the Emperor's prolonged rule, and supplant it with an eternal cybernetic dynasty. They begin by taking the Child Empress hostage. Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial Frigate Lynx is tasked with her rescue.

Separated by light years, bound by an unlikely love, Zai and pacifist Senator Nara Oxham must both face the challenge of the Rix, and both will hold the fate of the empire in their hands.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“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

“Westerfeld's exceptionally smart and empathetic novel…confirms the buzz that space opera is one of the most exciting branches of current SF.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Barnes & Noble Review
Scott Westerfeld's hardcover debut is an oxymoron of sorts: a fast-paced space opera. The Risen Empire, the first book in a projected duology, hits the ground running and never slows down. From the very first page, the reader is immersed in an epic clash between ideologically divergent civilizations.

\ \ The Risen Empire spans 80 worlds and is ruled by an emperor who has been undead for thousands of years. In a society where selected citizens can be granted eternal life, a political and socioeconomic division has begun polarizing groups within the empire. The Rix Cult, on the other hand, are quickly evolving cyborgs with one mission: to seed worlds with compound AI minds and move on. When the Rix attack an imperial planet, kill the Child Empress (the emperor's sister), and successfully seed a compound mind on the planet, all the empire's secrets are suddenly made available to the Rix. Something drastic must be done to stop the cyborgs from obtaining that knowledge…

\ \ Westerfeld has written some outstanding novels (Polymorph and Evolution's Darling), but The Risen Empire is easily his best offering to date. A sleek, stylish plot, excellent character development, and the subtle blending of hard science fiction with (an unlikely) romance make this a novel filled with surprises. I can't wait for the concluding novel in this duology. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
Westerfeld's (Evolution's Darling) exceptionally smart and empathetic novel, the first of two in a series, confirms the buzz that space opera is one of the most exciting branches of current SF. In an interstellar empire of 80 human worlds, ruled by an emperor who lets selected humans cheat death, tensions between most humans and the resurrected elite, aka the Risen, are increasing. The Rix, a cult of cyborgs who worship compound AI minds, hunger to liberate the empire's worlds from mere human control. When a Rix raiding party captures the emperor's sister, Capt. Laurent Zai of the Imperial Navy must save her. Viewpoint rapidly shifts from character to character and from a vast perspective to an extremely small one-that of the intelligence scouts Zai sends ahead of the rescue mission, nano-machines smaller than insects. Keeping the reader constantly off-balance, Westerfeld skillfully integrates extreme technologies with human characters. (Mar. 25) FYI: Evolution's Darling won a Philip K. Dick Award special citation. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.\
KLIATT - Cara Chancellor
A line has been drawn in the stars. The undead Emperor's sister, Anastasia, is a hostage of the Rix, machine-enhanced humans who germinate and protect AI minds that challenge the Emperor's rule. Standing between the Rix and the creation of an AI on Anastasia's home planet is Captain Laurent Zai, commander of the imperial battle frigate Lynx. A lifelong "gray"—one of the Empire loyalists who aspires to become an immortal "risen"—Zai is caught between imperial intrigue and his forbidden love for Nara Oxham, a senator from the pro-death "pink" party. Together, the two must find a way to end the war, even if it means uncovering a secret that will dissolve the Empire. The Risen Empire evokes comparisons to Frank Herbert's Dune series with its grand scale, compelling characters, and sometimes-fatal political intrigue. True science fiction fans will delight in Westerfeld's mastery of nano-machinery and astrophysics, but even general fiction fans will find romantic and mystery elements of this book to enjoy. Superbly intelligent, and combining the philosophical arguments of Utopia with the adventure thrills of Star Wars, The Risen Empire is a must-read that is sure to find an honored place in science fiction lore. Reviewer: Cara Chancellor\
Kirkus Reviews
An intergalactic empire struggles under the weight of its resurrected dead, while a story struggles to get moving. In the first entry in this new series from Westerfeld (Evolution's Darling, 2000, etc.), we have the Risen Empire, 80-or-so worlds bound together for the past 1500 years by the divine presence of the Emperor, who sacrifices himself in order to be risen again. Of course, coming back from the dead is only for the very noble or very rich, so with each passing generation spontaneity and innovation are leached out of the Empire by its young-looking but ancient-thinking leaders. Nibbling at the Empire's borders are the fearsome Rix, who maniacally serve the idea of all minds becoming one. The action unfolds during the course of an Imperial rescue attempt on a remote planet where a small band of Rix commandos have taken the Child Empress hostage and are busy converting the planet to Rix-ian compound thinking. Once a planet's data systems have gone Rix, the only way to fix them is to bomb the place back into the Stone Age. In between breathless action sequences, Westerfeld treats us to flashbacks, many horrendously slow, regarding some Imperial intrigue and a romance between a pacifist Senator and the hard-as-nails Imperial officer tasked with rescuing the Child Empress. By the time all that is handled, the story is over, seemingly before it quite began. Not much more than an exposition-heavy introduction to a sequel-though sprightly enough for what it is.\

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Succession Series , #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.91(d)

Read an Excerpt


The five small craft passed from shadow, emerging with the suddenness of coins thrown into sunlight. The disks of their rotary wings shimmered in the air like heat, momentary rainbows flexing across prisms of motion. Master Pilot Jocim Marx noted with pleasure the precision of his squadron's formation. The other pilots' Intelligencer craft perfectly formed a square centered upon his own.

"Don't we look pretty?" Marx said.

"Pretty obvious, sir," Hendrik answered. She was the squadron's second pilot, and it was her job to worry.

"A little light won't hurt us," Marx said flatly. "The Rix haven't had time to build anything with eyes."

He said it not to remind Hendrik, who knew damn well, but to reassure their squadron-mates. The other three pilots were nervous; Marx could hear it in their silence. None of them had ever flown a mission of this importance before.

But then, who had?

Marx's own nerves were beginning to play on him. His squadron of Intelligencers had covered half the distance from dropsite to objective without meeting any resistance. The Rix were obviously ill-equipped, improvising against far greater force, relying on their single advantage: the hostages. But surely they had made preparations for small craft.

After a few moments in the sun, the waiting was over.

"I'm getting echolocation from dead ahead, sir," Pilot Oczar announced.

"I can see them," Hendrik added. "Lots of them."

The enemy interceptors resolved before Marx's eyes as his craft responded to the threat, enhacing vision with its other senses, incorporating data from the squadron's other craft into his layers of synesthesia. As Marx had predicted, the interceptors were small, unpiloted drones. Their only weapon was a long, sinuous grappling arm that hung from the rotary lifting surface, which was more screw than blade. The devices looked rather like something da Vinci might have designed four millennia ago, a contraption powered by the toil of tiny men.

The interceptors dangled before Marx. There were a lot of them, and in their host they impelled the same vaguely obscene fascination as creatures from the deepest ocean. One moved toward his craft, arms flailing with a blind and angry abandon.

Master Pilot Marx tilted his Intelligencer's rotary wing forward and increased its power. His ship rose above the interceptor, barely missing collision with the enemy's lifting screw. Marx grimaced at the near miss. Another interceptor came into focus before him, this one a little higher, and he reversed his wing's rotation, pushing the ship down, dropping below its grasp.

Around him, the other pilots cursed as they pitched their craft through the swarm of interceptors. Their voices came at him from all sides of his cockpit, directionally biased to reflect their position relative to his.

From above, Hendrik spoke, the tension of a hard turn in her voice. "You've seen these before, sir?"

"Negative," he replied. He'd fought the Rix Cult many times, but their small craft were evolutionary. Small, random differences in design were scattered throughout every generation. Characteristics that succeeded were incorporated into the next production round. You never knew what new shapes and strategies Rix craft might assume. "The arms are longer than I've seen, and the behavior's more…volatile."

"They sure look pissed off," Hendrik agreed.

Her choice of words was apt. Two interceptors ahead of Marx sensed his craft, and their arms began to flail with the sudden intensity of alligators when prey has stepped into reach. He rolled his Intelligencer sideways, narrowing his vulnerable area as he slipped between them.

But there were more and more of the interceptors, and his Intelligencer's profile was still too large. Marx retracted his craft's sensory array, trading away vision for compact size. At this range, however, the closest interceptors resolved to terrible clarity, the data layers provided by first-, second-, and third-level sight almost choking his mind. Marx could see (hear, smell) the individual segments of a grasping arm flexing like a snake's spine, the cilia of an earspot casting jagged shadows in the hard sunlight. Marx squinted at the cilia, gesturing for a zoom until the little hairs towered around him like a forest.

"They're using sound to track us," he announced. "Silence your echolocators now."

The view before him blurred as sonar data was lost. If Marx was right, and the interceptors were audio-only, his squadron would be undetectable to them now.

"I'm tangled!" Pilot Oczar shouted from below him. "One's got a sensor post!"

"Don't fight!" Marx ordered. "Just lizard."

"Ejecting post," Oczar said, releasing his ship's captured limb.

Marx hazarded a glance downward. A flailing interceptor tumbled slowly away from Oczar's ship, clinging to the ejected sensor post with blind determination. The Intelligencer tilted crazily as its pilot tried to compensate for broken symmetry.

"They're getting heavy, sir," Hendrik warned. Marx switched his view to Hendrik's perspective for a moment. From her high vantage, a thickening swarm of interceptors was clearly visible ahead. The bright lines of their long grapples sparkled like a shattered, drifting spiderweb in the sun.

There were too many.

Of course, there were backups already advancing from the dropsite. If this first wave of Intelligencers was destroyed, another squadron would be ready, and eventually a craft or two would get through. But there wasn't time. The rescue mission required onsite intelligence, and soon. Failure to provide it would certainly end careers, might even constitute an Error of Blood.

One of these five craft had to make it.

"Tighten up the formation and increase lift," Marx ordered. "Oczar, you stay down."

"Yes, sir," the man answered quietly. Oczar knew what Marx intended for his craft.

The rest of the squadron swept in close to Marx. The four Intelligencers rose together, jostling through the writhing defenders.

"Time for you to make some noise, Oczar," Marx said. "Extend your sensor posts to full length and activity."

"Up to a hundred, sir."

Marx looked down as Oczar's craft grew, a spider with twenty splayed legs emerging suddenly from a seed, a time-lapse of a flower relishing sunlight. The interceptors around Oczar grew more detailed as his craft became fully active, bathing their shapes with ultrasonic pulses, microlaser distancing, and millimeter radar.

Already, the dense cloud of interceptors was beginning to react. Like a burst of pollen caught by a sudden wind, they shifted toward Oczar's craft.

"We're going through blind and silent," Marx said to the other pilots. "Find a gap and push toward it hard. We'll be cutting main power."

"One tangle, sir," Oczar said. "Two."

"Feel free to defend yourself."

"Yes, sir!"

On Marx's status board, the counterdrones in Oczar's magazine counted down quickly. The man launched a pair as he confirmed the order, then another a few seconds later. The interceptors must be all over him. Marx glanced down at Oczar's craft. The bilateral geometries of its deployed sensor array were starting to twist, burdened by the thrashing defenders. Through the speakers, Oczar grunted with the effort of keeping his craft intact.

Marx raised his eyes from the battle and peered forward. The remainder of the squadron was reaching the densest rank of the interceptor cloud. Oczar's diversion had thinned it somewhat, but there was still scant space to fit through.

"Pick your hole carefully," Marx said. "Get some speed up. Retraction on my mark. Five…four…three…"

He let the count fade, concentrating on flying his own craft. He had aimed his Intelligencer toward a gap in the interceptors, but one had drifted into the center of his path. Marx reversed his rotor and boosted power, driving his craft downward.

The drone loomed closer, lured by the whine of his surging main rotor. He hoped the extra burst would be enough.

"Retract now!" he ordered. The view blurred and faded as the sensor posts on the ship furled. In seconds, Marx's vision went dark.

"Cut your main rotors," he commanded.

The small craft would be almost silent now, impelled only by the small, flywheel-powered stabilizer wing at their rear. It would push them forward until it ran down. But the four surviving craft were already beginning to fall.

Marx checked the altimeter's last reading: 174 centimeters. At that height, the craft would take at least a minute before they hit the ground. Even with its sensor array furled and main rotor stalled, in a normal-density atmosphere an intelligence craft fell no faster than a speck of dust.

Indeed, the Intelligencers were not much larger than specks of dust, and were somewhat lighter. With a wingspan of a single millimeter, they were very small craft indeed.

• • •

Master Pilot Jocim Marx, Imperial Naval Intelligence, had flown microships for eleven years. He was the best.

He had scouted for light infantry in the Coreward Bands Revolt. His machine then had been the size and shape of two hands cupping water, the hemispherical surface holed with dozens of carbon whisker fans, each of which could run at its own speed. He was deployed on the battlefield in those days, flying his craft through a VR helmet. He stayed with the platoon staff under their portable forcefield, wandering about blind to his surroundings. That had never set easy with him; he constantly imagined a slug finding him, the real world intruding explosively on the synesthetic realm inside his helmet. Marx was very good, though, at keeping his craft steady in the unpredictable Bandian winds. His craft would paint enemy snipers with an undetectable x-ray laser, which swarms of smart needle-bullets followed to unerring kills. Mark's steady hand could guide a projectile into a centimeter-wide seam in personal armor, or through the eye-slit of a sniper's camopolymer blind.

Later, he flew penetrators against Rix hovertanks in the Incursion. These projectiles were hollow cylinders, about the size of a child's finger. They were launched by infantryman, encased in a rocket-propelled shell for the first half of their short flight. When the penetrator deployed, breaking free the instant it spotted a target, it flew purely on momentum. Ranks of tiny control surfaces lined the inside of the cylinder, like the baleen plates of some plankton-feeder. The weapon's supersonic flight was an exercise in extreme delicacy. Too hard a nudge and a penetrator would tumble uselessly. But when it hit a Rix tank just right, its maw precisely aligned to the hexagonal weave of the armor, it cut through metal and ceramic like a rip propagating down a cloth seam. Inside, the projectile disintegrated into countless molecular viruses, breaking down the machine in minutes. Marx flew dozens of ten-second missions each day, and was plagued at night with fitful microdreams of launch and collision. Eventually, backpack Al proved better for the job than human pilots, but Marx's old flight recordings were still studied by nascent intelligences for their elegance and flair.

The last few decades, Marx had worked with the Navy. Small craft were now truly small, fullerene constructions no bigger than a few millimeters across when furled, built by even smaller machines and powered by exotic transuranium batteries. They were largely for intelligence gathering, although they had offensive uses. Marx had flown a specially fitted Intelligencer into a fiberoptic Al hub during the Dhantu Liberation, carrying a load of glass-eating nanos that had dismantled the rebel's communication system planetwide within minutes.

Master Pilot Marx preferred the safety of the Navy. At his age, being on the battlefield had lost its thrill. Now Marx controlled his craft from shipside, hundreds of kilometers away from the action. He reclined in the comfort of a smartgel seat like some fighter pilot of yore, bathed in synesthetic images that allowed him three levels of sight, the parts of his brain normally dedicated to hearing, smell, and tactile sensations all given over to vision. Marx experienced his ship's environment as a true pilot should, as if he himself had been shrunk to the size of a human cell.

He loved the microscopic scale of his new assignment. In his darkened cabin on sleepless nights, Marx burned incense and watched the smoke rise through the bright, pencil-width shaft of an emergency flashlight. He noted how air currents curled, how ghostly snakes could be spun with the movement of a finger, a puff of breath. With an inhumanly steady hand he moved a remote microscope carefully through the air, projecting its images onto the cabin wall, watching and learning the behavior of microscopic particles aloft.

Sometimes during these dark and silent vigils, Jocim Marx allowed himself to think that he was the best microcraft pilot in the fleet.

He was right.

Copyright © 2003 by Scott Westerfeld

Meet the Author

Scott Westerfeld lives in New York City and Sydney, Australia.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Risen Empire (Succession Series #1) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
PhoenixFalls More than 1 year ago
This is the sort of space opera I can love. Forget Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space trilogy, with its sloppy (sometimes indulgent) writing and wooden characters; forget Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, with their climaxes that lead to nothing but futility; forget even Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga -- much though I love the characters and the wit, it doesn't have the breadth of imagination or the sheer scope that Westerfeld captures here. The Risen Empire stars with a bang, throwing the reader into the action head-first in the perspective of a pilot on a desperate reconnoissance mission a couple hours after the Child Empress has been taken hostage. It shifts perspective every few pages, always clearly marked in the book and with enough clues in the first paragraph for the reader to settle into the new perspective seemlessly, and every time the perspective shifts it adds to the tension. As in any great space opera, there is a lot going on -- enemies without and within, unlikely characters thrown together and forced to forge a bond, people you can root for (but, rarer in space opera, no villains -- Westerfeld wisely shows the reader the Rix side of the action as well, and even the Emperor is crafted with an eye towards the sort of real motivations that might drive a person to do horrible things). But of course, no book can maintain that sort of frenetic pace for 300+ pages, and it is actually the slower moments that hold this story's heart. After reaching a breaking point in the battle, it jumps back in time to show us the meeting between Zai and his lover Oxham, called the Mad Senator for reasons I won't spoil (but which I love). Their relationship grows quickly in book-time but is drawn out over the course of the novel in slow, luxuriant snippets for the reader. Oxham is a wonderful character, fully as complex as Zai, and once she is introduced her present-time storyline is just as compelling as the space battle her lover is leading -- political wrangling, after all, is at least as dangerous an occupation as starship captaining, and the stakes are higher because mistakes are always taken out in innocent blood. And just as obviously (well, at least to me, though given how many books I read that simply consist of grim men doing grim things maybe it isn't as obvious to everyone else) Westerfeld finds ways of sneaking in a fair amount of levity. The Emperor's undead cats, Oxham's House, and Alexander were all delightful elements that I won't spoil by explaining here. The entire novel was pitch-perfect, shifting between actions with dire consequences and moments of sheer absurdity with a wonderfully light touch. It does have a couple flaws: though I prefer it to Banks' Culture novels, Banks is a far superior stylist -- Westerfeld's prose succeeds in getting out of the way of the story admirably, but it doesn't soar; there were a couple of minor elements that took me out of the story because they struck me as anachronisms (a reference to a wax museum? really?); and it is very much a part one -- Westerfeld intended this volume and the second volume to be one novel titled Succession, but it ended up being a little too long to publish in one volume economically, so it got split in half (meaning there's a doozy of a cliffhanger ending). But overall, this is a great book, exactly the sort of book I read science fiction for.
S-III More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard SF is getting hard to find
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish Mr . Westerfeld would write more in this universe! Well imagined, interesting and dark.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please finish the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think labeling this book a 'space opera' is a misnomer. This is a high-tech adventure that keeps the action coming without getting gimmicky or silly. The author is fairly talented and I liked how he structured the book. A lot of neat ideas structured in an interesting manner. The main story covers a 15 minute hostage situation, with a backstory covering many characters and a several planets. FTL communications but not travel.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Emperor has ruled over the eighty planets of the Risen Empire for over fifteen centuries. When it is time the emperor kills himself in a sacrificial way so he can return being one of the few chosen for immortality. Only the ultra wealthy or the highest nobles can access this immortality technique. Though much of the populace resents the hierarchy they react as sheep. However, for the first time in centuries a threat has surfaced. The Rix believes society needs to evolve into an artificial intelligence of one mind. They have captured the Emperor¿s sister, The Empress Child, and are in the process of terraforming a planet to suit their philosophy. A rescue mission led by Imperial Navy Captain Laurent Zai tries a desperate rescue attempt before the orb is bombed into oblivion, the only way to stop the Rix incursion. When the space opera remains in the present, the story line is loaded with exciting action that grips the audience who wants to come along for the full ride. When flashbacks occur, the plot slows down as a sidebar that typically provides societal background surfaces but also takes away from the rescue effort. Fans who want mind boggling action will resent the flashbacks as intrusions while those who want to understand alien worlds and ways of life will appreciate these as delightful erudition. Harriet Klausner