The Praxis: Dread Empire's Fall

The Praxis: Dread Empire's Fall

by Walter Jon Williams


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“Space opera the way it ought to be [...] Bujold and Weber, bend the knee; interstellar adventure has a new king, and his name is Walter Jon Williams.” — George R.R. Martin

The first book in the completed Dread Empire's Fall trilogy, followed by The Sundering and Conventions of War.

All will must bend to the perfect truth of The Praxis

For millennia, the Shaa have subjugated the universe, forcing the myriad sentient races to bow to their joyless tyranny. But the Shaa will soon be no more. The dread empire is in its rapidly fading twilight, and with its impending fall comes the promise of a new galactic order . . . and bloody chaos.

A young Terran naval officer marked by his lowly birth, Lt. Gareth Martinez is the first to recognize the insidious plot of the Naxid — the powerful, warlike insectoid society that was enslaved before all others — to replace the masters’ despotic rule with their own. Barely escaping a swarming surprise attack, Martinez and Caroline Sula, a pilot whose beautiful face conceals a deadly secret, are now the last hope for freedom for every being who ever languished in Shaa chains — as the interstellar battle begins against a merciless foe whose only perfect truth is annihilation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062884770
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/26/2019
Series: Dread Empire's Fall Series , #1
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 197,041
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

 Walter Jon Williams is a New York Times bestselling author who has been nominated repeatedly for every major sci-fi award, including Hugo and Nebula Awards nominations for his novel City on Fire. His most recent books are The Sundering, The Praxis, This Is Not a Game, and Quillifer. Williams lives near Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife, Kathleen Hedges.

Read an Excerpt

The Praxis
Dread Empire's Fall

Chapter One

"Of course, following the Great Master's death, I will kill myself."

Lieutenant Gareth Martinez, keeping pace alongside the longer-legged Fleet Commander Enderby, felt himself stumble as he heard the words.

"My lord?" He drove his legs through the stumble, to stride once more off Enderby's left shoulder. Their heels rang again in unison on the shaved, glittering asteroid material that floored the Commandery.

"I've volunteered," Enderby said in his prosaic, literal tone. "My family needs a representative on the pyre, and I'm the most suitable candidate. I'm at the apex of my career, my children are well-established, and my wife has given me a divorce." He looked at Martinez from beneath his level white brows. "My death will assure that my name, and my family's name, will be honored forever."

And help everyone to forget that little financial scandal involving your wife, Martinez thought. It was a pity that Enderby's spouse couldn't be the family sacrifice instead of the Fleet Commander.

A pity for Martinez in particular.

"I'll miss you, my lord," he said.

"I've spoken to Captain Tarafah about you," Enderby went on. "He's agreed to take you aboard as communications officer on the Corona."

"Thank you, my lord," Martinez said, and tried not to let his voice reflect the dismay that echoed coldly down his bones.

The Martinez family was among the Peers, the clans that the Great Masters -- the Shaa -- had placed over all creation. Though all Peers were equal in the sight of the Shaa, the Peers' own views were less Olympian. It wasn't enough just to be a Peer. You had to be the right kind of Peer.

And Martinez was definitely the wrong kind. While near-omnipotent on its distant home world of Laredo, the Martinez clan were provincial nobodies to the high-caste Peers whose palaces ornamented the High City of Zanshaa. The fine gradations of rank perceived by the Peers had no status in law, but their weight was felt everywhere in Peer society. Martinez's birth entitled him to a place in the Peers' military academy followed by a commission, but that was all.

In six years' service, he had risen to lieutenant. That was as far as his father had come in a dozen years, before Marcus Martinez resigned in frustration and returned to Laredo to devote himself to making money on a grand scale.

His son knew he needed a powerful patron who would advance him in the service hierarchy. And Gareth Martinez thought he had found that patron in Fleet Commander Enderby, who seemed impressed with his abilities and was willing to overlook his obscure home and the wretched provincial accent that, try as he might, he'd been unable to lose.

What do you do when your senior officer announces his intention to commit suicide? Martinez wondered. Try to talk him out of it?

"Tarafah is a good officer," Enderby assured. "He'll look after you."

Tarafah is only a lieutenant captain, Martinez thought. So even if Tarafah decided that he was the most brilliant officer he'd ever met -- and the chances of that were not high -- Tarafah wouldn't be in a position to give him a promotion to the next rank. He could only recommend him to a superior, and that superior would be patron to another set of clients whose needs, Martinez knew, would rank greater than his own.

I am hip deep in the shit, he concluded. Unless he could talk the Fleet Commander into changing his mind about annihilating himself.

"My lord," he began, and was interrupted as another officer, Senior Squadron Commander Elkizer, approached with his entourage. Elkizer and his staff were Naxids, members of the first species to be conquered by the Shaa, and Martinez suppressed annoyance as they scuttled across the polished floor toward Enderby. Not only did they interrupt a conversation vital to Martinez's career, the Naxids were a species that had always made him uncomfortable.

Perhaps it was the way they moved. They had six limbs, four legs, and another, upper pair that could be used as either arms or legs. They seemed to have only two speeds: stop, and very, very fast. When they moved, the four feet were in continual motion, scrabbling at the ground, heedless of terrain or even of success. Their feet flung their bodies forward as fast as they could, and when they wanted to go particularly fast, they lowered their centauroid bodies to the ground and used the front two limbs as well, their bodies snaking from side to side in a liquid whiplike motion that frankly gave Martinez the creeps.

The Naxids' bodies were covered with black, beaded scales ornamented with a shifting pattern of red. The swift-moving scarlet patterns were used for communication among them, a language which other species found difficult or impossible to decipher. In order not to hamper this communication, Naxid officers wore uniforms of chameleon weave that faithfully duplicated the patterns flashing underneath.

On their home world, in their primitive state, the Naxids had traveled in packs led by one dominant personality -- and they still did. Even without rank badges, you could tell by body language and demeanor which Naxids were dominant and which subservient. The high-ranking Naxids were impossibly arrogant, and the lower castes cringingly submissive.

Squadron Leader Elkizer scuttled toward Fleet Commander Enderby and slammed to a halt, his upper body thrown back to bare his throat for the killing stroke.

Kill me if you so desire, my lord: that was the service's ideal of subordination.

Elkizer's entourage -- Martinez wanted to use the word pack—imitated their superior. Standing at attention, they came up to Enderby's chin, with bodies the size of a very large dog ...

The Praxis
Dread Empire's Fall
. Copyright © by Walter Williams. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Praxis: Dread Empire's Fall 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the 3'rd book first and then went back and read the others. After reading the 3'rd I had to read the others. I have read several thousand books over the years and given several thousand more away to the libraries. These I will keep for all time.
aulsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Dread Empire's Fall" is a tightly-coupled trilogy, basically one very long novel; the 3 volumes have to be read together and in order. I found it a very compelling read; the sheer momentum of the story carried me effortlessly past flaws that in a less well-written book would have stopped me cold. (For example, in one of the military tactics that's fairly crucial to the plot, I think he's got the physics wrong and it wouldn't actually work.) There's lots of moral ambiguity; the worst single atrocity of the war is committed by "our" side (a tyranny only marginally less brutal and corrupt than the other side). In the end, we find that in winning the war, the "good guys" have accomplished nothing except to restore the _status quo ante_. The same old, corrupt, incompetent elite is back in power, having seemingly learned nothing; all the underlying issues are unresolved; it seems clear that another war is inevitable within a generation or so (maybe just in time for our hero's son, newborn at the end of this trilogy, to get his own chance at glory). The resolution of the romance subplot also seems rather arbitrary.
dreamless on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Generic space opera, and predictable too. WJW's been all downhill since his earthquake book.
michaelcruse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Imagine Queen Victoria and Chairman Mao got together and spawned a race of technologically advanced aliens who conquer all the other intelligent species in the galaxy so that they can be taught proper manners. Then the aliens get bored and all die, leaving their former subjects to fend for themselves. What could go wrong?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OK as a plot but some juvenile interaction
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book with lots of action. I had trouble putting it down. I read the 2nd book in this series immediately after I finished this one. I will read the last book in the series as soon as I can get it. I am a new Walter Jon Williams fan. This is my favorite type of science fiction, with the galactic battles. The following is a short summary of the book: The Shaa have coquered many different species in the universe and have them all living and working together peacefully. The Naxids plot an uprising that is initiated when the last remaining Shaa dies. Lieutenant Gareth Martinez discovers that the Naxids are plotting to take over as crews from a myriad fleet battleships are down on a planet participating in a prestigious soccer game. As the skeleton crews of the battleships are listening to a broadcast of the game, the Naxids make their move to take over the battleships. Lt. Martinez realizes what is happening and is the only ship able to escape the Naxid takeover. Martinez returns home to warn the rest of the fleet about the Naxid deception, and galactic war ensues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didnt like the ppl they were ALL bad none of them were someone i would follow or respect! And i never got the feeling that the nexids were evil & out to destroy the univeres....I just thought they were taking advtage of a power lapse. In that society they all lived in glass houses when it comes to being power hungry...