I wanted to avoid reviewing books by friends on this blog because, well, it might cost me too much in beers if I ever ran into them at a con... Then I thought, what the hell. It's not like my friends are crap writers. So I have implemented a policy change. And the first book to benefit from this is:
Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley.
This is the first novel of a space opera trilogy called Humanity's Fire. I'd read in several reviews that the book was slow to start but picked up about halfway through. I'd interpreted this to mean there was a steep learning curve. It's not uncommon in space opera. The author has to lay out their universe and it's usually a big universe.
But those reviews were quite correct. Cobley's universe is perhaps not that large - although he's certainly thrown everything he can think of into it. Seeds of Earth is very much heartland space opera - in fact, it sits right on the bullseye. While this does mean there's a lot of set-up to plough through - including a somewhat excessive use of italicised alien vocabulary - it's not just that which accounts for the initial slow pace. However, once the villains appear on the scene the story shifts into high gear, and the book becomes a real page-turner.
Having said that, I suspect Cobley has slightly over-egged his universe. While there are definitely some interesting ideas in there - a hyperspace consisting of strata of dead universes, for example - I personally prefer stories which aren't so inclusive and which are a little more adventurous with sf tropes.
Which is not to say Seeds of Earth is a bad book. On the contrary, it's very good. It's well-constructed and well-written. It's a pure hit of the purest space opera.
So go read it.
I'm looking forward to the sequel.