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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Conquerors' Heritage by Timothy Zahn

Conquerors' Heritage is the second book in the Conquerors trilogy by science fiction writer, Timothy Zahn. The point of view of this book is of the Zhirrzh, the aliens that attacked and killed virtually all of the battle group commanded by Pheylan Cavanagh in the first book.

Heritage brings in the political world of the Zhirrzh, a humanoid race that is unique in that prior to adolescence, an organ, called the fsss, is taken from the back of their neck and safely stored. This organ is the loosely anchor point of the Zhirrzh's soul, in that once their mortal body ceases to function (death), they become an Elder, a ghostly figure that is mainly used by the mortal Zhirrzh for communication over distances, small and vast, and also for spying. If an Elder's fsss cutting were to be destroyed, then the Elder would cease to exist.

The politics of the Zhirrzh people is made up of clans spread over the eighteen worlds to where they have spread. One clanless group, called the Overclan, is the seat of power. The Zhirrzh protagonist, Thrr-gilag, is summarily stripped of his job as alien specialist, due to the escape of the Human prisoner, Pheylan Cavanagh and his bond-engagement with a woman with a rival clan is stricken. But, Thrr-gilag is also attempting to, illegally, help his brother, Thrr-mezaz, commander of the Zhirrzh forces at Dorcas, a hotspot beachhead claimed by both Zhirrzh and Humans, to gain a tactical advantage by providing him with a fsss cutting for and Elder to spy on the Humans.

The question begins to seep out...Who is the Conqueror?? The Zhirrzh (from the Human point of view in book one) or the Humans (from the Zhirrzh point of view)? Both say that the other attacked first. One Elder finds out at the end of Heritage.

Heritage continues immediately where Pride left off, although this book has more of a political plot with a few skirmishes. It's not slower or harder to read, just a different color, especially since it's from an alien point of view. I think Zahn does a great job in creating an alien world of tradition and slow change contrasting with the character of Thrr-gilad, who is an educated but free mind. He's not so sure that his society is telling the truth.

A review of Conquerors' Legacy will be forthcoming.

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