Monday, March 07, 2005

What a beginning!

I started Simon R. Green's space-opera novel Deathstalker last night, and while I'm only a handful of pages into it, I want to note that I love the first two paragraphs. Really. These two paragraphs are just masterful in the way they set a mood and establish a setting that I hope the rest of the novel lives up to. Don't believe me? Here are those two paragraphs:

It gets dark out on the Rim. Strange planets and stranger people can be found on the edge of Empire, where habitable worlds are few and civilization grows thin. Beyond the Rim lies uncharted darkness, where no stars shine and few ships go. It's easy to get lost out there, far away from everything. Starcruisers patrol up to the Rim, but there are never enough ships to cover the vast areas of open space. The Empire is growing too large, too cumbersome, though no one will admit it, or at least, no one who matters. Every year more worlds are brought into the Empire, and the frontiers press hungrily outward. But not on the Rim. The Empire stops cold there, dwarfed by the unplummable depths of Darkvoid.

It gets dark out there. Ships disappear sometimes, and are never seen again. No one knows why. The colonized worlds make themselves as self-sufficient as they can and turn their eyes away from the endless dark. Crime flourishes on the Rim, unthinkable distances from the hub of the Empire's strict laws; some transgressions as old as Humanity, others newly birthed by the Empire's ever-growing sciences. For the moment the Empire's starcruisers still keep a lid on things, dropping unannounced out of hyperspace to enforce the law with brutal efficiency, but they can't be everywhere. Strange forces are at work on the Rim, patient and terrible, and all it will take to set them off is a simple clash between two starships off the backwater planet of Virimonde.

Now, if that's not a killer beginning, I don't know what is. True, the rest of the novel might blow chunks, but it's been a long time since a book hooked me in the opening paragraphs like this. Bravo. This is the kind of opening that has me thinking, "Damn, where's my popcorn?"

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