Conquerors’ Pride, by Timothy Zahn (Bantam Spectra, 1994)
Humans have conquered interstellar travel and forged political alliances with other star-faring races. Now, a Commonwealth Peacekeeper task force’s encounter with a new race ends in just six minutes—and that includes the strangers’ systematic targeting of individual life pods after the battle.
Pheylan Cavanagh is the lone human survivor of the disastrous first contact, and the aliens take him prisoner. With the entire Commonwealth mobilizing defences against the “Conquerors Without Reason,” Peacekeeper Command decides the needs of the many outweigh those of the one. They leave Pheylan on his own.
His father, wealthy industrialist Lord Stewart Cavanagh, mounts a rescue mission of his own, using “borrowed” military fighters and pilots. If they come back, they face a pile of trouble—even if they rescue Pheylan from the Conquerors.
One minor character in Conquerors’ Pride is a Sanduul artist who does threadings: pictures made of spiderlike silk. Her finished images reveal two different moods depending on the angle of view: the same subject, two separate effects.
This was my second reading of Conquerors’ Pride, and I enjoyed watching Timothy Zahn do his own “threading” of the story. In true Zahn style, the picture as viewed from the end of the book has a different feel from what you see while you’re reading. Re-reading, I could see more of the setup, like watching a magician in slow motion to see how he does the trick.
It was good to be back with the Cavanagh family and their allies, and to encounter other friends who’ll play key parts in the series. Revelations near the end of the novel contain some interesting social commentary that’s as applicable now as it was when the novel was first published. They’ll probably still be relevant when I read the series a third time.
Timothy Zahn is a master at creating alien races, environments and cultures as well as fast-paced, intricate plots. He’s a Hugo Award-winning author of over 40 novels and multiple short stories. His Star Wars novels are among fans’ favourites. Curiously enough, they’ve been among the final books I’ve read from him. (Still haven’t read the Terminator novels.)
Conquerors’ Pride was my first taste of Mr. Zahn’s writing, and I’ve bought every book I could get my hands on since then. And in an age where authors must maintain a web presence, he’s succeeding quite nicely without one, thank you.