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Tsar Wars

by Stephen Goldin

With humanity scattered across the galaxy on hundreds of worlds, the Empire is the only force for order across the stars. Without it, interstellar conflicts would bring chaos and billions of deaths.

But the tsar has been in a coma for five years now, and his grand-niece, the only apparent heir, is only 14 years old. In this hour of crisis, the task of preserving the Empire falls to two untrained--but far from unskilled--agents of the Imperial Special Investigation Service. Can they make a difference against the vast forces arrayed against them?

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Reviews:Martin Webster on wrote:

While I am not a fan of reboots normally I decided to give this one a try and I must say it was worth it. I have long been a fan of ee 'doc' smith and find this to be well written and almost seems as if it had come from his pen. The storyline was reminiscent of the original but updated and more developed. I can only hope this author turns his hands to the classic lensman series next and expands that universe. Read this book and also the works of smith. I look forward to reading the rest of the works in this series and others by the same author.

Asura Press on wrote:

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this story. That turned out to be a good thing because it pulled me along unthinkingly to the end and nothing was quite what I might have expected.

I usually prefer stories that are a little darker/more serious in tone, but this book was just plain fun all the way through. Sure there were dark places, but even those have a lighthearted feel to them.

Tsar Wars felt to me like a fun homage to the over-the-top pulpy science fiction space operas of bygone days. If you like fun adventures set in galactic empires, this book is for you.

I read The Eternity Brigade, by Goldin, years ago when I was just starting to get into science fiction novels. It was nice to rediscover his works.

I couldn't help but smile as I read this book, something I can honestly say is missing often in fiction: real entertainment.

Seraphim Press on wrote:

I'm a sucker for a massive, galactic-spanning space opera that has everything but the kitchen sink in it (Star Wars anyone?), so when the tongue-in-cheek Tsar Wars came across my recommendation list, it was a given I'd snap it up.

I enjoyed this book far more than perhaps I should have. Galactic empires, political back-stabbing, genetically engineered secret agents, a princess-in-peril, and ... circus performers? Including a cameo with some otherworldly jaguar-like antagonists? Oooh! Yeah. This book hit a sweet spot that ain't been hit since Princess Leah kissed Luke Skywalker just before swinging across that yawning chasm and said 'good luck!'

Since when did it become not okay to just plain have FUN reading a book? With a happy ending? Why has everything become about some dark, tortured anti-hero? Can't heroes just be heroic because it's the right thing to do? If you enjoyed the light-hearted feel of the first three Star Wars movies (IV-VI)and lamented the loss of both characterization and feel-goodedness (is that even a word?) from the latter three prequels (I-III), then you'll enjoy this book immensely.

And oh, goody ... there are several more books in this series....

5 lightly-leaping space-faring circus tigers

Shannon Haddock on wrote:

What stands out the most to me in this book is the characters. They’re all very distinctive and very entertaining/horrifying/whatever words suits that character the best. They felt real, which is something I personally love in a book. The dialogue also felt natural and appropriate to each characters’ personality.

The plot was fairly predictable in some ways, but not enough to be annoying. That they were going to get from A to B was certain; it was clearly that kind of book; but how they got there was frequently a nice surprise.

I have two minor complaints: A dictionary of the Yiddish terms would’ve been nice, as Google is letting me down on some, and the formatting in the copy I downloaded from Smashwords is a bit weird, with several blank pages and a table of contents that sometimes takes you to the middle of a chapter instead of the beginning. Other than that, this is best space opera I’ve read in ages.

Rachel Cotterill on wrote:

I found this an enjoyable and quick read - it's very lighthearted and fun, considering the proportion of the time that the characters are in fear for their lives. I'll definitely look out for others in the series.

Eric Hood on wrote:

I am a space opera fan and was glad to hear about this series by Stephen Goldin.

Having read the Family D'Alembert series many times over the years it was with much anticipation that I started to read Tsar Wars.

I was not disappointed. A story that is both new and familiar at the same time it kept me spellbound until the end.

I do not wish to say too much as I do not want to spoil the pleasure you will get from reading this for the first time just make sure you have time to spare when you start reading as you will not want to put it down.

Moon on wrote:

About 30 years ago I read a set of books written by E. E. Doc Smith and Stephen Goldin - The Family D'Alembert series. Despite being a mere teenager, I thoroughly enjoyed them, and regularly re-read them when the mood strikes. Well, the author of those books (Stephen Goldin) has re-vamped, re-plotted, and re-issued them under the new series "Agents of ISIS", with Tsar Wars being the first in a series of ten.

So... to the book itself. It is a story set several centuries in the future, with mankind living in an Empire of around one thousand planets, rules by a Tsar. The government and politics of the Empire is based on a feudal system, which becomes quite involved. The system seems based loosely on a Russian system from many years ago, and there is a strong Russian influence throughout the novel. To the story itself... The current Tsar is ailing and ill, and his successor is a 14 year old girl. The evil scheming bad guys want to eliminate them both and step in to take over - something which could realistically happen due to the twists and turns of the plot and the rich tapestry it weaves. Bring on the two main hero characters - Judah and Eva, both from a high-gravity planet where generations of evolution (and genetic enhancements) have gifted them with almost super human strength and reflexes. Their goal is to keep the young Tsarina alive and on the throne during the turbulent times throughout the book.

Overall, the book is fast paced and exciting. It pretty much grips you from page one, and doesn't let go. You can tell there is a lot of background, but it does not overwhelm the reader. Again, there is a hint of the big and complex Universe which I expect will be revealed as the series continues. In all ways I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to to reading the next one.

So, to my final thoughts. This set of books, as mentioned, is based on an earlier series. However, here is the twist: The story and characters are significantly different. Overall the Universe seems a much darker place, with good and evil more thoroughly mixed up within all the characters. As a huge fan of the old series, I was initially unsure how I would feel reading the new one when the old characters are so ingrained in my being. However, the new characters are so engrossing and refreshing that you soon forget the differences and enjoy this book for what it is - a new story, with new characters, written with at least the same skill and excitement as the old ones. A fine example of this are the two main characters. In the old series they were somewhat smug and overconfident, as well as being squeaky clean and well behaved. In the new series, Judah comes over as slightly immature, foolish, and very naive. Eva on the other hand is cocksure and confident, and is a real party-girl who is out to the small-hours indulging her vices.

All in all, a great start to what I am sure will be a great series.

Ryan Hopkins on wrote:

I discovered this book through a post by Goldin and decided to give it a try. Overall, Tsar Wars is an excellent book and very well written (with few minor spelling and grammar issues).

Tsar Wars reminded me of Star Wars (go figure, only the S and T are reversed) with a few twists. The book starts out quite slow and confusing for the first few chapters, but as the story goes on, you start understanding more. The Empire consists of thousands of inhabited planets with Earth being the center of the Empire and home to the Tsar. Tsar Wars follows two show dancer cousins who are descendents of ISIS spies, giving them ties to high military officers. When called upon to step into their parents' footsteps, they leave the show biz behind and try to stop a rebel army trying to take over the universe. When the Tsar dies, leaving behind a 14-year old child to run the universe, the Empire begins to fall apart as sector leaders try to take the throne for themselves. All that is standing between them are two untrained cousins and a 14-year old child.

It has a Star Wars feel to it, having thousands of planets to fly between, however, from my understanding all the inhabitants are still human (some are genetically altered though). If you're a fan of Star Wars, be it the books or the movies and you want something similar, pick up this book and try it out. Space opera fans will enjoy this as well.

A few things that really annoyed me in this book were the overly difficult names and not spelling out abbreviations first. Over and over words like "Velikaya Knyaghinya", "dvoryane" and "knyazey" are used. They are all clearly Russian which is fine because of the story line but they are used far too often without definition during the chapters. It wasn't until about halfway through the book I found the glossary for some of the terms but many of the slang terms the main characters used were still undefined in this section.

The other issue was abbreviations. Personally I understand military rank abbreviations but some people may not. Introducing a character as Col. could be confusing to some people. There are many instances in the book like this and it could get frustrating very quickly if I didn't know them.

Overall, the book is a great read and any fan of the genre should check it out. You won't be disappointed. Great start to a 10 book series, I look forward to reading and reviewing the rest of them as I go along.

The Family d'Alembert Series vs. the Agents of ISIS Series

The "Family d'Alembert series" is today considered a "classic" in the field of space opera. Personally I don't feel old enough to be involved with creating a "classic" even though I admittedly started young, but for the moment I'll go along with that description. Let me explain here how I came to create the series, and the differences between the Family d'Alembeert series and the new Agents of ISIS series.
In the May 1964 issue of If Magazine, E.E. "Doc" Smith published a novella entitled "Imperial Stars." According to a letter he wrote to his friend Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Smith intended to turn this novella into a series of books. Unfortunately he died before he could get around to it. He left behind no manuscripts, no story arcs, no further plot ideas or concepts of where to go next. He'd created a single novella and the concept for a prospective series, but not a series itself.
A decade later, I was commissioned to expand the novella into a full-sized book and then create nine more books in this universe, thus turning Smith's idea into what became known as the "Family d'Alembert series." I'd read and enjoyed Smith's earlier Skylark and Lensman series, so I was eagerly anticipating this assignment.
Unfortunately, it was not all I'd hoped for. The novella certainly had action aplenty, as befitted a Smith story, but the writing, the universe and the characters were hopelessly old-fashioned even for the 1960s when it was published, let alone the 1970s and later when I'd be writing the follow-ups. The text used bizarre words like "ultratoilsomely." The heroes were two-dimensional and way too goody-goody to be believable. The history and development of the universe were painfully naive, with an anti-communist screed straight out of the 1950s McCarthy era. And while Smith was noted for the excellence of his villains, the ultimate bad guy here never once set foot onstage. Clearly this novella needed a lot of rehabilitation.
Having to stick closely to Smith's creation hampered me considerably, but I did as much as I could to make the characters and universe more believable, and I tried to come up with stories that were exciting enough to please Smith's legion of fans. I got letters of praise that told me I was succeeding, which was most gratifying.
Still, as decades passed, the initially creaky concept grew more and more outdated. Finally, in the mid-2000s, I decided to update the whole series. Since the original novella was the source of most of the problems, I tossed out "Imperial Stars" in its entirety. I created a universe without what I perceived as Smith's flaws, yet which could still accommodate the stories of books 2-10 that I'd created for the old universe. I wrote an entirely new first novel, Tsar Wars, to introduce the re-envisioned universe and slightly more believable characters. I made major modifications to the remaining 9 books to fit the new beginning.
The result is what I now call the Agents of ISIS series, something I feel is more appropriate for the 21st century. I make no pretense that the books are ultra-realistic; they still retain their space opera roots. But I've tried to make the characters a little more interesting. And unlike in the Family d'Alembert series, the heroes no longer have to find a pay-phone to make a call when they're out in the field--they can use their wristcoms.
I understand the attraction people have for a classic that's stood the test of time, so there'll be plenty of readers paying money for the books in the Family d'Alembert series. But as someone who's intimately familiar with both series, I must say that, because I'm a more experienced writer now, the Agents of ISIS books are better written and have more interesting characters. And, in ebook format at least, the Agents of ISIS books are considerably cheaper than the reissued d'Alemberts. I've also recently reformatted the ISIS ebooks, so they should be pretty clean.
The ten books in the new series are:
  1. Tsar Wars
  2. Treacherous Moon
  3. Robot Mountain
  4. Sanctuary Planet
  5. Stellar Revolution
  6. Purgatory Plot
  7. Traitors' World
  8. Counterfeit Stars
  9. Outworld Invaders
  10. Galactic Collapse

Pleasant reading.

About the Author

STEPHEN GOLDIN is a Nebula Award finalist science fiction and fantasy writer who was born in 1947 in the city of Philadelphia. When he was 13, his parents moved to California and, upon reflection, he decided to accompany them. It was a lucky thing he did, too; otherwise, when he went to college, the commute to UCLA would have been quite difficult. He eventually graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor's degree in Astronomy.

His first job out of college was as a civilian space scientist for the U.S. Navy. The urge to write was strong, though, and after several years he left to try writing full time. He only regretted the move every other Thursday, when he would have gotten paid.

After several years of genteel poverty, he took a job as writer/editor for a pornographic humor paper, the San Francisco Ball. In retrospect, this was a great crucible; because of deadline pressure, he had to learn to make his writing dirty, funny, and one draft.

At about this time, too, he began selling novels on a regular basis. While he has, from time to time, held down other full-time employment (he helped design the Star Trek: The Next Generation computer game "A Final Unity" for Spectrum HoloByte and has also written manuals and game design documents for Maxis), his real love is fiction writing and he continues to pursue it.

His first wife was fellow author Kathleen Sky. In the 10+ years of their marriage, in addition to their individual works, they collaborated on a pair of stories ("Painting the Roses Red" and "The Devil Behind the Leaves") about the diMedicis, a family of interstellar swindlers.

Mr. Goldin's current wife is fellow author Mary Mason. They currently live in the San Francisco East Bay area. So far they have co-authored two books in the Rehumanization of Jade Darcy series: Jade Darcy and the Affair of Honor and Jade Darcy and the Zen Pirates. More books in this series are planned.

Mr. Goldin is an atheist whose interests include Broadway show albums and surrealist art. He has lived with cats virtually all his adult life.

Mr. Goldin served the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as editor of the SFWA Bulletin and as SFWA's Western Regional Director.