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One of the better writers of the space opera subgenre in science fiction is Timothy Zahn. His novels set in the Star Wars universe are probably the best available, and I’ve just finished Conquerors’ Heritage, the second volume in his Conquerors trilogy. This is the story of a war between spacefaring humanity and what is at first presented as a ruthless conquering alien race called the Zhirzh. However, the second book of the trilogy is told from the Zhirzh point of view, and the war takes on a new light as it becomes clear that the whole thing is the sad result of a series of unfortunate mistakes, blunders, and failures of understanding. One of these errors is fairly obvious well before it is revealed at the end of Book Two, and the Zhirzh — despite some interesting cultural habits — don’t seem “alien” enough. Zahn hasn’t quite met John Campbell’s challenge of showing an alien who thinks as well as a man, but not like a man. Those are really mere quibbles, though. Zahn tells a tight story with interesting subplots that come together in unexpected ways. I’m looking forward to reading the third book in this trilogy.

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