Author: Dan Simmons

Double Dragon eBooks / 260 pages / (October 1, 2007)


Call it Peyton Space or The Young And The Weightless, and it still boils down to the same thing: space opera on the soapy side. The characters you love to hate, the melodrama, the instant love — it’s all there in Wages Of Justice, and there are two volumes still to come in The Julian Trilogy. That’s right; your stories should run for years.

On the planet Nublis, life is a somewhat fractured fairy tale. Emperors and Empresses, heirs to the throne, royal jewels. The whole court system is still in place on this distant world, and, of course, intrigue is a given. If you’re going to have a monarchy, you’re going to have people plotting to seize the throne. For every charismatic, noble hero there is going to be a dastardly villain.

That’s just the way things go in soaps. Ask anyone.

Nublis’ benevolent ruler has enough to deal with as head of state; the last thing he needs is treachery within his ranks. What he really needs is a good woman at his side. Enter the feisty and beautiful Corey, the perfect mate for the Emperor. Theirs is a marriage made in heaven, if you overlook the rather absurd wedding night.

If they get the heavenly existence, someone has to get the hellish flip-side. That misfortune falls to the Archon, the supreme judge of Nublis, the embodiment of blind justice. Cut off from the world and captive to the system, his word is the law. He is in some ways more important than the Emperor, certainly much more difficult to replace.

So, maybe everything isn’t perfect on Nublis, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a prize worth seizing. (Remember one of the hard and fast rules of soap operas: Any perfect situation or happiness is going to be constantly threatened.) And there are those who are more than ready to grab for control of the peaceful planet and its considerable resources. Whether the defenders are going to be equal to the task we will just have to read on and find out.

Some aspects of Wages Of Justice are troubling, making it difficult to maintain that willing suspension of disbelief. Although capable of space travel, the Nublians seem to be unaware of the concept of telephones; pages and couriers carry the bulk of daily communications. And a more accident-prone group would be almost impossible to locate; the main characters spend a disproportionate amount of their time barely avoiding Death’s clutches. The frequency of near-death experiences moves the phenomenon into the realm of the commonplace. Of course, when they are not dying they are at least mildly injured.

But that’s the nature of soaps, whether they take place in Dallas, or Santa Barbara, or in outer space; it’s one trial after another and no one is entitled to lasting happiness. If things always worked out, who would keep tuning in? Plausibility is near the bottom of the list of necessities. If it’s on the list at all.