In Conquest Born, by C. S. Friedman
Friedman’s first novel has been reissued in anticipation of it’s sequel, The Wilding. Since I had loved This Alien Shore, I picked up In Conquest Born with great anticipation.
Several thousand years in our future, two human civilizations, the Azean and the Braxi have been at war for centuries. The Azean have perfected the human form through genetic engineering and have placed emphasis on science and technology. The Braxi have concentrated their energies on producing the perfect warriors, the Braxana, who not only rule but are ruthless killers. Each civilization culminates into a perfect being: the Azean Anzha and the Braxana Zatar, who take their war and make it a personal vendetta.
As a first novel, Conquest is a tour de force. Even fifteen years later, the technical descriptions –for instance interstellar travel– are still fresh and fascinating. The story is uneven and many details are left unexplained or unfinished, but it does not detract from its overall strength. Rather, it reminds me of a river. It meanders, sometimes calm and placid, then speeds up until words flow fast and furious to change themselves down into a fall of emotion. The reader gasps from the swift intensity to be brought again into calmer waters. All in all a very satisfying read.