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Karen Traviss – JudgeJudge is the conclusion to Karen Traviss' much acclaimed (deservedly, IMHO) Wess'har Wars double-trilogy – it started as a trilogy, and then grew to twice that size. So let me warn you – below are tons of spoilers on where and how things turn out; if you feel that this would affect your enjoyment of this great series then I'd suggest you stop reading here, and go get 'City of Pearl', the first book in the series, and take if from there.

Still with me? Ok, here we go. This is a book I put aside and didn't dare read, as some friends mentioned that they were disappointed with it – and me, of little faith, was loath to spoil my enjoyment of this series with a weak ending. Which, as I see now, was entirely unjustified. This is a good ending to the series, just not as we (speaking for most of the readers out there, I guess) would have liked it to be.
See, as the book starts, the day has come. It's Judgement Day. The End of the World, as Den Bari, the current Australian Premier, puts it. The Equbas have arrived on Earth, 25 years after they set off from Wess'ej (5 months for the crew due to time dilation). They have brought the Christian Settlers, led by Deborah Garrod, the Gene Bank, and of course they brought Shan Frankland, still c'naatat, and with a bad attitude towards Earth and Humanity in general.
And so, like everybody else who has learned to see things through Shan's eyes, I was chanting "Go for it! Cream the bastards! They deserve it!". But life is rarely that simple, and neither is this story. And thus the disappointment. Earth is not Umeh, and is not treated the same way.

The scene is set for some interesting manoeuvring and complications – we have Australia, hosting the Equbas task force (not popular with most of the rest of Earth); the FEU which is highly aggressive, territorial, and not at all willing to hand over the last people implicated in the orders to nuke Ouzhari; the Sinostates and smaller blocks all on military standby and with closed borders; but we also have the discrepancies between the Wess'ej Matriarchs and Esganikan Gai, the c'naatat-infected leader of the Equbas, never mind the fanatical Skavu forces. And don't forget Rayat who is millions of light years away, but still plotting…

I won't give away more, it would be unfair on the reader. This is a worthy conclusion of a great series, and, like the prior 5 books, very much worth reading. Besides the obvious themes of ecology and traces of military fiction (thankfully only traces, for me) there is a very deeply running vein on personal responsibility, on different concepts on culpability and guilt, and some interesting takes on human/alien interaction including religion (minor playing field only).

But the final book cooks down not to the question 'what happens to Earth?' but to 'what makes us human?' (or Wess'har, or Ussissi etc. Same difference, really). What makes us what we are? And what are we if we are c'naatat assisted chimeras? Like Lindsay – still on Bezer-ej, in a squid-transparent humanoid form, rallying her troops (who we last saw learning to fly) and not being able to let go of whatever identity she has left (Daniel?).

We get the same concepts as in the rest of the series – exceedingly advanced nano-tech and field-tech; FTL travel with time dilation, and FTL comms (instantaneous), and of course c'naatat, the genetic-recombination parasite with instant repair and genetic splicing & implementation abilities. Completely unrealistic from any scientific perspective, but a great and expertly applied plot device.

Overall I cannot recommend this series enough, but, having read the final book now, I face the question of what I'll read now there's no more to come, and Karen doesn't seem to write books except for Star Wars and Gears of War tie-ins? Pretty Please?

Title: Judge
Series: Wess'har Wars
Series Number: 6
Author: Karen Traviss
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  EOS
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2008
Review Date: 090709
ISBN: 9780060882402
Price: USD7.99
Author URL:
Pages: 391
Format: Paperback
Topic: Space Opera
Topic: Ecology

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