Everyone once in a while a book comes along that serves as the gold standard for their genre. The Course of Empire by Eric Flint and KD Wentworth isn’t quite that, but it does make that cut for the sub-genre. This book, along with The Way of the Pilgrim, stands at the top of the pile for the science fiction sub-genre of books that begin with the premise, ‘So the Earth has been conquered, and the conquerors are not all evil monsters that simply need killing’.
In my opinion, the most important part of this sub-genre, along with several other fantasy and sci-fi sub-genres, is the way the hero understands or fails to understand, the ‘enemy’ culture. This implies that the author has to have done a good job at inventing, and then at relaying to the reader, that same ‘enemy’ culture.
Because for this sub-genre the important ‘coming of age’ for the hero has to be where they begin to realize and then use that understanding of the ‘enemy’ culture. And then they make use of that comprehension to change the relationship between the two people. This book does that superbly, alternating between the two sides, with both sides coming to understand the other.
A ‘must read’ for sci-fi people interested in this particular sub-genre, and worth reading for any sci-fi fan.