translated by Tyran Grillo
April 17, 2018
Unlike the previous five books in Tanaka’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes series, Flight offers readers no space battles and little hand-to-hand combat (though there is some of the latter partway through the book, and it’s kind of graphic). Instead, this sixth volume focuses on strategies and tactics as the leaders of the Galactic Empire, the (beaten) Alliance, and Yang Wen-li’s “rebellious” group plan for the next phase in intergalactic relations. Family connections and faith are also front and center here, with the previous books’ focus on history taking a bit of a backseat.
This sixth book also offers a lot of backstory about humanity’s gradual movement away from Earth and out into the galaxy. We were previously told the history of the Free Planets Alliance and how it developed in relation to what became the Galactic Empire. In book six, though, Tanaka uses the whole first chapter to start at the beginning, chronicling the Earth’s contentious relationship with its first colonies and the alliances that formed against the home planet. At first, readers might wonder why this backstory is coming now, but the novel’s focus on the Church of Terra quickly puts those questions to rest. While the church has popped up here and there throughout the previous five books as a thorn in the side of both the Empire and the Alliance, in Flight it occupies a central place. The Church of Terra grew in proportion to Earth’s diminishment, with some humans endowing the origin planet with mystical characteristics and using the religious organization as a platform from which to attack the Empire and Alliance.
Now, with the Alliance beaten and the Empire consolidating its holdings (along with its efforts to establish its authority over the Alliance), Yang (supposedly in retirement) sends his disciple Julian to Earth to infiltrate the church and report back on its activities. Meanwhile, a threat to Emperor Reinhard’s life via the church leads him to launch an attack on Earth around the same time. Yang’s troubled relationship with the alliance leads to his unjust imprisonment and much internal strife in both the Empire and the Alliance.
While Flight doesn’t include the action-packed war scenes that the others did, it nonetheless moves the story forward by exploring the church’s influence in more detail and noting the continuous in-fighting and back-stabbing that threaten the Empire and the Alliance, even though the former is supposedly controlling the latter. Thankfully, the seventh book is out this August, so we won’t have to wait long to learn Yang’s next move and whether or not Reinhard can maintain his power over billions of subjects.