The “golden brat” Reinhard von Lohengramm, a military prodigy and admiral of the Galactic Empire, has ambitions beyond protecting the borders or even defeating the empire’s enemies. He seeks to overthrow the old order and become a truly absolute—yet benevolent—dictator. His rival, the humble Yang Wen-li of the Free Planets Alliance, wishes to preserve democracy even if he must sacrifice his political ideals to defeat the empire. Their political and military battles play out over a galactic chessboard in an epic saga fifteen centuries in the making!
Tanaka's military SF classic has been unavailable in English for decades, but given the poor quality of this new translation, it's hard to say whether that was truly a bad thing. The saga follows two young commanders on either side of a galactic war: Reinhard von Lohengramm of the Galactic Empire, and Yang Wen-li of the Free Planets Alliance. Upon their first meeting in battle, each man distinguishes himself by utilizing unorthodox tactical maneuvers (which have their basis in military history). A web of political infighting on both sides slowly reveals itself, but Huddleston's prose is so slavishly devoted to Tanaka's original Japanese text that the path towards the meat of the book quickly becomes a slog. It's easy to lose interest long before the action picks up (no thanks to the unnecessary, lengthy prologue, absent in the fan-favorite anime adaptation). It doesn't help that Tanaka's nearly 35-year-old plot has aged rather poorly; with its overwhelmingly male-dominated story and shallow female characters, it's hard to find a place for this series among today's more nuanced SF.