Haikasoru Review: Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Vol 2)

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

For general information on this series: Legend of the Galactic Heroes entry

This review is for the second volume of Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka. The English edition was released by Viz Media's Haikasoru imprint in July 2016. At the moment there are five volumes available in English. The series is completed with ten volumes in Japan, released from 1982 to 1987.

Vol 2 – Ambition

My day-to-day schedule lately has made listening to audiobooks a viable option for book-reading, so I decided it was about time I picked up another Audible volume of the space opera cult classic Galactic Heroes. I liked the first volume well enough, though that was largely thanks to just how well the narrator tells the story. The reader is Tim Gerard Reynolds, who has apparently narrated a lot of books.

He voices each of the main characters in a distinct way that fits their personalities perfectly, a point made most apparent by his portrayals of the two contrasting protagonists: Yang Wen-li and Reinhard von Lohengramm. Yang is the poor soul who keeps getting roped into nigh impossible missions, his deprecating dialogue constantly tinged with exasperation at humanity’s eagerness to repeat tragic events in history. Meanwhile whenever Reinhard speaks, you can’t help but feel the need to stand at attention — he knows he’s going to change the face of the entire universe, and you know it too.

The memorable voices extends to many among the story’s extended cast. Reinhard’s advisor Oberstein speaks in a cold and calculating monotone, making him a perfect contrast with Reinhard’s second-in-command and best friend Kircheis, who you could call Reinhard’s moral compass. I also liked the portrayal of Yang’s adopted teenage son Julian, who comes across as both a starry-eyed optimistic youth as well as a reliable support for Yang.

Volume 2 of Galactic Heroes tells two stories, switching back and forth between them from chapter to chapter. Rather than focusing on the eternal conflict between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, our protagonists are instead focused on their respective battles within the civil wars that ensue. Reinhard engages in his long-awaited power struggle with the aristocracy, while Yang must quash a sudden rebellion that has taken over the capital planet. To be honest I tend to not follow everything that is going on when it comes to the space battles themselves, but I do enjoy all the scenes in which the characters are holding conversations with one another.

Overall I liked both of the stories this volume told. They’re not as grand as the struggle portrayed in the first volume, but the overarching plot progresses enough to make the stories feel worthwhile. The coup d’etat on the Free Planets Alliance side is the more plot-driven story, but it has some interesting things to say about the inherent struggles of running a democracy, and the self-destructive pitfalls one can expect in a society fueled by war-time nationalism. Meanwhile on the Galactic Empire side, we get a much more personal story that puts Reinhard to the test, and the events that follow will clearly affect the rest of the series in terms of his character and motivations.

Cho's Rating: Recommended

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