The Phoenix in FlightImagine if Doc Smith had written Dangerous Liaisons, with a little help from the Three Stooges…

Imagine a universe where Earth is only a revered (and confused) memory…

Imagine high treason, low humor, and stellar combat on a grand scale…

Twenty years after its first publication, Exordium returns, in a revised e-book edition available from Book View Cafe, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online emporia.

The Phoenix in Flight (Buy it at Book View Cafe: only $0.99 through January 27, 2012)

Smith and Trowbridge describe the flavor of their five-book space opera Exordium as a cross between Star Wars and Dangerous Liaisons with a touch of the Three Stooges. With its fast-moving blend of humor and horror, of high-tech skiffy and the deep places of the human heart, The Phoenix in Flight launches the reader into a complex, multi-layered universe as Brandon nyr-Arkad, dissolute youngest son of the ruler of the Thousand Suns, abandons the life of Service planned for him and flees into the lawless Rift. Only slowly does he discover that the world he rejected now lies in smoking ruins as the ritual vengeance of Jerrode Eusabian against Brandon’s father, twenty years in preparation, culminates in an explosion of interstellar violence. With both his brothers dead and his father the Panarch imprisoned, Brandon becomes the Panarchy’s last hope.

Ruler of Naught (Buy it at Book View Cafe)

In the sequel to The Phoenix in Flight, Brandon vlith-Arkad, who fled the Mandalic Palace and his old life only hours ahead of assassination, is now heir to the Panarchy. He only wants to rescue his father, the Panarch. But everyone wants a piece of him. The Dol’jharians, who smashed the Panarchy and took his father prisoner. A Rifter pirate and her crew, who helped him escape a doomed planet—twice—and now wonder what to do about a royal prisoner with the price of ten planets on his head. And the remnants of the government of the Thousand Suns, for whom he’d at best be an inconvenience.

And that’s before things go seriously pear-shaped. Racing ahead of the light-speed news of their attack with FTL comms and weapons looted from a fortress built millions of years ago, the Dol’jharians and those Rifters allied with them are consolidating their victories. Elements of the Panarchist Navy struggle to understand what’s happening, find surviving units, and strike back. And Eusabian of Dol’jhar, now master of the Mandala from which his defeated enemy once ruled the Thousand Suns, awaits news of the Heart of Kronos, the missing key to ultimate power.

Which lies in the hands of Brandon’s captor. The chase is on, and unexpected detours await.

A Prison Unsought (Spring 2012)
The Rifter’s Covenant (Summer 2012)
The Thrones of Kronos
(Fall 2012)

Here’s the image that started it all, from the mini-series screenplay we shopped around in 1980…




SOUND OF A BUGLE ECHOING THEME. In the middle distance is a wide clump of trees obscured by a light mist. In the b.g., at the top of a gentle rise, is a huge medieval castle, the back of its towers washed in scarlet dawn light.

We start to move forward slowly. From o.s. comes the sound of HOOFBEATS. A group of HORSEMEN emerges from behind the trees, their breaths puffs of white. Just this side of the trees they dismount; now we hear MUTED VOICES. One of them remains with the horses while the others walk slowly toward us, and stop. They are all men, wearing high-collared tunics and long pants with riding boots; two of them remove their tunics and stand in their shirts. By now it should be obvious that a duel is about to take place, but we still cannot dis­tinguish any words.

Duelist #1 rubs his arms against the cold and jokes with the knot of men surrounding him. Duelist #2 gazes toward the still-hidden sun with an attitude that marks him as alone.

Observer #1 addresses them, and holds out an open weapons case. The Duelists choose their weapons. They do not speak. Both are young; by now we are close enough to see their features. Duelist #1, the joker, has harsh features and the unpleasant smirk of one who knows he will win; Duelist #2 has a pleasant face now frozen into remoteness.

They turn and walk apart. The Observers also move well back, while pulling from pockets some glittering implements which we cannot yet distinguish.

The Duelists stop about 30 paces apart, and pause as if waiting for a signal. In the b.g. the rim of the sun rises above the horizon— an enormous dull red arc silhouetting the castle. At this moment Observer #1 raises a lorgnette with bulging mirrored lenses to his eyes, followed very quickly by the other Observers.

We are very close to the Duelists now—they turn and level their weapons at each other. Duelist #1 fires first, and an arrow-straight bolt of blue-white lightning spears out. The BLAST is like a thunder­clap at ten feet, and the whole screen goes white.


The ROAR of the weapon’s discharge fades as the glare shrinks and becomes the flaring thrusters of a spaceship moving directly away from us. Now there is NO SOUND—we are in the vacuum of space.

As the ship diminishes in size, we see other ships around it in a loose formation. The vast curve of an earthlike planet looms beneath. All the ships are worn and battle-scarred, garishly decorated with vaguely heraldic designs. No two alike, except for a somewhat baroque feel to their design—they suggest what they are: a fleet of the RIFT BROTHERHOOD, a loosely organized federation of space pirates and raiders. Some of the ships break away and descend toward the planet—

There’s more about Exordium at Chris Weuve’s Exordium page, which, although somewhat out of date, is an excellent introduction to the world of Exordium and has a lot of detail about how space combat with mixed light-speed and FTL weapons but only light-speed sensors workstactics that allow the Panarchic Navy to enforce the Thousand Year Peace until the Lord of Vengeance arms elements of the Rift Sodality with 10-million-year-old technology…


Exordium — 17 Comments

  1. Some of the very best science fiction I’ve ever read. Engrossing, spellbinding and occasionally uproariously funny. Sherwood Smith and David Trowbridge have created a masterpiece.

  2. I first tried at the series when I was 17. I remember being somewhat confused with the myriad of characters and their intricate subtleties. Then, eleven years later, I set on re-reading all five books. I was taken in so quickly I virtually couldn’t take my eyes off the text. Took me less than a month to get to Thrones of Kronos and right now I’m halfway through. The only question that remains is what am I going to do when it ends?

    So, Dave, thank you so much for this excellent masterpiece, but the real question: is there going to be a sixth book?!

  3. Thanks, Michagorov!

    We’re presently bending all our efforts to rewriting the first five books, especially the first, to make them even deeper, as we’ve discovered a lot about the world of Exordium since they were first published.

    After that, the next book will probably be the first of the prequel trilogy “Tides of Men,” entitled “The Invisible College,” about Jaspar Arkad’s boyhood, since we have that about 75% done.

    No reason we can’t get started on the sequel though; we definitely want to do it/them. And there will be more books in the Exordium universe, including “Third Contact,” about humankind’s initial encounter with the Kelly, and one that follows Lar and Tatriman back to Bori after Eusabian’s defeat.

  4. I started the Exordium series because a mailing list with Christ Weuve was alight with excitement for it. I LOVED Phoenix in Flight! Truly grand! Alas, I could NEVER find the third book, no matter how hard I tried. And now I will soon be able to read them again, and in a format that I can take wherever I can go? This just made the day even more awesome. Thank you!

  5. Thanks, Mink, Kevin!

    We’re having a lot of fun rewriting the books and seeing them open up and deepen even more. And looking forward to writing more books in the Worlds of Exordium.

  6. Truly a dream come true! I first found Phoenix in Flight at a thrift shop while my parents were shopping for furniture for our vacation condo in Arizona. This was…probably mid 90′s. I spent the next week after I devoured it anxiously waiting to return home to have the local library do a nationwide search for the other books in the series. It wasn’t until early 2000′s and the magic of Amazon that I managed to locate my own copies of the other 4 books.

    Quite simply, it’s one of the best sci-fi worlds I’ve ever come across, and the writing is top notch to go along with it. I had given up hope of ever having anything new in the world, until a whim landed me here today. I’m eager to see the rewrites and future books. The only thing missing then would be a RPG setting!

    Thanks again Dave!

    PS – The new cover fits, I had grown a bit fond of the old artwork though!

  7. Thank you, Brandon! One of the best things about the re-issue is connecting (or reconnecting) with readers who grabbed it the first time around.

    As for an RPG setting, well, that has been discussed as a possible long-term goal. Let us know if you’d be interested in joining a discussion group on that. First things first, though: we need to relaunch the world and start pumping out new books. We’re hard at work on Book 2 right now.

  8. Dave,

    I certainly would be interested in a discussion group – I’ve often thought about making my own Exordium RPG material. I certainly spent enough time looking at game systems like Savage Worlds and True20 that might fit. I always came back to the need to really document much of the universe in order to do it justice, and that’s a pretty monumental task – it’s easy to lose yourself in the story (even after reading it 5+ times) when you’re trying to document everything in the books. It really screams for a wiki of sorts – something that others see a need for (ie yahoo list). That might be a good way to do some parallel/complimentary development while working on the re-releases and new books.

    PS – I’d love to see the change log when you’re done!

  9. Pingback: Space Opera and the Siege of Vienna: the Archetypal Perspective | Dave Trowbridge

  10. I recall Mr. Trowbridge’s interview on Hour 25, a science fiction radio talk show where he appeared to promote the original Tor books release of the Exordium series, which sounded so fascinating I phoned into the show and spoke with Mr. Trowbridge directly. I immediately purchased the Exordium series and found it to be one of the most thrilling space operas I’ve encountered. Wonderful that the first volume is now available as a revamped e-book with the other volumes in the works.

    By the way, the customer service at Book View Cafe is superb. I reported some minor formatting or proofreading errors in “The Phoenix in Flight” as it appeared on my Kindle DX to Book View; in less than two hours they e-mailed me back saying that corrected copies were up on their site for free re-downloads. My Kindle DX read the corrected copy perfectly.

  11. I’ve heard that _Ruler of Naught_ will be delayed. So do we have an update as to *when* it will be available?

  12. I found all 5 books in a used bookstore in the 90s. Have re-read the series at lease 3 times and enjoyed them every time. A lot was left open for sixth book. Hope you and Sherwood write one soon.

  13. Thanks, Donald. Once we’ve finished the rewrite of Exordium, we’ll move on to the prequel (Tides of Men, a trilogy) and the sequel (untitled, length unknown).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>