Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Collapsing Empire

John Scalzi
Completed 8/16/2018, Reviewed 8/16/2018
4 stars

As my regular readers know, I’m not a big fan of space opera, but this one blew me away.  If anyone was going to do it, it would be Scalzi.  His humor and his excellent dialogue made this a really enjoyable read for me.  As with most of his works that I’ve read, the science is a little soft but his ideas are interesting.  He doesn’t write great prose, and the world building could be better, but his breakneck pacing and easy readability made for a stunning story. 

The basic premise of this novel is that humans have populated other planets by means of something called the Flow.  It’s akin to a wormhole.  It permits traveling light years in a matter of months.  The inhabited planets connected by the Flow are called the Interdependency and it is governed by an emperox (gender neutral for emperor).  Most of the planets are not that hospitable and rely on each other for resources often including food.  The problem is that the Flow is beginning to break down.  As planets become isolated, they humans on them will eventually die because of their interdependence on each other.  One family knows the truth about the imminent collapse and must alert the emperox of this impending disaster.

The book is told from three points of view.  The first is Cardenia, the new emperox.  She lives in Hub, a planet that is basically the hub of the Interdependency.  It has the most Flow lines going to and leaving from it.  At the beginning of the book, Cardenia’s father dies and she reluctantly succeeds him.  Her older brother was supposed to be the successor, but he died in a car crash.  She is a genuinely nice person and may not have what it takes to govern the Interdependency.  She’s a very relatable character and I enjoyed following her through the nine months in which the book takes place.

The second POV is Marce Claremont, the son of Flow physicist who confirms that the Flow is collapsing.  The Claremonts live on End, a planet that is, well, basically, the butthole of the Interdependency.  At the beginning of the book, the Duke of End is battling a rebellion, making things difficult for Marce to leave End to get to Hub to alert the emperox of his father’s finding about the collapse.  He is another genuinely nice person and a bit of a country bumpkin. 

In contrast to these two, the third POV is the outrageously offensive Kiva Lagos.  She’s a daughter of House of Lagos, a merchant dynasty that transports food around the Interdependency.   She’s brash, bossy, and loves the F-word.  I really enjoyed her character.  She adds a lot of humor to the book.  As with many of Scalzi’s books, all the characters are rather snarky, but Kiva is over the top. 

This is my fourth Scalzi novel and like his others this is a fun fast read.  His dialogue is always snappy.  There isn’t much in the way of prose or world-building, which is a shame because he omits descriptions of people and places which would have added to the reading experience.  But the book is so fun and so easy to read, that I forgive him on that count.  It kept me turning the pages even when as I was falling asleep with my e-reader in my hand.  And I wasn’t even that upset that he left some plots hanging for the sequel.  I give this book four stars out of five. 

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