The Collapsing Empire (book 1) by John Scalzi (book review).

May 18, 2017 | By | Reply More

‘The Collapsing Empire’ is the first book in a new series by award-winning author John Scalzi and the first of his books that I’ve read. The setting is a far-flung interstellar empire know as the Interdependency, over a thousand years in the future, where planets are connected via poorly-understood faster-than-light conduits known as the Flow. This is a witty space opera that spans not only vast amounts of space but also an interesting array of characters, from the newly-crowned Emperox to a scientist and a starship captain.

The whole book is written with a sense of humour, producing a serious and well-thought-out concept in an atmosphere of fun. Sometimes I found the levity a bit too much, especially when some of the characters talk in a sarcastic and informal style, despite their rank and position. Then again, I suppose I’m just projecting my own preconceptions on how they would act or talk. Humour is notoriously subjective but, actually, as I progressed through the book, I became more accustomed to the characters and to John Scalzi’s humour.

New Emperox Cardenia struggles to cope with her transition to power and navigate her way through the formalities, machinations and interplay of political powers. Her attempts to understand her heritage give us a good opportunity to understand the background of the Interdependency without dropping too much history on us at once.

Meanwhile, the business side of things is described to us through the viewpoint of the Lady Kiva, whose expletive-strewn dialogue was too overdone for my liking. The monopolies of the various trading houses are what keep the Interdependency, well, interdependent. The third major character is Lord Marce, whose studies to understand the workings of the Flow have brought him to the worrying conclusion that soon all of mankind’s planets will be cut off from each other.

The plot moves along smartly, weaving these various threads to gradually give us an overall understanding of how this civilisation works and what the fall of the Flow will mean. Being the first in a series, it does a good job of setting up this scenario and leaving you, by the end, in the position of wanting to know what, if anything, can be done and how things will work out for the various characters. The Interdependency seems, at first glance, to be a rather daft and precarious way of setting up an interstellar empire and is quite different to any I’ve come across in other novels. The reasons behind the set-up are hinted at early on, though, and start to become clear by the end of the book. I was quite relieved at this because I have read several books where a totally artificial and pointless situation exists purely for the convenience of the plot. I’ll be intrigued to see how the explanation for the Interdependency plays out in the next volume.

Overall, this book is fast, fun and nicely developed and a great start to a new series.

Gareth D Jones

May 2017

(pub: TOR/Forge. 321 page small hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), $36.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-8888-9)

check out website: www.tor-forge.com

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Category: Books, Scifi

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