The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe by the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Redshirts and Old Man's War.
Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible -- until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.
Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war -- and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.
The Flow is eternal -- but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency -- are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.
As delightful and easy to read as Scalzi at his best (Redshirts, Old Man's War), with characters who are going to stay with you whenever you have to put the book down ... which you aren't going to want to do.
I won't discuss plot, at all, but I will say this much: like all great SF, and like the SF that has become accepted as classic, The Collapsing Empire works as a wonderful SF tale ... but it also has important allegory, metaphor, and commentary on some things that are going on right now, for readers who are open to that sort of thing. For those who aren't, it doesn't beat you over the head with it, which is a pretty neat trick.
DISCLOSURE: I am very good friends with the author, and I am the narrator of the audiobook.
This novel marks a very strong return to Space Opera for Scalzi and I'll admit that I felt slightly trepidatious about it, after all, these tomes usually require a fairly substantial investment of time and energy, especially when contemplating an extensive book deal for him running to 2027! (Congrats, by the way!)
However, I should just go ahead and trust that my favorite authors, Scalzi included, can pull off these kinds of really ambitious undertakings. He's done it before and he has serious writing chops. Where's your faith, man?
It's here! It's here! Sorry I required proof! It won't happen again! I swear! (Pre-orders the next in this series.)
So what is so special about this new Space Opera? Is it the basic concept behind "the Flow" which bypasses natural physics and allows a river-like network to be maintained between all the human settlements? Is it the social setup that requires each human settlement to maintain and support each of the others?
Partially, but these great ideas, however deeply realized and explored by the author, of course, has their own little conflicts. And when I say little, I mean absolutely huge. Brilliant drill-down. :)
But of course no tale can be complete without great characters, too, and we mainly get in deep with the new leader of the empire, Cardenia, who actually charms my pants off with her constant need to pee and the constantly bribing or bribable Kiva who merchants or fails to merchant her way across the galaxy, and of course there's Ghreni. Trust me. He's quite interesting, too. :)
We get all kinds of cross sections of the populace, and even if I may have felt like some of the sections were kinda slow, all of the characters eventually grew on me and kept me glued to the page until the next great reveal or action or twist. Like I said, Scalzi is a man with serious writing chops. This is a very ambitious beginning of a series and two whole planets, in particular, are now firmly rooted in my consciousness. This is not the End. Or rather, the End is going to be really, really big. (For those in the know, End is a backwater planet that no one really cares about. Reversals!) :)
I'm hooked and seriously looking forward to every new installment. :)
Scalzi is accessible science fiction, and this is Scalzi (the storyteller) at his best. He’s improved at structuring a story over the years, and this is more evidence to support that claim. You can tell how much fun he’s having writing a space opera in a universe very separate from the Old Man's War series. My one complaint would be with Scalzi’s prose, and only because I know he can do better than this. See the codas at the end of Redshirts, or the novella The Sagan Diary for perfect examples of just how good his prose can be when he really goes for it).
Very much the first book in a series, The Collapsing Empire resolves the main plot expertly while simultaneously paving the way for a lot more stories that will undoubtedly come. This series really feels like it has legs. There is a lot of stuff going on here, and I need at least 3-4 more books in this universe.
This is basically Scalzi’s Dune. Several powerful houses competing for power and resources, an Emperox (Emperor) that controls a planet called Hub, which resides at the epicenter of The Flow, a trade network of one-directional interstellar wormholes that humanity found a thousand years ago, religion and politics intertwined, etc. Using The Flow we branched out into the galaxy and started living in some areas that were not so hospitable. Each colony is dependent on the others for resources they do not have available locally. So what happens if this network doesn’t always function the way it has in the past? What happens if Hub isn’t always where all paths in The Flow lead?
With the exception of a fantastic interlude, the story is told through the point of view of three main characters (and mostly through dialogue): a representative of a powerful family aboard a trade ship, a Flow physicist living in the ass end of the empire, and the new Emperox who didn’t ask for, and doesn’t want the job or the responsibilities it entails.
The allusions to the impending issue of Climate Change are apparent, but not so heavy handed that it becomes preachy. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’ll definitely be checking out the next ones in the series. Still, I know that Scalzi can write more elegant prose, and it would drastically improve his novels if he did.
This is a wildly fun space opera. Witty, irreverent, even a little sexy. Lots and lots of world building and the society here, the Interdependency is full of intrigue. Incredible women characters which is very refreshing. I was turning the page so so fast and sad when the book ended.
One flaw is that there are some really annoying, kind of lazy ways in which the reader is taught about this world. Like, straight up, in one scene a guy is explaining the universe to kids on a field trip. Bro.... Also, some of the naming conventions were hmm... inconsistent, funny but like inside jokes. And that's fine, mostly.
First, the good news – The Collapsing Empire is a smart, entertaining, easily digestible page turner. In other words, it’s a John Scalzi novel. It’s also a nice bit of old fashioned sci-fi fun – heroes do heroic things and villains do villainous things, the story has nice momentum and the world-building is fun. Trying to figure out why I felt unsatisfied by the book is a little harder to explain, especially when I basically had a good time reading it. I think it comes down to the fact that it proclaims itself a “first book in a series”, and feels like it went a little overboard with its first-bookiness. The setup takes too long and there’s way more info-dumping than we need to get acclimated to this world. There’s a lot of talkiness in the middle (and I mean A LOT) and while much of it is fun Scalzian banter, it wore me down a little bit. The action started to pick up and there were some nice turns and reversals in the last few chapters, but as soon as it really felt like it was gathering steam for an epic climax, the book literally just stops happening. And by “stops happening”, I mean I kept turning the last page back and forth to see if the rest of the book would appear. I wondered for a second if there was a glitch in the Kindle edition that accidently left off the last chapter or two and that I would get an apologetic email from Amazon any minute telling me to go to my account and download the update. Alas, no, the ending of the book did not magically appear by the power of my will, nor did Amazon send a patch. Scalzi just said “Nope – saving it for the sequel, folks!” Imagine, if you will, that Scalzi had decided not to write the last two chapters of Old Man’s War. I mean, imagine that for a second. Perry convinces Jane to put him on the team, then they get ready to speed off for the epic battle with the fate of humankind in the balance – and it stops there. Do you think “Don’t worry! There’s a sequel coming! We’ll get to that later!” would have made that book the classic that it is today? I guess that’s the difference between a hungry writer and a well fed one. I don’t think this book would have ended the way it did if this had been Scalzi’s first novel and he was trying to build a readership. When he decided to end The Collapsing Empire the way he did, he was leaning on the good will he has engendered with readers over the years, and I don’t think that’s something any writer should fall back on at any point in their career. You run the risk of taking your readership for granted, and that’s exactly how The Collapsing Empire made me feel. I realize his approach to this series is different from OMW – as in he’s telling one big story through a series of novels rather than writing a series of stand-alone sequels – but that feels more like an excuse than an enticement. And, yes, I’m going to buy the sequel. I like these characters and this world and I want to see what happens next, though that still would have been true even if Scalzi had written an actual ending for this book. At least in that case, it would have left me ONLY wanting more instead of also feeling a little cheated.
UPDATE 12/13/18: Re-read in preparation for book two. Listened to Wil Wheaton’s audiobook narration this time, which was really great. Loved the book just as much the second time and will probably listen to the next one as well.
'Accessible' is a word I've read used to describe Scalzi's fiction a lot, and it's true. This feels like old school space opera, commercial and unabashedly traditional- with some modern sensibilities if that's not too big a contradiction. It's also basically a giant set-up for the forthcoming series but, as bait, it pulled me in hook, line and sinker.
I've also noticed multiple mentions comparing Scalzi's dialogue to Joss Whedon. Which, let's be honest, makes him my soulmate. Maybe I'm just one of those "smart-mouthed millennials" but John Scalzi is my kind of snarky, even when it's laid on pretty thick. I connected with each of the three main POV characters and actually enjoyed that they were each a little too clever in similar ways.
It's very much a first-book-in-a-series, but a lot happens and it's very readable; the pace never drags too much even during worldbuilding exposition and frameworking. It's done its job of getting me to commit to at least the next book in the series.
John Scalzi’s 2017 space opera MAGNIFICO! is delicious the same way hipster doughnuts with fruity pebbles or maple with bacon are yummy: decadent, a little on the silly side, but OH! SO GOOD!
Reminiscent of Jack Vance, Samuel Delaney, Frank Herbert and Douglas Adams (Adams?? YES! It’s funny, sometimes even hilarious) but with a modernity born of the INFORMATION AGE! Scalzi does what Scalzi does best – entertains with a cool as ice cream space saga EXTRAVAGANZA!
If it were in Manchester, Tennessee it would be SPACE BONNAROO!
If it were a guitarist for KISS is would be SPACE FREHLEY!
But I digress. It’s about a far future universe where humanity has spread out and away from Earth. We’ve not discovered a faster than light form of propulsion, it’s still generation ships for interstellar travel –
There is this thing called the Flow. (not a waitress at Mel’s Diner or a hawker of discount insurance). The Flow is a kind of wormhole concept whereby a ship can enter and exit the flow at different time-space points and thus can travel light years away to other worlds inhabitable for humans (or under the surface or in artificial habitations).
Here’s the thing:
The Flow connects these vast dots capriciously, like a meandering river. Humans have no control over this NATURAL RESOURCE only use it to get around. But what if, like a mature stream, the Flow alters course and no longer visits the same solar systems? Like a gas station marooned in the desert when the interstate is built, that planet and it’s teeming millions of fat and happy colonists are going to be cut off and unable to reconnect with the rest of humanity.
So Scalzi, brilliant evil mastermind that he is, has set up his Interdependency series. The worlds connected by the Flow have become interdependent on each other. And not just for coffee from Brazil and vodka from Poland – these worlds are tied together politically and theologically by a complicated aristocratic and mercantile network (ala Frank Herbert). So what happens when this network is threatened?
A damn fine story ensues that’s what!
Fun story that it is (sometimes outrageously) Scalzi uses the themes inherent in the setting to explore allegorically scarcity policy, conservation and the needs we all have for connection.
*** COOL CHARACTER ALERT! Scalzi, ever the aficionado of dialogue and characterization, has outdone himself with Kiva Lagos. This fun-as-a-barrel-of-monkeys STRONG FEMALE LEAD is the opposite of the women described by Jack Nicholson in his 1997 film As Good as it Gets. In a famously misogynistic line Jack, a successful writer of romance novels, is asked how he writes women characters so well. His answer: “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” Scalzi thinks of a foul mouthed and oversexed man – and then makes her a woman. I waited anxiously for her scenes, well done Scalzi; somewhere Robert A. Heinlein is leering appreciatively.
BTW – Scalzi’s names for the spaceships are BRILLIANT! Some examples include: “Tell Me Another One”, “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” and “Because I said so” which are apparently an homage to writer Iain Banks, which makes me want to read his books.
For Scalzi fans and for speculative fiction fans of all plumage.
If you like political machinations, space, Scalzi's wit, and characters who are more asshole than charming, you'll enjoy this. It took me a little bit to get used to the general lack of fucks all of the characters give (and the amount of fucks the characters say), but I found myself rooting for many of them by the end and I'm interested to see how the rest of this series will go.
I finally got to “The Collapsing Empire”. I loved, loved the whole Old Man's War Series and that set my expectations of future Scalzi work ski high. Which is why I only mildly enjoyed his book, “Redshirts”. I expected it to be hilarious, but found it only mildly amusing. The coda’s helped, but didn’t put it over the top for me. I kinda ignored this and still went into “The Collapsing Empire” with big expectations. Keeping in mind those high expectations, I found this book to be . . . wait for it . . . very good. Yes, not great, not awful – I enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away like I was by every book in “Old Man’s War” trilogy.
Having just toured Italy for ten days and getting to see feudal Europe firsthand, I was primed for this book. What did I learn in Italy? In medieval times, people went to incredible lengths to protect themselves. They built amazing walled cities on top of mountains to avoid being pillaged. When you see it firsthand, you can’t help but be awestruck at what it must have taken in a pre-mechanized society to build and live in those cities. You realize there was this crazy juxtaposition of conflict and violence against the need, or even requirement of cooperation and dependence. That’s what Scalzi world built around, which is, I must say - awesome. I love the physics concept of the flow (a force that allows interstellar travel – but only along a set path – like an ocean current) setting the underlying scaffolding for this universe. I love the backdrop of Earth getting cutoff from a disruption in the flow.
So why was it very good and not outstanding? Well, it started with a bang – an attempted mutiny on a starship navigating the flow. It got me all revved up for a high-adventure, action story and whump, we drop out of hyperspace and slow the ‘f’ down into about 200 pages of palace intrigue a’ la space opera drudgery. To be fair, those two hundred pages are well-written and introduce some great characters and this awesome universe that we are going to live in for an entire trilogy. And to be fairer, it wasn’t all politics, we get to see more and more of a political uprising. However, for my money, the real action (the good stuff) doesn’t start back up until the final 75 pages of the story. But when it finished, I was satisfied. There was enough resolution of plot to feel like a complete book, but plenty of setup for the remainder of the trilogy. There are some great characters in this book, kick ass women, manipulative baddies, and a few main characters I really wanted to root for. There is plenty of conflict and peril, both in this book and setup for the trilogy. A good indicator is that I’m excited to read the next book in the trilogy.
A strong and fun start to a promising sci-fi trilogy, that established a fantastic backdrop for the remaining trilogy.
4.5 stars! Just as good on reread, if not even better. I’m working myself up to reading the concluding book in this trilogy. This is great space opera-type science fiction, kind of like an updated version of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. It’s set in the distant future when humans have settled several planets and moons and lost contact with Earth. They’ve only actually settled one habitable planet, though; all the rest are underground or in space and need a constant inflow of supplies from other places.
In their (dubious) wisdom and (definitely) greed, people set up their civilization, the Interdependency, with various families and groups being granted permanent monopolies over key supplies, and no one world having all vital supplies, with the possible exception of End, the habitable planet. If they get cut off from the other human settlements, they’ll die within a few years at best. And all travel between the 40 or 50 human habitations is dependent on a type of other-dimensional set of paths between a limited set of star systems, called the Flow.
So that’s the setup, and Scalzi follows several different characters’ points of view as it gradually becomes apparent that a major problem is developing with the Flow. There’s lots of adventure, conniving and political scheming, told with Scalzi’s witty (but often coarse) sense of humor.
A lot of this story is setup for the rest of the series, but I still was completely sucked in by this. It has some great twists and kept me up way too late! And the second book, The Consuming Fire, is — wait for it — even better!
Content notes: countless F-bombs (seriously, there’s a ton) and some semi-explicit sex scenes.
Let me start by saying I’m a huge fan of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. Years ago when I was still mostly reading fantasy and wanted to get into science fiction, I’d made the initial mistake of starting my journey with a couple of “classic” titles that nonetheless made me feel like I was in way over my head. It wasn’t until the moment I picked up the first Old Man’s War book that I realized the element I’d been missing: FUN. Turned out, Scalzi’s storytelling was exactly what I needed at the time—the riveting drama of interplanetary politics combined with the violent thrills and action in space, presented alongside a sense of casual, easy humor. His writing was completely accessible, yet there was still enough “hard science” in the story to make a newcomer like me feel like I was immersed in a bonafide space opera. I guess you could even say it was one of my gateway book into genre, since it helped open my eyes to many more possibilities and directly resulted in me trying more sci-fi.
So why am I telling you all this, you say? Well, it’s because Scalzi has done it again. The Collapsing Empire marks his strong return to space opera with a fresh start in this series opener, introducing readers to a new universe, new characters, and a whole new set of rules. At first, I was a little apprehensive about whether I would take to it as fondly as the books in the Old Man’s War sequence, but all my skepticism went out the window as soon as I finished the book and found myself once more filled with that familiar sense of marvel and excitement.
To understand what The Collapsing Empire is about, one must also have to understand one of the key concepts behind the book’s universe, that of The Flow. For almost as long as the space opera genre has existed, science fiction authors have been coming up with creative and practical ways for their characters to travel the vast distances between stars. In this book though, the catch is that the universe is still bound by the rules of physics, so no faster-than-light travel is possible. However, humanity has also discovered an extra-dimensional network of pathways that can be accessed at certain spatial-temporal points, drastically decreasing the travel time between star systems that are connected. This is what is known as The Flow. While its nature limits the options in terms of which systems can be colonized, humanity has nonetheless built a vast empire using this network called the Interdependency, so named because the first emperox decreed that all human settlements connected by The Flow need each other to flourish and survive.
But just like a river, The Flow is dynamic, always moving and changing course. It might happen over hundreds or thousands of years, but sooner or later The Flow is bound to shift, potentially cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. It has already happened to Earth, a long time go in the past. More recently, a few hundred years ago, it also happened to a world belonging to the Interdependency. But now, the empire is about to discover that—again, like a river—The Flow also has the potential to dry up completely. Already, parts of The Flow are starting to destabilize, and Flow physicists are estimating that a complete collapse will happen within ten years, which would inevitably lead to the destruction of the entire Interdependency.
True to form, Scalzi knows how exactly how to hook the reader. By introducing the concept of The Flow and its impending collapse, he has killed two birds with one stone—first by setting up an extremely cool premise, and next establishing an intense and nail-bitingly riveting scenario. As you would imagine, this story has a love of moving parts. Like any empire, there are many dukedoms in the Interdependency, and among them the usual alliances and secret backstabbing. A certain House is seeing this instability as a power grab opportunity, while others are more concerned with preparing for the eventual collapse and saving lives. Because of the distance between the colonies, up-to-date information also takes a long time to communicate, resulting in widespread misinformation, rumors, and star systems only getting bits and pieces of the whole picture. And if that wasn’t enough, the old emperox has just died, passing on his rule to an untrained and inexperienced daughter. Yep, queue the utter chaos.
That said, it would be a mistake to sell the new emperox short. Cardenia Wu-Patrick is a wonderful new protagonist, and while she may lack the raw strength and power of a character like Jane Sagan from the Old Man’s War series, her admirable traits lie more in compassion for her people and her willingness to learn. As unprepared as she is to lead the Ascendency (especially in the confusion and mayhem of its final days), she still manages to handle the politics of it rather well. Certainly she stood out more to me than the rather undistinguished Marce or the brash Lady Kiva Lagos—the latter of whom was only remarkable for her talent to throw the word “fuck” into every other sentence, but otherwise I thought she was pretty bland. Admittedly, character development is not an area I would say the author is strongest, but it is my hope still that the main players will grow in depth as the series continues.
As I’ve alluded to before though, what I believe Scalzi excels in is the writing of massively entertaining and addictive stories—and The Collapsing Empire is no exception. There’s nothing elegant about the writing, but it is so easy to get into thanks to Scalzi’s minimalist and in-your-face style, which is often tinged with a healthy dose of snark. I also read his books for the cool ideas—and “cool” most definitely describes the concept of The Flow. Apart from that, I also really liked the idea of the Memory Room where an emperox can seek advice directly from their predecessors by accessing their stored memories and personality patterns.
All this simply drives home the fact that we’re now in brand new territory. And I’m loving what I see. I never really expect a series to knock me off my feet right out of the gate, and in truth, The Collapsing Empire does have the feel of a “book one” whose main job is to set the stage for bigger things to come in the sequel or beyond, but I am not displeased in any way. Far from it, in fact—I am practically ecstatic with the potential I’ve seen, and I can hardly wait to see what will happen next.
This audiobook was an absolutely phenomenal way to make a 12 hour drive to my new apartment fly by. The only problem now is my roommate and I scrambling to figure out when we’re going to listen to the next two.
Update on 9/25/19:
Such a cool read! I wanted to specifically note that this has a bisexual protagonist who I adore. She's an absolute asshole who takes no shit and curses where most people in a sentence would just say "uhhhh". There are also a variety of people of color, including a Chinese protagonist. I don't know how well I would have done with how much info dumping there is at the beginning if I had read a physical copy of this book, but as an audiobook companion to a drive through 4 states it absolutely flew by and I really liked most of the exposition. I will say that there was one particularly lazy exposition scene where one character literally is explaining how the world works to a field trip full of children, but beyond a couple of scenes like this the exposition is handled really organically.
Also, I loved the characters! I'm now just mad that I accidentally chose a book for me and my roommate to listen to that doesn't actually have a series conclusion until next April.
It is always enjoyable to get back to an author you've had so many great reading experiences with. It has been quite a while since Scalzi swam in the waters of Space Opera but he is still in fine form with this new series, The Interdependency.
One thing I greatly appreciated in Old Man's War was the rational, believable, but still fantastical universe he set his stories in. Likewise with The Collapsing Empire we have a really neat premise (The Flow, naturally occurring interstellar paths that allow for faster than light travel) that rationally translates in a fascinating social order. The Interdependency, the interstellar ruling organization, arose out of this discovery. A collection of merchant/family guilds, a ruling bureaucracy, and official church all headed by a single Emperor regulate human life in the cosmos. It is by no means an immense empire, it contains fewer than 50 systems where ships can exit and enter The Flow, and every system relies on others to provide certain resources. The entire social order is interdependent and was set up that way as a means to facilitate unity and cooperation as allowed by The Flow.
As you can see in the book blurb, and has you quickly discover in the book, The Flow is shifting threatening not just the existence of the Interdependency but the survival of humanity as a species. Into this tense situation (that the vast majority of people are ignorant of) we find our main characters: an astrophysicist bearing important data to the Empress, the young Empress herself who only recently ascended and has somewhat mixed feelings about it, and a bunch of competing guild nobles trying to turn the shift of the Flow to their own advantage. Naturally there is plenty of cloak and dagger maneuvering, clashing personalities, and power politics mixed in with the book that heighten the already fast paced action as it unfolds.
I really enjoyed the book. The characters were very much in the Scalzi mold of snarky, irreverent, but nuanced in their own way, pursuing actions that fit their own goals instead of merely servicing the story.I look forward to seeing how they will develop and interact in subsequent books. My only issue with the book was that it almost felt half complete, as though what I read was but the first part of a bigger story. Yes, I am aware this is part of a series, but many series allows books to be an end unto themselves. This felt like one big set up for the subsequent books instead of a book that could stand on its own merits. The climax felt more like a place setting for the next books instead of a climax for the story told in this book.
That small black mark aside, this was still a thrilling, exciting read and I eagerly await the next in the series.
A rip-roaring story with a huge dilemma at its center. Scalzi delivers yet again!
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi is part of a new sequence (I can’t find details on how many books it will comprise of but I hope it’s lots!), which is due for release on 23 March. I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Set in a universe where planets in the ‘Interdependency’ are all connected via the Flow. Space travel hasn’t evolved to the level used in most sci-fi stories so the Flow is the only method to get between systems, and for the first time in centuries, the Flow is about to change.
As far as dilemmas go, this is one of the biggest in scope that I’ve encountered. It immediately draws you in. Scalzi explains things clearly and sets it up nicely, allowing him to really focus on character instead of all the science-type stuff.
Scalzi’s writing is a joy to behold. It’s not the prettiest prose but it is clear, concise and has its own character. There are a lot of swear words, so if that offends you, be warned. Above all, Scalzi’s books have a unique feeling to them because of his tone. I’ve picked out a couple of my favourites lines below:
“Prepare for what?” “The collapsing empire,” Jamies said. “And the darkness that follows.” - How great a set up is that?
”…an officious cockwomble.” - Best insult ever!
”Stop whining like a f*cking child.” - Kiva “You could have just said, ‘I need your help.’ ” - Marce “All right. I need your help. Stop whining like a f*cking child.” - Kiva “That’s not better.” - Marce - Great example of the awesomeness that is Kiva.
…suppressed an itchy feeling. - This is a great adjective which made me really understand what the character was feeling. Itchy might not be what you would call a fancy word, but it certainly does the trick and shows Scalzi’s strength as a writer.
Scalzi’s dialogue, in here and in all his books, is what shines for me. It’s wholly believable and never forced. Most impressive is Scalzi’s ability to deliver a lot of action, background, exposition and character through dialogue. This cuts down on word count and makes it so much easier to fly through.
I loved the way that Scalzi built up the different conflicts. The first, the potential collapse of the empire due to issues with the Flow is a huge issue and is what we focus on right off the bat. What Scalzi builds over the course of the story is the very human conflict between the different families, or guilds.
Every book should focus on the characters within it. Some writers forget this, particularly in sci-fi books. Scalzi has created a bunch of characters that are easy to understand, unique, funny and frankly, awesome.
Kiva is one of my favourite female characters ever. She’s badass and takes no crap from anyone and was the highlight of the book for me.
The scenes at the start between Cardenia and her father, the emperox are heart-warming and tragic.
The women really stood out to me, not because they are all stereotypical ‘strong independent women’ but because they are very real. The book is told from the viewpoint of a female character around 75% of the time. Very refreshing and not forced at all.
Not much in the way of issues. I would have liked the book to have been a bit longer and for the characters to reflect more. It is rather action packed. I do prefer a bit of a longer book so it’s purely a personal thing.
Scalzi is in my top two sci-fi authors list (the other is Iain M. Banks). I will be continuing with the series. For anyone looking to jump into sci-fi but don’t know where to start, here is as good a place as any!
John Scalzi has brought me back!! He almost lost me with his gender dalliances in the Lock In universe. Scalzi brings the fun and the intelligence with Interdepency novels. I say fun, because it’s a rip roaring fast moving novel that is cathartic for any science fiction fan that wants more than space battles and laser guns. This was a novel of political intrigue. The adding of snarky, whip smart characters makes it fun and interesting. The fact that the most interesting and powerful characters are female…well how can I resist?!?!
As with all Scalzi novels, this one is full of dialogue. Conversations move this book along at breakneck speed. It's all witty, snarky banter, so it is ultimately enjoyable. Just don't expect descriptions…of anything or anyone. Also, in my view Scalzi just doesn't write female characters very well. It works in this novel better than most because what Scalzi has in effect done is reversed gender roles. The men are often dupes and pawns and tools and the females wield the power. So basically, the characterizations are role based rather than gender based and Scalzi is still stuck in the "can't write female characters very well" place. There is little to distinguish gender in the book other than the names of the characters and a few vague references to menstrual cycles…oh Scalzi, smh. I'm also going to take an unpopular position and say that though Will Wheaton was a very good narrator, I can think of a few narrators that I think would have been able to handle this better. My friend Ed says Scalzi and Wheaton go together like pizza and beer. I think that's an apt description, because Scalzi can't write female characters very well and Wheaton certainly doesn't even try to perform them even the slightest bit differently than the male characters. At least Ghreni had an accent. Having read Scalzi in the past (this was my first audiobook), I know that Wheaton's interpretation was probably spot on.
But honestly, it doesn't matter to me because the novel is great fun, interesting and smart. I really enjoyed this book and I am definitely in for the sequels (which is fortuitous because I already own The Consuming Fire)!! One of the better scifi novels that I've ingested in quite a while.
Listened to the audio book. Will Wheaton was great, energetic and fun; but not epic.
I'm not a space opera person, generally, but this is a cracking read. Mostly because what it's really about is politics, greed, and primarily climate change. (Not explicitly but it's about an entire empire that's going to collapse because of natural events, thus causing death to billions, and the fact that people currently benefiting from the system don't want to believe the collapse will happen so they refuse to guard against it, is this sounding familiar yet.)
And it's very much rooted in people, with a large cast of entertainingly flawed individuals. The majority of these are women, and many of them are queer, with sexual orientation a total non-issue socially. It's quite annoying that this is still a refreshing set-up. Very readable, very likeable, fast-flowing story, and I want to know what happens.
I really enjoyed this book. It is a sci-fi with heavy political intrigue and a physics conundrum, which has put humanity on a brink of a possible extinction. This is about a millennia in the future and at this point humans have left Earth behind for a system of colonised planets and space habitats Interdependent on each other for survival and connected by The Flow, an interdimensional roadway, flowing between a specific number of planets, occurring outside of human influence and not completely understood. The Flow is the lifeblood of the human Empire, which counts on it's fast travel in order to supply the different habitats with their basics for survival. Of all the Interdependent planets, the one seen as useless and used for dumping the not so desirable elements of society is End, the only planet closest to Earth's composition and life sustaining atmosphere. So, it is not a surprise when a rebellion starts there, being that the majority of its citizens were either considered problematic, or are descendents of them. At the same time, the Emperox of the Interdependency is dying and his daughter is supposed to take the reigns of power, despite her reluctance and unpreparedness. ...
Given all the chaos, the idea that something might be wrong with The Flow is enough to plunge the system into panic. Only Scalzi knows how things can ever get back to normal. I am going to join him for the ride😃👍
🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 Re-read on October 2017 amidst the chaos and craziness of what is known as "real life"
Even better the second time around! Definitely one of the best reads of this year
**************************************** What an insanely entertaining and oddly satisfying book! This was my first book by this author, according to a number of his ardent fans this is not one of his best works. If this is an example of not his best, I can' t wait to read the supposed better ones :) Simply loved the pace of writing. Not once did I feel that the story was dragging nor was there any amount of unnecessary background info imho. Thoroughly enjoyed the irreverent attitude and the sarcastic/sardonic exchanges between the characters. I was a little sceptical of this book having a political undertone. But! The political intrigue, the shift of power from one moment to the other, the twists and manoeuvres were presented in such an easygoing and offhand manner, that it was exactly why I had such a good time while reading this book. I'l definitely be looking out for its sequel which won't be out before next year (although, plenty of Scalzi back logs to fill my time in the meanwhile....)
I've never read any John Scalzi before and I saw this on NetGalley and decided it would be a good entry into his work (free) and a good indication on whether to read some of his other stuff like Old Man's War.
As you might be able to tell from the rating, I didn't overly like this book. The plot strands were a bit thin, the characters didn't jump off the page and felt a bit formulaic. It doesn't help that my only real comparison for this is the Expanse series which has style and quality characters in spades. Only a few days have passed since I finished it and I'm already struggling to fully remember the names and details.
That being said, Scalzi is a good writer in that at times I did want to read more and find out bits about the universe(s) and what might happen. There were some interesting ideas but they didn't overly work out in the end for me. I'm sure I'll read some of his over work and not judge him on this one alone.
Thanks to NetGalley for a copy for review
On a side note; don't send a terrible formatted document to review. I even emailed NetGalley about it and they passed on my information but I've finished the book and heard nothing further. Sentences cut off and dropped onto a new line is annoying but words being cut off and dropped on a new line kills the flow. Maybe this has something to do with the overall score too?
The ebook is on sale at $2.99 until 3rd May 2020 on various platforms, link here.
I think two words perfectly describe The Collapsing Empire - entertaining and accessible. This is science fiction for the masses that is fun and riveting.
I've only ever read one of Scalzi's books, Old Man's War, and really enjoyed it for its humour and entertainment value. I do get that humour in books is not something that works for everyone. For me, Scalzi's does as did Douglas Adam's. I would point out though that Adam's humour was more quirky, while the former tended towards being snarky. Since I've read Old Man's War several years ago, I've forgotten how accessible Scalzi's science fiction was. By accessible, I do not mean that it's simple or juvenile, but that it was easy to read and understand. Most science fiction, and particularly space operas, include a lot of politics in its narrative. It's inevitable because most of the times science fiction depict the progression of humankind into the future and politics will always be the cornerstone of our evolution through time. I've read some SF books that have political narratives which takes quite a bit of effort to understand; this often takes me out of the story as I had to keep remembering the different leanings and machinations of certain organisations or parties, etc etc.
This was not so in The Collapsing Empire. The worldbuilding was solid and even fascinating, but at the same time, was really easy to understand. The Interdependency was the name of the empire that was built upon a system that relies on exactly what that it's called. A life critical interdependency between all the different star systems where humans have scattered into across in the universe after leaving Earth. All of these human habitats safe one are not self-sustainable and depend on numerous trade routes through The Flow - a multi-dimensional phenomenon in space - which allows spaceships to travel through the immeasurably vast expanse of space in a significantly shorter amount of time. The story starts with a gripping Prologue that sets the stage for a resounding disaster that the intergalactic empire would be facing - the Flow is not static and its changes could bring the empire to the brink of destruction, and even perhaps the end of most of humankind whose ability to thrive and survive was built upon the existing structure of The Flow.
The story follows three main characters - an inexperienced daughter of a dying emperox who became the sole heir unexpectedly, a foul-mouthed daughter of the matriarch of a powerful guild house, and an unassuming Flow scientist. Of the three, Cardenia Wu-Patrick was the most interesting to follow as she, rather reluctantly, ascended to the throne as the new emperox. Unprepared and inexperienced as she was, her innate qualities from being born of the people instead of the nobility made her a much more compassionate and empathetic leader. Kiva Lagos was the said foul-mouthed daughter whose ability to inject profanity into every sentence was most impressive, followed by her ruthless savvy. Marce Claremont, the only main male character, came across to be rather bland at this point in time. Hopefully, there will be room for him to grow in the future with the plot development towards the end of this book.
Speaking of the plot development, The Collapsing Empire was not one to be read on its own. There was no wrap-up or ending in this volume; it felt like the setting up the scene and its pieces, and that things are really going to escalate in the sequel. But for what it's worth, it was a highly entertaining and short read that has great ideas, a riveting plotline, and holds much promise for its future books.
This was a lot of fun. Scalzi is really becoming one of my favorite writers, as his work is so readable yet so full of ideas. His science is plausible and he tells it in a way that an ordinary person can understand. He takes serious situations and balances them with snarky dialogue and humor. I wouldn't call his work comedy, but there is enough humor in it to keep it upbeat most of the time.
This is the beginning of a new series, and this first book shows such great promise. I'm definitely looking forward to the next one!
This is the first instalment in The Interdependency series.
The Interdependency is a space empire spanning innumerable light years and travel between each human colony is viable via the Flow. The Flow runs like a river through space and allows the spaceships that enter it to travel at a speed faster than light and across the vast universe in months or years rather than centuries and multiple lifetimes. However, just like a river, the Flow is changing course and millions of lives might be lost in space if this occurs.
The Emporex rules the planets and space stations that make up the Interdependency around her, but the figure currently residing in this role was never the one born for it. How will she measure up to her predecessor, the father she never knew? Will the rebels warring at the Interdependecy's outer edges, the End, have a far-reaching impact and just what are they fighting for? How are the noble houses going to unite and fight or run and hide if the Flow really does begin to segregate all of humanity?
Space operas have always belonged to a genre of great interest to me, and yet have been something I struggled to immerse myself in. The vastness of space endlessly intrigues me, but the often science-heavy focus scares me away. Here, both were present and neither were intimidating in the slightest. Careful tactics were deployed to ensure the reader was always aware of the inner-workings of this complex empire, as well as how to travel inbetween them, yet they never felt overwhelming or confusing in the slightest.
This multiple perspective narrative meant the world was slowly unveile,d over the first quarter of the book, and it's true focus took even longer to find its direction. This gradual immersion heightened understanding and intrigue for me, ensuring I was never lost in space even when the later story flew by at the speed of Flow!
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, John Scalzi, and the publisher, Tor Books, for this opportunity.
The humanity has left Earth and spread through the universe via the system of flows, which connect planets to each other. A new empire was created, but it's now facing a crisis... because something is happening to the flows. Three persons want to save the civilisation(s), but others just seek to benefit from the chaos.
This book is a pretty good start for the series, and you really do want to know what will happen in the next book. The three people mentioned are the newest emperox (same title for either male or female) of the Interdependency, Cardenia Wu-Patrick/Grayland II, who learns not only of the problem, but the surprising roots of the Empire, and whose ruler name is not only an example but a warning - and she almost. A scion of a fruit-merchant house - there are many houses, each dealing with a particular trade, including the royal house - Kiva (which means 'nice' in Finnish) Lagos, a woman with healthy (bisexual) sex appetite and user of well-peppered curses. She is actually my favorite character in this story, the emperox coming second. She finds out about a plot being stirred by another house, the . And a son of a scientist (also scientist himself), who learned the truth about the flow, Marce Claremont, who has to . I find him cute, and wish we could've seen about his twin sister more, she sounds awesome. Plus, in the end, I think there's something although we don't get to see what would come out of it (yet) XD
No romance anywhere, yet, either, which is nice. Loved the , which is actually helpful for Cardenia whenever she needs information from the past and problem-solving help in the present. I would like to see it. And poor Naffa, such a good friend, yet she has to :(
This story is actually rather funny sometimes, especially when the cursing happens. It's not a hard story to follow, and there's not loads and loads of characters. And end it ends leaving you feeling you want to immediately continue on to the next book - more than just the flow problem remains, yet I feel something of a solution is already brewing. ;)
Ho riletto questo libro dopo essermi goduto i libri di Old Man's War e devo dire che il mio giudizio su questo primo libro è un po' scemato. Rimangono i difetti già evidenziati un paio di anni fa (il suo lasciare insoddisfatti, sembrando più la prima parte di un libro che il primo libro di una serie; i personaggi poco sviluppati) cui aggiungo una forte prevedibilità voluta dall'autore (che toglie ogni possibile mistero già nei primi capitoli, dandoci bene o male quasi tutti i dati fin da subito).
Anche i pregi comunque rimangono: lo stile di Scalzi è il solito e la lettura procede spedit, regalando parecchi sorrisi. L'idea di base, pure, resta interessante.
Il fatto è che nella testa dell'autore il fulcro di questi libri non deve essere il collasso delle linee del Flusso (motivo per cui non si spreca in troppi background o in troppi misteri al riguardo) ma quel che succederà dopo, come l'umanità riuscirà in qualche modo a sopravvivere, cosa succederà alla struttura di potere al momento del collasso. Quindi ha deciso di mettere tutto in tavola da subito, spendendo il primo libro a spiegare tutto e a disporre i giocatori in vista degli eventi dei volumi successivi. Non so, può essere che la scelta paghi nei prossimi libri, vedrò. Di sicuro non ha pagato in questa occasione.
Finalmente mi approccio a questo autore, ma non so se l'inizio di questa nuova serie sia stato la scelta giusta.
Da una parte abbiamo un buon ritmo, una scrittura scorrevolissima, una storia interessante e un confronto che nasce spontaneo con una saga fantascientifica che in tempi recenti ha monopolizzato l'attenzione, The Expanse: infatti, laddove la serie di Corey parte dal sistema solare per poi, con la protomolecola prima e con l'Anello poi, procedere con l'espansione nell'universo del genere umano, qui assistiamo alle prime battute di una... controespansione. Un passaggio dall'universo al sistema solare, per un Impero che della suddivisione su plurimi sistemi e sull'interdipendenza tra le varie colonie aveva costruito la propria ragione d'essere, e un passaggio che mette a rischio l'esistenza non solo dell'impero ma pure dell'umanità.
Dall'altra però abbiamo dei difetti non da poco: i personaggi, a parte forse l'imperatrice, sono a dir tanto abbozzati, risulta difficile provare qualcosa per loro. Che si, Kiva fa ridere col suo bisogno costante di sesso, o la minaccia implicita in ogni azione o frase dell'erede Claremont, ma due risate non compensano lo scarso peso dato alla caratterizzazione. E poi la storia: interessante, si, ma alla fine è giusto un prologo, lascia un po' di disappunto il fatto che nemmeno si finga di dare una chiusura a qualcosa. Anche la simpatia immediata e a pelle tra l'Imperatrice e Marce appare alquanto forzata.
Insomma, buonissimo spunto che ha generato una lettura piacevole e scorrevolissima, anche più veloce del preventivato, ma che poteva e probabilmente doveva essere costruito meglio: il suo punto di forza, per quanto mi riguarda, è l'approccio diametralmente opposto alla questione dell'espansione rispetto a The Expanse... però ciò che fa pensare a quella serie fa pesare anche maggiormente la scarsa considerazione data ai personaggi. La valutazione sarebbe a metà tra il 3 e il 4, arrotondo in eccesso per ottimismo e perché comunque il libro mi ha divertito.
I tried repeatedly to read and finish this book, but finally gave up at 25 percent (DNF).
Look I like John Scalzi a lot. I loved "Redshirts" and "Lock In", but this book right here is all the worst bits of "The Android's Dream" and I refuse to read that book ever again.
I think the biggest issue of why I couldn't get into this book is that I felt like I just got dropped right in the middle of an interesting story. But no one wants to take the time to explain to me why this story is so interesting and just wants me to shut up and get the big picture of whatever it is I am reading. Phooey to that noise. I just am not in the mood for a book set up this way like this.
I finally asked another friend if they were feeling this book at all and she apparently moved on weeks ago and just gave her book to someone else. This may or may not have erupted into me calling her a betrayer or some such nonsense. Seriously though, I think if I had known she quit this book too, I would have DNFed it much sooner. I felt like a bad person for not liking this book.
The flow was all over the place. I could not begin to tell you who is who in this book. I was too busy stumbling over names (Marce. Kiva, and Cardenia). Not that you can see this, but I seriously just spelled both of those characters names wrong like three times. Finally had to go back to the darn book to make sure. If it's still wrong, I don't even care.
I am not going to lie it's kind of an interesting idea (The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars that is now coming under fire when people realize that the Flow is moving people away from Earth as they know it). But maybe cause things are kind of terrible in the real world, I didn't get why everyone was up in arms about the whole thing.
Also Scalzi does my least favorite thing in his books when he tries to over explain the science behind things that made me go wait a minute, what and causes me to spend my time Googling things and not actually reading the book.
Also because I am 2 years old every time I thought of "The Interdependency" I started thinking of that Matt Damon movie with Emily Blunt where they were running from the men in hats who were part of time travel and then I maybe got distracted and started watching that movie again.
Yeah. Once again, not going to feel sorry about it at all.
To be perfectly clear about this extended short story: It's a trap luring you into reading a series which doesn't exist, yet. Are you ready for that?
In television, I'd expect this pilot movie to be instantly followed by a first season. In book series, I don't know many installations which feel as hollow and screaming "buy me" as this one. I said it is an extended short story, not a novel. For one, it is 336 pages, which is short for a novel but too long for a novella in the usual meaning. Two, the contents of this pilot movie stretches over too long a piece of bread. Three, the pilot is fat, cholesterol and sugar heavy popcorn action. Containing lots of literal and verbal fucking around. An easy, amusing page-turner which fills some special need - quite similar to the times when you sit back and tell yourself "time for a nice porn" or "I really need a supersize BigMac menu".
Don't blame me, I've read my good share of Scalzi novels, and this one is standing in the best tradition. I like it every now and then because it is a different diet than my literary, philosophical, or scientific needs dictate usually. Good for the moment it lasts, nothing to think about further on.
This work is absolutely everything you'd expect from a Scalzi with all its humour, admirable characters, and breathless action. Only this time, it is not a standalone but a huge cliffhanger sucking for future releases. Which are not available and won't be for a while.
Fuck you, Scalzi, you should have written one standalone novel, not this teaser of an extended short story. Sorry about swearing in this review, I've still got a sugar shock. It is more like 2.5 stars.
Really, really good. Kiva Lagos, the foul-mouth countess! (or whatever). Kiva's hommage to her Mom, another serious badass: “It was nice when you could look up to your parent, even as an adult, and think, This is who I fucking want to be when I grow up.” "The family legend had it that Kiva Lagos' very first word as an infant was 'fuck'"
More to come, but if you're a Scalzi fan, don't wait. Amazingly smooth, goes down easy, no unpleasant aftertaste!
Who would think that SF writers would still be putting out Galactic Empire stuff. And this is a really good one. "It’s like Game of Thrones in space, if George R. R. Martin limited himself to 300 pages and liked to curse more." https://chireviewofbooks.com/2017/03/...
First reread, 5/28/21. Still wonderful, though it ends on a cliffhanger. I guess I'll have to reread the next two as well. Scalzi is a remarkable storyteller. Kiva Lagos is likely his best character-creation yet.
Very much enjoyed it. Compelling characters, interesting universe, plenty of intrigue and action and some humour - exactly what I expected from Scalzi and it didn't disappoint. Last third of the book is unputdownable.