The Collapsing Empireby John Scalzi
Series: The Interdependency #1
Published on March 21, 2017 by Tor
Genres: Science Fiction
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The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new
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.
For my first Scalzi book, The Collapsing Empire was out of this world!
Yes, I intended for that to be super cheesy.
ANYway, I don’t tend to read a lot of science fiction. I used to, back in middle school, then the years after seemed to be the paranormal marathon, followed by lots of heavy fantasy, and now a bit of everything and The Collapsing Empire is the first adult sci-fi novel I’ve read in a while. And it was excellent. 11/10 would recommend.
The first hook was, by far, the humor. One of my absolute favorite sci-fi novels (well, series if you want to get technical) is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the books that followed (even though the first book is my favorite). And a lot of that comes down to the humor. Science fiction can get dense (looking at you Revelation Space) but the humor lightens things up and makes the story a bit more… digestible. Something Scalzi definitely achieved with this one.
Now a lot happens in this 300-some page book, too much to really cover in a review of a length that won’t put y’all to sleep but I’ll do my best to summarize what I can.
First: characters. Gods I loved these characters. Each is so distinct and interesting that it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite. Probably Kiva for the swearing. Woman after my own heart. Marce for his scholarly nature. Cardenia for how she faces everything thrown at her with wit and grace. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the cast is great too but I loved these three the most. Yes, I’m picking favorites. Deal with it.
To the world… I mean, I think my draw to that element falls to my love of intricate fantasy worlds. Give me good world-building and I’m a happy reader. Now, there were some info dumps. Like straight up characters explaining to other characters how something worked to show the reader. Normally that drives me INSANE. I don’t like blatant and semi-frequent info dumps. But in this case it didn’t bother me and I’m not sure if that comes down to my background in science (and accompanying interest in understanding it, even if it is fictional) or the general tone won me over. So while it might not bother some, it could be an issue with others.
I want to jump back to the writing for a moment because it comes into the actual storytelling. This plot is so focused on the different characters and the web they weave around each other that they’re ingrained in the very plot, their conversations crucial to the story moving forward. Okay, that probably sounds silly because all scenes in a book should move the story forward, right? I would agree but I don’t always see books achieve that and this one did, definitely doing a lot more “showing” vs “telling.”
Upon finishing The Collapsing Empire, I came to the realization that I will have to wait some time for the next one which doesn’t quite sit well with me because I’m far too curious to know how the gang solves their latest crisis. You know, the one where an empire is collapsing (no, you’re not getting a spoiler warning for that, it’s in the title, come on y’all). So yes, yes I very much recommend this book to fans of epic science fiction stories with plenty of action and humor. Or anyone, really. Yes, let’s go with all readers.