The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Series: The Interdependency (Book 1 of 3)
Genre: Science fiction, space opera
Published: 21st March 2017 by Tor US & 23rd March 2017 by Tor UK
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 male character with a POV, 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 fairly short read that has great ideas, a riveting plotline, and holds much promise for its future books.