Review copy received from the publisher, Tor Books, in exchange for an honest review
The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Series: The Interdependency (Book 2 of 3)
Genre: Science fiction, space opera
Published: 16th October 2018 by Tor US & 18th October 2018 by Tor UK
The Consuming Fire feels like a middle-book, but in a good way. Just as entertaining and accessible as the first, this sequel took the plotline of The Interdependency trilogy in an interesting direction.
The story picks up immediately from the previous book. As expected, the news of the imminent collapse of The Flow streams were received with snide criticism and scepticism. Those who stood to lose the most were the noble houses and guild merchants who have built monopolies out of the structure of The Interdependency. Even when the evidence was pretty clear when some of The Flow streams really did disappear, many were still in denial. And then there are also those who would use what they perceived as a weakness of the new emperox to conspire against her. Political scheming and double-crossings abound even amongst those who were plotting to overthrow Cardenia, also known as Grayland II as her formal emperox name. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m usually not a big fan of too much political intrigue, but Scalzi was able to at least make it fun to read. I attribute this to the fact that these books are quite short and as such, nothing was dragged out for the sake of it.
What I enjoyed most about The Consuming Fire was the narrative pertinent to The Flow itself. Of course, it would be the space-y stuff because once a nerd, always a nerd. From Marce’s POV, the plot went through a most fascinating development as he undertook expedition to an isolated star system, once cut-off a very long time ago. The discoveries and revelations that came to fore were game-changing, and widened the scope of the story beyond just the immediate conspiracies brewing at the Hub.
Once again, Marce was the only prominent male character. There were two new POVs, both females as well, which made me believe that Scalzi was trying to increase their representation in science fiction. I wouldn’t say that his female characters were the best out there, but the effort was definitely appreciated as they were good enough not to aggravate me. One thing I have to say is that while I don’t necessarily feel any strong attachment to the characters, I do actually like them. Even when it comes to rather bland Marce, and maybe that’s because he comes across as genuinely nice person. There’s nothing grey about his motivations and actions, and hence he may seem boring. But the story told from his perspective was the most interesting for me because it deals with all the cool sci-fi ideas. Cardenia’s character development went a bit sideways at first, but in the end she showed that she was not one to be underestimated. It’s a very similar theme of bullies, or in this case schemers, reaping what they sow. Thus, when humble pie was served, the feeling could only be described as cathartic. Kiva was still as remarkably foul-mouthed, but behind that crude facade could be a person who may have a tad more depth than just her F-bombs.
Similar to the previous book, The Consuming Fire cannot be read on its own. For readers who had to wait in between the book releases, Scalzi was able to bring a reader up to speed fairly quickly in the earlier pages. The Interdependency trilogy is shaping up to be a continuous flow of a single narrative over the course of three books, and I’m really excited to read its concluding volume.