Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi review

    I admit my primary knowledge of John Scalzi comes from the Hugo award controversy last year where I only paid a little attention. Sadly, my knowledge of sci-fi fandom is spotty at best as I'm still picking up my reading on the classics as opposed to the new successes. Still, I'd heard good things about him and since Wil Wheaton was narrating his books, I thought I'd give him a go. Instead of starting with Old Man's War, I decided to, instead, begin with his new series in the Interdependency. How do I describe The Interdependency? I suppose the best way to describe it is as if it's Dune with the cast replaced with the crew from Buffy.

    The premise is the human race exists dependent on a hyperspace dimension called the Flow. It has numerous shoals, throughout, which determine where and when humans can settle on planets. The majority of these planets are full of artificial habitats because Earth-like worlds are almost nonexistent and Earth, itself, was lost when the Flow's currents changed. Unfortunately, the Flow is going to collapse soon and a trader, a physicist, plus the new Empress of the universe are the only people who might be able to relocate mankind to the lone remaining habitable world humanity has access to.

    If this sounds epic, it's actually not but that's part of the appeal. Everyone is a complete smartass and doesn't take anything seriously--least of all the end of human civilization. I'm not exaggerating either as one character regularly holds business meetings while having sex and another is more upset about the fact the Interdependancy's "holy" origins are less than on the level. There's countless hilarious scenes spread throughout the book so that even if the story wasn't great science fiction, it was always entertaining from beginning to end.

    The characters are great with Cardenia being the reluctant Empress, having been raised well from court as a university professor's daughter. Lady Kiva, the near-pirate merchant queen who has the mouth of ten sailors as well as the appetites. Finally, there's Marce Claremont who is a Flow physicist that finds himself caught between the two's agendas. None of them would be that far out of place in a Douglas Addams novel (well, except for the fact they're all attractive and competent--so, no, they'd be completely out of place in one. Nevermind).

    The villains are also dangerous enough but never actually feel like a threat to our heroes. The Nohamapetan family is composed of one hyper-competent sisters and two significantly less so brothers who all end up digging a deeper hole for themselves than their enemies. Indeed, I actually Nadashe (the sister) isn't as competent as the book claims since she does a few things that seriously undermine her family's position. This is alright since the primary antagonist is the Flow collapse that cannot be averted no matter how much our heroes might wish it.

    Overall, I recommend this novel a great deal for a short easy read. There's a good deal of sex and swearing but nothing which would move the book beyond a very light R-rating. It's not something which works as anything resembling "serious" sci-fi but there's no reason it has to. It's just fun and that's sometimes enough.


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