The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Release date: 23 March 2017
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler free.
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.*
I love John Scalzi’s writing. Granted, Ihave only read Redshirts, but his style is so fun and engaging with just the right amount of humor and certain doom. His love of and passion for science fiction are easily seen in his stories. The Collapsing Empire is the first book in a new series set in a new universe — people like me who haven’t read his well-regarded Old Man’s War series will not feel lost jumping right in and fans of those books will probably feel right at home in this new universe.
What makes this book so compelling is the wonderful cast of characters — of all the main characters we meet in The Collapsing Empire, I don’t think there is a single truly weak link. Lady Kiva is probably my favorite. The sweary, lewd, shrewd-minded representetive of the House of Lagos is not the kind of person you would want to know in real life but is just so fun to read about. The newly crowned empress Cardenia is incredibly charming because she’s just like any of us if we suddenly found ourselves the head of a galactic empire. Her strength and weaknesses are just so human and easy to identify with — this is a consistent characteristic between all the characters in the book, ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ alike.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the technology. This is not a Star Trek or Star Wars universe where ease of travel and communication allows humans to reach the furthest points in the galaxy and create a homogenous community: this is an incredibly limited world where mankind bends to the limits of physics. Mankind has reached a point in its evolution in which it can crawl through space and is at the complete mercy of the Flow. There is no faster than light travel, there is no faster than light communications; if the Flow disappears, as it has in the past, everyone is in serious trouble. I find this so interesting and haven’t read anything quite like it. I’m so excited to see where he goes with this concept and how he builds upon what he has established here.
Ultimately, what we have here is an exciting beginning to what promises to be a fun and innovative space opera. Full of Scalzi’s usual humor, wit, and excellent worldbuilding, The Collapsing Empire will be a joy to established Scalzi readers and newcomers to the author’s novels as well.
*copy courtesy of Goodreads