Book Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Although this story is not my favorite Scalzi, I do enjoy his brand of space opera snark.
Listening to Wil Wheaton narrate the audiobook certainly enhances this experience. I feel like Wil Wheaton should narrate a good majority of science-fiction novels. The world would be a better place if he could make this happen.
The opening scene grabs your attention with a mutiny underway on an interstellar starship!
This mutiny allows Scalzi to introduce this world's dependence on The Flow, the transportation system in this Interdependency that allows people to travel from one end of the universe to another trading various goods.
Later in the story, the explanation behind The Flow basically asserts that most people in this vast world do not understand the science behind this transportation system that allows their seemingly peaceful trade system to exist.
Scalzi throws in some technical jargon to explain the physics of The Flow, and he has a few other info-dumps that are pretty convenient.
I'm looking at you Marce Claremont, point of view scientist character, who gives an observatory presentation to a group of students about the various planetary conditions in this world. In what I consider a wink at the reader, Scalzi even includes an obnoxious adult chaperone who asks the questions I was thinking. I guess if you're going to go for a convenient info-dump, why not have some fun with it and include the reader in on the joke?
Now the idea of The Flow as potentially acting as the change agent within this world got interesting. Mainly because it ties so nicely with the political intrigue that this plot centers around.
The story is told from three point of view characters.
Cardenia is the new Emperox who I found quite likeable. She's unexpectedly thrust into the role of ruler of the universe. Even though she doubts her abilities, she's actually quite good at being the Emperox. She's no intellectual slouch.
Marce Claremont is also likeable as the scientist who's trying to get the truth about The Flow into the right hands.
The character I could not stand was Kiva Lagos, mainly because I didn't know how to read her personality. Am I supposed to admire her? Detest her? Fear her? At some points she's this flippant self-involved salty-mouthed stereotypical rich bitch with dangerously high levels of sarcasm. Other times she's portrayed sympathetically even when she's doing something stunningly ruthless.
Ultimately, these three characters have to deal with a change. A big change. On the scale of climate change, but involving The Flow. The joy of this book is the adrenaline rush from listening to how various characters manipulate, problem-solve, react, and adapt to the news about The Flow.
Oh, the webs they weave...
While this story doesn't enthrall me on the same level as Locked In or Old Man's War, I certainly found it an entertaining read. I will be continuing the series to find out what happens, even to Kiva.