I love me some John Scalzi. Like track down a first printing, first edition of Old Man’s War love me some Scalzi (I found one for what I believe was a reasonable price and plan on trying to get it signed at Worldcon so I can add it to my collection). I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed most of his writing. So when I saw that his newest Science Fiction story, The Collapsing Empire, was a Hugo Nominee I was very excited. The voting period is now open and ends July 31st so I need to step up my nominee reading game!
I’ve had this audio book (read by the amazing Wil Wheaton) downloaded for a while so I queued it up and started listening. I then found things getting in my way of listening. Things like work and life, really anything that wasn’t listening to the Collapsing Empire was getting in my way. I had a hard time not listening during my every waking moment. When I finished listening this last weekend all I wanted to do was listen more and get to know the characters and this amazing world more.
The story follows three characters perspectives throughout. Cardenia, the new Emperox/leader of the Interdependency, house of Wu, and Interdependency church. Cardenia is an unanticipated Emperox. Her brother the heir to the throne was tragically killed and she, a known heir but not from the official line, is chosen as the successor in his stead. There are of course too many political machinations occurring to even recount but needless to say the new Emperox’s reign doesn’t even last until the coronation is over before it’s quite literally attacked. Cardenia puts things together fairly quickly but I look forward to her character being flushed out more in the subsequent novels.
Kiva Lagos, Noblewoman and trade representative for the House of Lagos and their fruit monopoly who starts out on the backwater planet of End and then makes her back to the heart of the Interdependency at Hub. Kiva was probably my favorite character in the book so far. She reminded me a lot of another foul mouthed badass space faring woman, Chrisjen Avasarala, from the Expanse series of books. She isn’t quite the same level of awesome as Avasarala, yet. She really hates the House of Nohamapetan and for this I like her even more. Damn those fool Nohamapetan’s.
Lastly we have Marce Claremont, the son of a Count who has been doing secret research of the Flow with his father on the furthest planet from the center of Interdependency, and only planet where humans actually live on the surface, End. Everything in the Interdependency depends on the Flow. Marce has some grim news he must deliver to the Emperox though, the flow is disappearing.
The Emperox and House of Wu control the Flow and this is how they wield so much power. Problem is with the Flow collapsing most of the Interdependency is going to be doing the same right along with it. All of the systems are meant to work together and the trade monopolies that the various houses run are part of how control is exerted and power wielded over the mass of humanity that now exists among the stars. Earth is known of but the Flow was cut off from it long long ago.
One of the most interesting aspects of the books was how Earth was treated. Most humans you come across think End, the only planet which has humans actually living on the surface, is a giant dump at the end of the universe that only criminals are sent to. Most humans prefer living on the artificial space stations or below the planetary systems which they inhabit. This is a very strange concept to me and Marce Claremont’s character was used to great effect to show just how strange this concept was to someone who had lived on the surface of a planet and never even been to space.
The problem that arises, along with the scheming of the damn House of Nohamapetan, is that with the changes to the Flow the Interdependency itself is forced to change. While the new Emperox is trying to piece all this together as the flows are literally collapsing while trying to also avoid assassination attempts, things finally click into place once Marce shows up. He has his audience with the Emperox and the brains behind the Nohamapetan’s plotting is exposed. Whew lots of craziness, but excellent reading.
I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series and I’ve heard that it will now be a trilogy which makes me even more exited. As far as voting for the Hugo’s is concerned this is definitely a contender. I’m currently reading New York 2140 and unless it does something super amazing to dazzle me The Collapsing Empire will be staying at the top of my list. I think I’m going to check out Six Wakes next from the Hugo Novel lists. Cheers to everyone out there, keep reading and keep writing!