The Collapsing Empire

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!

Old Man’s War and The Slow Regard of Silent Things

I’ve been finishing up books like mad this New Year and I’m happy to report that my resolution to read more is 2015, so far has been a success. Writing has also been a success in the New Year so far, I have gotten some good work done on Harbingers and my wife and I have been plodding away on our original TV Sitcom Pilot Script. More to come on our Pilot Script, we just finished the treatment and are starting to get to the actual writing, but first I want to discuss two awesome books I have recently had the pleasure of reading. Just a heads up there will be spoilers for Old Man’s War and The Slow Regard of Silent Things, so stop now or forever hold your peace.

Old Man’s War is a book that I have had for a while, I won it from the tor.com best sci-fi/fantasy novels of the 2000’s contest, and randomly decided to bring down to Boise with me for Christmas. It’s not a very big book and for that I’m thankful because I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. Old Man’s War is John Scalzi’s debut novel and if my own debut novel is even a tenth as good as Old Man’s War I will consider it a success. This book was pretty much a space opera, but for the first quarter or so of the book we don’t really have any idea what is about to happen and I think that is one of the reasons it works so well. I also really enjoyed it because it dealt with being in the military in the future and in space and being an Air Force Vet myself this was also fun to see how my imaginings stacked up against Scalzi’s.

John Perry is the main character of the book, at the age of 65 humans on Earth can sign up for the Colonial Defense Force or CDF, because of course Acronyms for everything that’s totally how the military rolls, and he and his wife do so when they are given the opportunity. The population of Earth knows that there is a wider Universe and that aliens in it do not particularly like humanity, but no one seems to know exactly what the deal is with the CDF and why their age limit to join is 75. John just recently turned 75 and since his wife has passed he decides to follow through on his commitment and he joins the ranks of the CDF, knowing that he will never return to Earth. Everyone is under the impression that the CDF has some magic technology that will reverse aging or something similar but when they finally learn the truth I actually thought it was more crazy and awesome than I or the old humans in the book imagined.

The deal is simply this, your consciousness is transferred to a modified younger superhuman version of yourself, that is green, and you go out and fight the Universe in the name of humanity and the CDF. If you last the 10 years required of your contract you are given a new young non-modified version of your body and a nice place on some far away planet to spend the rest of your days. Most of the recruits will die however and we see most of the people John meets along the way find this fate, but John is able to survive, thrive, and make some crazy discoveries along the way. The military training scenes were some of my favorite because they really reminded me of how things went down in Basic in the Air Force.

John heads out as a grunt into the Universe, fighting a lot of crazy Alien species, like tiny versions of humans called Covandu, that they stomp on and are easy to defeat in a ground attack but nearly impossible in space. There are also the dastardly Wraey who have a taste for human flesh and have discovered a way to detect ships entering the system, even though their technology is not to that capability yet. In fighting the Wraey on a distant planet called Coral John runs across his wife, but as it turns out it is just his wife’s shell and her body is now in use by a Special Forces member named Jane Sagan. It seems that when human’s sign on the dotted line, giving DNA during the signup, if they don’t make it and join the CDF when they turn 75 their DNA are still used to make enhanced bodies for Special Forces to inhibit. This was a very interesting aspect of the story because these Special Forces are human it seems, but they were only “born” when the CDF created them and gave them consciousness (not from 75 year old humans). They have only known life in the Special Forces and to me it would be pretty damn weird to gain consciousness without having to grow up and have a childhood first. They are very good at their job though and John is able to help them win the battle of Coral and make his way into the ranks of Officer.

I can’t recommend Old Man’s War enough to anyone out there that has not yet read it, there are six books total in the series and I look forward to devouring each of them in turn very soon. Up next is the Amazing Patrick Rothfuss and his quirky novella that takes us back to the world of 4 corners and gives us an inside look at the mysterious Auri.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

In retrospect I wish I had soldiered through and made it to Seattle for the Rothfuss book tour and reading where I had a signed copy waiting for me. But alas I didn’t make it but was able to quickly snatch up a copy of his new novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It was a weird read, I have honestly never read quite anything like it before, but this is a good thing not a bad one. Auri is such a strange and mysterious character in the Kingkiller Chronicles. She lives under the school in an old abandoned section of it called the Underthing. She is odd, flighty, solitary, picky, and a character that I honestly didn’t necessarily want to know more about. But I’m not sad that I do.

Although The Slow Regard of Silent Things doesn’t delve into what made Auri the way she is, it does give a sneak peek into her day to day life. Holy hell is it a weird life. Auri seems to be a Namer, as we see from her finding things and areas and dubbing them as she sees fit, and she knows Alchemy as we see from her expositions into soap making. Kvothe always wondered how Auri got around in the Underthing, because ya know its underground and freaking pitch black, and we quickly learn about a little ball of glowing light named Foxen. Foxen is one of many collectibles that Auri has created or found, were not quite sure, though I suspect she made Foxen. The entire novella centers on the fact that Auri knows that Kvothe is coming to visit her and she must get three presents ready for his arrival. My main complaint with the novella was that it ended before we got to see the exchange between Kvothe and Auri. I do suspect that since one of his presents was a bed and a place to stay if he needed, that our hero will be using it as a refuge in the third book. The details of her day to day existence again are very strange but also strangely interesting. She is so much of a different character than any that have met in the Kingkiller Chronicles so far. There are probably a half dozen or so other characters I want to know more about but I’ll take anything Rothfuss wants to give me.

If you are new to the world of 4 Corners and Patrick Rothfuss then I, and even the author himself in the introduction, would not recommend you start with this book. I’m glad I read his books twice before I picked up The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I even look forward to my next re-read when I can make more sense of the areas of the Underthing that Kvothe searches for the secret entrance to the Stacks. This novella would be awfully confusing if you are not familiar with his work. But everyone should check out The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear anyways so go out and pick them up, give them a read (or two), and then settle down with The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Up next I have a blog post coming, hopefully by the end of the week, on Odds On by Michael Crichton written under his pseudonym John Lange. That’s right I’m back in the Michael Crichton Experience after a small break and I really enjoyed this crime novel and I’m looking forward to more. Any Crichton book that I haven’t read before is always good times.