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Book Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Title: Collapsing Empire

Author: John Scalzi

Series: Interdependency #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe by the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Redshirts and Old Man’s War. 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. -Goodreads

The Review:

I went into this first book on some really consistent high praise – many people hail this as their favorite Scalzi series to date. And while I enjoyed the book overall, I gotta say it didn’t knock my socks off. I much preferred Scalzi’s Old Man’s War as a series starter, truth be told. And I think most of that had to do with character development.

I liked the characters here, but they felt a little over-exaggerated. Especially Kira. An incredibly profane, debaucherous profile with absolutely no subtlety to her persona. It wasn’t so much that she dropped F-bombs in every sentence. It was more HOW she dropped the F-bombs. I love swearing in books. Not only does it make me laugh, but I feel it’s a fun way to add emphasis to the dialogue and characters. Two authors who integrate it brilliantly are Martha Wells (Murderbot) and Joe Abercrombie (First Law). I’ve said a variation of this before, but if swearing were an art form, our character Kira is finger painting with mud. There was no logic to the placement and was more or less just distracting. I suspect that I’m a bit of a profanity snob (who knew?) but it just didn’t work for me on any level. The only thing she had going for her were her no BS attitude and the quick-witted nature of her responses.

The other characters were much better, but I struggled on feeling any sort of connection to them other than mild interest. The villains were a hard sell for me as well. For people with that much money and resources, they were awfully short-sighted. They also lacked a thoroughness that was just too unrealistic for me to buy into.

I don’t mean to be all down about the book. I did like the overall mood and flow of the writing. Scalzi is such a feel-good Scifi author that even though I wasn’t in love with the characters, I was still enjoying the process of reading the book. I also liked the overall idea for the story. It’s easily his most ambitious plot structure I’ve read to date, and I appreciated how much thought must have gone into the flow-stream theory. It’s the kind of made-up sciency jargon I love in Scifi for its world building components.

Overall, even though it didn’t blow me away, I like the writing and the story enough to want to keep reading and (lucky me) the second book gave me everything I’d been hoping to get out of this series.

Recommendations: if you like lighthearted, easy reading Scifi, you can’t go wrong with Scalzi. His books are always fun reads with just enough plot and substance to make for a satisfying experience. As an intro to the series, this was a decent start. Wil Wheaton narrates the audiobook, and while his delivery matches the writing style perfectly, it will kind of feel like he’s yelling at you the whole time. Proceed with caution. Lol

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