Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire is the first book of John Scalzi’s new Interdependency trilogy.  The titular Interdependency is another space monarchy in the tradition of Barrayar and Manticore, an empire of factions held together by political bonds and mutually assured disadvantage.  The Interdependency is a particularly mercantile empire, in which trading guilds wield most of the power, and humanity’s prosperity is possible thanks to the Flow, the unidirectional hyperspace/wormhole phenomenon that serves to enable faster-than-light travel in this particular universe, and allows the various human settlements to trade their various life-sustaining goods with each other.

The problem, discovered by a physicist who was also a friend of the recently deceased Emperox of the Interdependency, is that the Flow is about to start shifting and falling apart, marooning each of humanity’s settlements in turn and eventually leaving every habitation on its own for survival.  The newly crowned Emperox, Cardenia, is already having trouble consolidating her power, and also grappling with the ethical uses of that power.  The physicist’s protege needs to reach Cardenia to present the evidence of the imminent end of the Interdependency, but since travel through the Flow by its nature makes direct point-to-point travel difficult, they have to deal with multiple petty fiefdoms of various types in the process of getting there.

The Collapsing Empire was an entertaining read, and I’m definitely looking forward to the other two books in the trilogy; it has that Scalzi nature of being light, easily-digestible reading that nevertheless gives you a lot to think about if you’re willing to spend the time.  It’s not a challenging work, nor is it meant to be.  But it’s a worthy entry in the tradition of space-opera page-turners.

My Best Novel ballot so far:

  1. Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty
  2. The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin
  3. Provenance, Ann Leckie
  4. New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson
  5. The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi


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