Reading: John Scalzi’s Interdependency Trilogy

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, TOR hardcover, March 2017

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi, TOR hardcover, October 2018

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi, TOR hardcover, April 2020

Book One: The Collapsing Empire introduces The Interdependency, a thousand-year-old human empire of 48 star systems connected by the Flow, which is a phenomenon allowing faster-than-light travel. Each stream is one way and has an entry point and an exit point. Innterstellar trips are not instantaneous—ships carrying mail or passengers from Hub, the capital of the empire and the system with the most Flow connections, arrive at End, the most distant, nine months later—but the network permits life-sustaining intersystem trade. As a natural phenomenon, the Flow is poorly understood.

Family-owned megacorporations control all interstellar trade in the Interdependency’s mercantile economy; one, House Wu, is the royal family, headed by the Emperox, the leader of the whole shebang.

Count Claremont, a physicist on End, calculates after decades of study that the Flow will soon collapse. All systems will be isolated; none are self-sufficient. Humans can only live on a planetary surface on End; they need space stations or underground habitats in other systems. Without the Flow, society on every system will likely collapse. The count sends his son Marce, also a physicist, to Hub to warn the Emperox. But there are rival houses who want to take control.

Book Two: The Consuming Fire. As it becomes clear that the flow streams are collapsing, or will collapse within decades, conflict between the houses escalates. The flow stream from End is gone, so anyone trying to go to the only place where humans can live on the surface, and be self sustaining, becomes a one-way trip. Several attempts on the Emperox’ life are made as the major houses try to take control and assure they and theirs get to End and safety. It begins to look like billions may die. Is there any solution?

Book Three: The Last Emperox. As tensions mount, Marce Claremont and the Emperox seek a solution to the collapsing flow streams that will allow more people to survive. Claremont discovers “evanesce”, temporary flow streams that may be used to ease the problem of movement within the Interdependency, and perhaps to discover new streams to now unknown locations. Could these lead to a new planet where humans could survive?

My take: There is a major shocker about two-thirds or three-quarters of the way into the novel which I will not reveal. Many but not all problems are solved by the end of the book.

The trilogy is well written in Scalzi’s easy to read style, and moves along well, with some slower parts filled with discussions of politics or the science of the flow. One character in particular, though quite likable, does use the “F word” to excess.

Overall, I was disappointed, though there is a lot to like in this hard science fiction trilogy, those slow parts dragged for me, and I didn’t think the ending, after all those pages, satisfied as much as I expected, or wanted. Scalzi is a fine writer, and I’ve read everything he’s written, but I didn’t feel he was at his best with these. Other readers have praised it, considering it very good indeed. So, as usual, it’s in the eye of the reader.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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16 Responses to Reading: John Scalzi’s Interdependency Trilogy

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Well, obviously I haven’t read the third book yet, so can’t judge on that or the series as a whole. I did like the first two books, but I certainly wouldn’t classify it as his best work. I did notice the “F…s” throughout the first two books, but mostly found them amusing rather than off-putting.

    I read Many Rivers to Cross, the latest Alan Banks book by Peter Robinson, and it was a slog for me to get through. I’ve read the series from the beginning, but there was nothing – human trafficking, drug dealing – about this that was different or drew me in. Had I not read them all, I wouldn’t have bothered. Also read Lady on the Case, a collection of stories about women detectives edited by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. This was much more to my y taste than the former.
    I have three books I’m reading on the Kindle and the tablet (on the Cloud). The latter is a short story collection edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent, Flight or Fright. It includes classics like Richard Metheson’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” as well as new stories by King and his son Joe Hill.

    George reviewed Noah Isenberg’s We’ll Always Have Casablanca a couple of weeks ago, and I should finish it soon. Good book about a favorite movie.

    I’m also reading (a few chapters in) a fantasy that might well appeal to you, Witchmark< by C. L. Polk. It won the World Fantasy Award last year, and there has already been a sequel. In a world like our Edwardian Era, a war (like our First World War) has just ended. Our hero is Dr. Miles Singer, who is hiding his identity as a member of a noble family and practitioner of magic. So far, it moves quickly.

  2. Jerry House says:

    So what’s the problem with F words, Rick? I like frogs and flowers and fleece and so many other F words.

    I have only read a bit by Scalzi and have like what I have read. I doubt I’ll get to this trilogy any time soon, though.

    It’s been a slow reading week for me. I’ve only read BLOODY VENGEANCE by Jack Ehrlich (my FFB) and THE LOST OASIS, a Doc Savage adventure from Lester Dent as “Kenneth Robeson.” I am currently reading LANDS OF THE EARTHQUAKE, a 1947 planetary adventure by Henry Kuttner.

    I think I’ll close with a few F words: Felicitations, my far-off friend.

    • Ha. Ha. That’s an older Savage, right? Not one o the “new wild adventures of”. I have a few old ones, not sure if that’s among them.

      Re: your comment to Patti, it’s nice you can enjoy the beach, but for me, it’s too early to abandon Stay At Home, so I’ll be here, inside.

  3. Patti Abbott says:

    Finished LEAN ON PETE, which I loved. Started HOW’S THE PAIN by Pascal Garnier on Steve’s suggestion. Also reading FLORIDA, short stories by Lauren Grof, And HIDDEN LANE ROAD by Bob Kolker.

  4. I read THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE (sounds like the U.S. under Trump) and bought the next two books in the trilogy but haven’t read them. Like you, the slow parts of the first book discouraged me from reading the next two books. After your review, I’ll put them off for quite a while. As Jeff Meyerson says, “Too many books, too little time.” I finished reading a Big Fat YA SF novel and came away dissatisfied. I need to read something Good next.

  5. tracybham says:

    Sorry to hear that parts of the Scalzi trilogy disappointed you. I will read the first book soonish. Then look into getting a copy of the second book. I never have read all of the Old Man’s War series so maybe I will read more of that too.

    My first book in May was The Awkward Squad by Sophie Henaff, a book I borrowed from my husband. Set in France, author is French, a police procedural. I enjoyed it and will read the second one some day.

    Next I read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Amazing, it was my first time to read that book. And I haven’t seen any movie versions. I enjoyed it.

    Now I am reading The Provincial Lady in America. A quick, light read.

    I don’t mind staying home at all, and I dislike the trips out (grocery store) and worrying about social distancing.

    • I like the Old Man’s War series better than this one. And Then There Were None is very good, and for movie versions, I like the October 1945 version, with Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston and June Duprez. I have it one videotape, but not, sadly, DVD.

  6. Steve Oerkfitz says:

    I have read most of Scalzi. I liked the first two books in this series but not enough to buy the new one. I’ll probably read it once the library opens back up. I am reading a SF novel by Paul McAuley which I like so far-about 25% through. He is one of my favorite SF writers. Also reading a new SF novel by Alex Irvine called Anthropocene Rag. I read the Peter Robinson and liked it better than Jeff and didn’t find it a slog at all.

  7. I’ve read several Cadfael books. I’m rationing them out–one or two per year–until I’ve read them all. The same with Bill Pronzini. Frederic Brown in the Haffner Press volumes await reading. I decided to read the new Michael Swanwick from Subterranean Press.

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