The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

29939160Fiction — print. Tor Books, 2017. 333 pgs. Library copy.

In the generations since humans left Earth and settled across the galaxy, an empire known as the Interdependency has formed. Headed by the Emporx, the galaxy is economically ruled by a series of Houses — or families — who control certain segments of inter-galactic trade and rely heavily upon the Flow to move their goods.

Except the Flow, an anomaly that allows for travel between planets in a matter of months rather than decades, appears to be collapsing. The timing of the collapse couldn’t be worst — the ruling Emporx has died leaving his illegitimate (and unknown) daughter to inherit the throne; the people on End (named because the planet as at the end of the Interdependency) are engaged in Civil War; and some of the ruling Houses are making moves to hurt the economics of other Houses. All hallmarks of a collapsing empire.

This book ended up in my to-read stack thanks to a chance introduction to a woman in the technical writing department at my new job. It turns out that she is an avid member of the employee book clubs — yes, plural — and, once she found out that I’m a reader, she immediately added me to the Slack channel for the book club set to meet next.

Turns out, that particular book club is the one focused on science fiction. I tend to fall on the outskirts of sci-fi in my tastes. I’m happy to read the genre and travel across the galaxy when it focuses on dystopian presentations of our current society, but I don’t tend to pick up novels featuring space travel on my own. Not without a professor or a book club encouraging me to do so.

This book might be the one to break that resistance as I’m eagerly awaiting the rest of the series and have already added several of Scalzi’s book to my holds list at the library. Yes, the book has the political commentary I’m often looking for in my sci-fi and, yes, there is a suggestion that humans screwed up life on Earth in some awful way as with all good dystopian novels.

But I also just really enjoyed the story and the characters. The pacing is well-done; I never felt like the plot moved too quickly or two slowly. And, best of all, as the story introduced new “science” like the flow, the narrator refused to take themselves seriously.

I found myself chuckling at the introduction when the Flow is introduced and the narrator essentially tells the reader just to go with it otherwise the story won’t make sense. It’s that kind of tongue-in-cheek writing that makes this an accessible and fun read for someone who often resists the sci-fi genre due to its pseudo-intellectualism. I may even stick with sci-fi book club at work if these is kind of novels they read.

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