The Collapsing Empire is the first book of a new science fiction space opera series by popular genre author John Scalzi. I am generally a fan of Mr. Scalzi's work. I found this one to be a quick and entertaining read, a 'romp' if you will, cleverly executed but hobbled a bit by dependence on a few over-familiar tropes and some fairly lightweight characterizations.
Over at space opera, the inestimable Gorgonzola opines that "... a Space Opera is any story containing the following elements:
Come, gentle readers, let us see how Mr. Scalzi does on the GSO (Gorgo Space Opera) scale.
Sometime in the far future, humanity has spread to the stars via a wormhole-like set of conduits through interstellar space, known as the Flow. We don't need to delve into the physics, we just need to accept it. Using the Flow, spaceships can transit between star systems in weeks or months rather than decades or centuries, making travel (and the story) possible. Earth has long since been lost, and all but one of the star systems don't have habitable planets, but humankind has adapted with various interdependent space stations and moon bases, setting up the Interdependency, a
BING! [ X ] widespread colonization of space.
The web of interconnections meets at the Hub* where control of these space lanes resides in one powerful family, thus creating the requisite
BING! [ X ] galactic empire.
The Hub is where the empire's leader, the Emperox, lives. Said character is one of the first and most cloying tropes, the Reluctant Youth Who Was Not Destined for Greatness but is thrust into power by an unexpected death. She is, of course, caught in a web of political intrigue for which she is unprepared, but which she will overcome with her spunky can-do attitude. Sigh.
Meanwhile, a Powerful but Amoral Family with Designs on the Throne has discovered a Devastating Secret that has the potential to change the power structure of Interdependency, and they have deployed a Complex Evil Scheme to come out on top. If the Hub is the bright center to Scalzi's universe, the key lies on the planet that it's farthest from, the delightfully named End (thankfully not styled the End) which is what a character from another series would've called an M-class planet, that is, Earth-like. And End is, of course, our
BING! [ X ] rebellious colony.
The struggle for power at End includes both a rebellion and a complex political power play, separate but linked. One the surface we find The Brilliant Scientist who has discovered the secret, and needs to get word back to the Emperox, and so books passage with the Roguish Space Trader. This leads to a race to get off the planet and thus to a small but nonetheless qualifying
BING! [ X ] space war.
which plays into the conclusion in which All is Revealed, but the hook is planted for the Inevitable Sequel.
The GSO Score
Four out of Five! The Interdependency is devoid of aliens, at least so far, so Scalzi doesn't run the table, but we're still squarely in this sub-genre of SF.
According to Mr. Scalzi on his blog (the) Whatever: "Top selling science fiction hardcover in the US, second-best-selling audio book in the US, my highest debut on the USA Today bestseller list, and a TV deal.". So that's all right. I presume the TV deal will be with HBO or someone else who can permit the copious cussing and sexual conquests of Roguish Space Trader.
Scalzi's book was preemptively mocked by his wannabe-nemesis Theodore Beale/Vox Day (of Rabid Puppies fame) with a copycat book briefly sold, then blocked, and now sold again on Amazon. You can read more about that saga on io9. If you'd like Mr. Beale's opinion of The Collapsing Empire, and his shill for his own work, you can visit his blog. Social Justice Warriors need not click thru, but instead might wish to visit Beale's Pink SF versus Blue SF to find out just why, and how much, he loathes you (and likely me).
On the positive side, the dust-up produced this silly SF book cover generator, which I recommend if you need ideas for the SF Quest. I just wish it allowed linking to the final image, so I could show you the stunning cover for my potential-quest-tale, Squirrels Attack the Gelatinous Quagmire.
Well-done Space Opera is fun and exciting, and Scalzi delivers a fast and frothy little tale. It's the first part of his mega-deal with Tor, and as long as it does well, we'll be getting more of the story, but it's reasonably self-contained and satisfying on its own.
I feel like Mr. Scalzi could have baked this one a little longer and perhaps fleshed out the characters a bit more, but we're here for the thrill-ride, and that's what we get.
As much as I enjoy Mr. Scalzi's work, though, this one's a borrow-from-the-library read rather than a treasured tome. At least, that's what I did.
The "borrow me!" stack on the front left of the bookshelf remains Gaiman/Willis/Willis/Scalzi/Scalzi/Leiber for the nonce, so John need not fret. (The Scott Lynch book is on loan. I suspect it will not return. This is fine, I will buy it again.)
* Yes, The Scalzi makes liberal (nyuk nyuk) use of 'The Noun' to establish Things of Importance. It's clearly The Thing to Do, so I have aped it in this review.
...are all pipe-linked because I just felt like it, that's why.
For SciFiQuest 3017: The Frontier that Wouldn't End
It just goes on and on my friends