Top positive review
A Cracking Read, One of Scalzi's Best
28 August 2017
The Collapsing Empire is quite a departure for John Scalzi, set in an interesting universe where various human colonies are connected to one another by "The Flow", which allows space craft to travel tens or hundreds of light years in a few months. The colonies are organised as an Empire, with a ruling caste owning monopolies on various industries that allow them to exploit the colonial planets to improve their own fortunes. With the plethora of lords and ladies as the main characters, the tone is often quite similar to Walter Jon Williams' Praxis novels, although the focus here is on mercantile matters, not on the military.
The Empire has a new leader, an illegitimate child who becomes heir to the throne after the death of her half-brother, who presides over a ruling caste eager to take all the power they can. She was not raised in the royal household and, as such, is very much the outsider put in a position she doesn't really want but is determined to do to the best of her ability.
The story unfolds amidst terrorism and civil unrest, overlaid with plenty of scheming, power-hungry nobles clawing for power. Without giving anything away, the plot is complex enough and has several unexpected twists and turns that make it a real page turner. As usual, Scalzi's dialogue is at times hilarious and always entertaining. The characters are well drawn and for the most part believable enough.
One thing you need to be warned about, however, is that the story finishes with a big cliff-hanger, which means you'll be sweating on the next instalment. The main storyline is nicely rolled up by the end but it really only serves to set up the next book in the series. It's really a cruel and unusual punishment because it really is a cracking read.