The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
Synopsis: As the FTL highways binding a galactic empire together begin to collapse, our heroes must find a way to make the disparate shards of habitable space fully self-reliant before the human race is wiped out, while fighting off usurpers who’d use this crisis to steal the crown.
Book Review: This is a fantastic commercial SF title. The plot is high-stakes and very interesting. The action moves along quickly, never once boring or belabored. It’s tightly written. The dialog is snappy, the humor is wry, the characters are complex and engaging. It’s written in a very contemporary style, which I enjoy, and which makes it easy to read. Collapsing Empire grabs you, flows quickly, and is a hell of a lot of fun along the way. This is why Scalzi is both rich and very well known. He writes well, and is fantastically entertaining.
And when you’re done with the novel it quickly disappears from your mind, never to be thought of again. This is in the highest tier of popcorn entertainment, but it’s still popcorn entertainment. It has no ambition, and leaves nothing lasting behind. Which is too bad, because Scalzi has a lot to say. He may be as well known for his popular and very political blog as for his fiction writing. He’s smart as hell and full of snark, and the style of that comes through in his fiction, but without content behind it.
This is the beginning of a long series, and the setting and story arch promised to us is epic enough that I believe this is a story that might, in fact, take many books to tell! And I have faith in Scalzi’s ability to tell it. So maybe he’s just suckering people in with a great story and characters without laying down anything heavy in the first book, and plans to start weaving deeper themes and messages into future books in the series. Or maybe not, maybe he just wants to write good entertainment and have fun, I dunno.
The thing is, I don’t really enjoy straight-up commercial fiction anymore, regardless of how well it’s done. I’m worried it may be too snobby of me, but I really want some substance in what I read. I’m a bit distressed about that, because this means that the best selling authors will never write for me. Wide popularity and comfortable paychecks mostly come from writing the light fare. It feels like a shitty thing to ask/wish for authors to write in a manner that will get them less money and less fame just because I happen to like it more.
Anyway, if you want good entertainment without having to think much, a literary equivalent of the MCU perhaps, this is a good book for you. Since my reviews are for people similar to myself – Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: Again, it depends on what you want out of a book club. The book was certainly fun, and so there was some fun had in chatting about it and comparing notes. And since it’s such a quick read it’s not a burden on the group. It’s one of those books to put in your list for a palette cleanser after a very intense or difficult read. I wouldn’t call that a direct recommendation, but it might count as a sorta recommendation anyway? I dunno, take it as you will.
Update: Looking back, I realize the synopsis is a bit misleading. As far as I can tell right now, that’s a synopsis of what’ll be happening in the series. This first book only starts to tackle these problems.
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