The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Vertigo

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Humans have expanded out to the stars but the inconvenient light speed limit imposed by physics would make trade and communication across such interstellar distances impossible. However the ‘flow’ was discovered, a kind of little understood hyperspace that has allowed short cuts between locations in real space. It is this flow that has made the Interdependency Empire possible but it seems the flow is about to collapse making travel and communication between the colonies in the empire impossible. Something no one wants to believe.

After loving the early books in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series but hating the later ones, The Collapsing Empire felt like something of a return to form. Scalzi has created a plausible, if slightly unusual, political structure for the empire and its guilds and this book adequately sets the scene for those to come. His plotting is good and his characters well drawn (he has to have had enormous fun writing the slightly improbably profane Kiva, scion of one of the leading guild houses) and the story cracks along at a good pace that took little time for me to read.

Although this is a good book, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed, I do have one big grumble, a complaint I’m finding more and more common with SF books; if a book needs to be a thousand pages long then make it so, don’t write a thousand-page book and then chop it, almost arbitrarily, into several volumes. This book is only around three hundred pages long and yet it feels like it’s just set the scene for the real story to begin. Had Peter Hamilton been writing this the next volume (at least) would have joined this one in a single book. I have no problem with a long book if it needs to be long. I have huge problems with a long book being chopped into shorter ones that in themselves have no real conclusion. This seems to me to be a pure marketing tactic to make more money. Four short books in a series will always cost more than one single, longer book. But sadly this seems to be the new normal nowadays so I suppose I must learn to live with it.

4/5 stars
 

Vertigo

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I think publishers are pushing writers to do that for the Kindle market.
Yes, I think you're right and it drives me mad. Although in this case Scalzi is the author who had a go at publishing two books one chapter at a time which I'm pretty sure was his decision and is what stopped me from continuing his Old Man's War series.
 

Nozzle Velocity

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I remember listening to a new writer (can't remember which one) describe why his publisher wanted him to finish his entire trilogy so they could debut all three books on the same day on Kindle. The thinking was that the reader would buy the first book and couldn't resist hitting a button at the end of the story to buy the next one. They wouldn't have to wait, it would already be available.

I haven't read Scalzi, but it sounds like he took it to extremes with individual chapters. Can you imagine reading someone like, say, Peter F. Hamilton that way? You'd have to take out a loan.
 

Vertigo

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I remember listening to a new writer (can't remember which one) describe why his publisher wanted him to finish his entire trilogy so they could debut all three books on the same day on Kindle. The thinking was that the reader would buy the first book and couldn't resist hitting a button at the end of the story to buy the next one. They wouldn't have to wait, it would already be available.

I haven't read Scalzi, but it sounds like he took it to extremes with individual chapters. Can you imagine reading someone like, say, Peter F. Hamilton that way? You'd have to take out a loan.
In fairness to Scalzi, once complete they were all published as a single book (The Human Division) at a sensible price. But it, inevitably I suppose, read very episodically which is what I didn't really like. Not short stories, as all the chapters did make up a whole story, but it somehow lacked any real build up to a climax as each chapter had to have it's own climax. It's hard to explain but it didn't work for me!
 

Nozzle Velocity

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It's hard to explain but it didn't work for me!
No, that makes sense. The form determines the content. Show runners for modern binge watchers know how to tailor plots for continuity, while 15-chapter serials from the 40s and 50s were meant to be seen one week apart. I've seen younger viewers try to binge watch those old serials with hilarious results. I had to step in like Steve Jobs and say, "You're holding it wrong." Likewise, I'm about 2/3 of the way through Alex Raymond's complete Flash Gordon strips, and I can only do about six pages at most on a good day, because it's not structured like one coherent story. If you read too much, it all becomes a blur of action. Those are extreme examples, but it's the same principle all around. I don't read a Kindle, so it never occured to me that it would influence fiction in this way. How often did those Scalzi chapters appear?
 

Vertigo

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No, that makes sense. The form determines the content. Show runners for modern binge watchers know how to tailor plots for continuity, while 15-chapter serials from the 40s and 50s were meant to be seen one week apart. I've seen younger viewers try to binge watch those old serials with hilarious results. I had to step in like Steve Jobs and say, "You're holding it wrong." Likewise, I'm about 2/3 of the way through Alex Raymond's complete Flash Gordon strips, and I can only do about six pages at most on a good day, because it's not structured like one coherent story. If you read too much, it all becomes a blur of action. Those are extreme examples, but it's the same principle all around. I don't read a Kindle, so it never occured to me that it would influence fiction in this way. How often did those Scalzi chapters appear?
I believe they appeared weekly over thirteen weeks. I no longer remember the price on them though.
 

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