The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi


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Staff member
Jan 5, 2001
Way on Down South, London Town
I have just read The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, based upon recommendation from members here. I really liked it. It is my first John Scalzi book, but I can see his appeal - fast paced, modern language and feisty characters. I like the idea behind this series - The Flow, a natural extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars. Too many space-based books rely of FTL Warp drives or wormholes, neither of which are possible under our current understanding of the physics of the universe, but which have become sci-fi staples. The second book about the collapse of the Flow, The Consuming Fire, is released in paperback on 24th September, and I liked it enough that I will pre-order that.

I can also see why people criticise John Scalzi of too much sex and not enough depth. Unfortunately, I didn't think his characters were particularly well drawn. The women were very alike, and most were too feisty. He doesn't spend too much time on the physics of the Flow, which is probably a good thing, saying instead that only higher mathematicians can understand it. However, the physics of the Flow, and research papers about it, are integral to the plot, so maybe more exposition would be good. All the main characters were privileged, so hard to feel that the young scientist was as naive and wide-eyed as he was meant to be, however his jaw-dropping at the sight of Hub was well done. I found the plot to be a an allegory for climate change, trust in the science community and the peer review system, religious systems, and the excesses of evil corporations; and as such that was a bit too obvious and rather heavy handed. I didn't like that he killed off the best character. I also thought there might be some kind of twist at the end, but in reality this book is just setting up the story for the rest of the series.