The Collapsing Empire: The Interdependency, Book 1, by John Scalzi
I became a Scalzi fan after I read Redshirts. His writing is always funny and fast-moving, with a matter-of-fact approach to the language that reads the way people talk.
His books also have a lot of variety and I’m starting to think that his life goal is to take on every scifi trope and conquer it. Foundation, it’s your turn.
As the beginning of a planned series this book naturally does a lot of development work, weaving together three stories about a human universe in which our race has spread itself far from earth through a series of wormholes referred to as The Flow. The Flow has allowed humanity to inhabit otherwise uninhabitable planets by allowing the movement of supplies over long distances. This also has provided opportunities for mutinies that can be done legally by a Notice of Extralegal Mutiny (this is how the book opens) allowing crew to take over a ship in order to sell the goods, piracy, and rancorous traders. This part of the universe has become ruled by a confederation known as The Interdependency, ruled by a family much like the Chan Empire headed by an Emperox.
But there’s a problem. The Flow is beginning to collapse. When The Flow winks out it leaves planets, even barely habitable ones, separated from the rest of the Interdependency leaving the inhabitants to starve. This lets Scalzi follow the Emperox, a ship captain, and a scientist as they deal with the moral and political impact of the collapse, as well as how they try to learn what is happening and why.
Along the way we meet some wonderful characters, including a princess who swears like a sailor and was my favorite in the book.
Scalzi is always entertaining and deals with space and science realistically, but he never lets those overwhelm the plot. The characters he wants you to like are completely charismatic and fully human. The bad guys are realistically unlikeable. This was a great read and, having read his series Old Man’s War, I know he can keep up the pace over multiple books so I’m looking forward to the next books in this series.