Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi - Book Review

From the publisher: The Last Emperox is the thrilling conclusion to the award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling Interdependency series, an epic space opera adventure from Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi.

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction . . . and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known.

Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people form impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough.

Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization . . . or the last emperox to wear the crown?

The Last Emperox is the final book in John Scalzi's Interdependancy trilogy. It brings to a conclusion the storyline begun in The Collapsing Empire and continued in The Consuming Fire. So, is it successful at resolving the story? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, too, but maybe a little more complicated than that.

When The Last Emperox begins, the empire of the Emperox Grayland II (also know as Cardenia) is in the midst of fragmenting due to the collapse of the Flow streams which provide a way to travel between star systems. As detailed in the first two books, this will isolate each system, eventually resulting in the deaths of the great majority of humanity as they know it. Grayland is continuing her attempts to discover a way to save everyone before all systems are cut off from each other. Assisting her in this task is her boyfriend/chief Flow expert Marce Claremont, the sentient starship Chenevert, and the foul-mouthed and sex-crazed but very calculating Kiva Lagos. In the meantime, she continues to have to deal with attempted coups and assassination attempts from various factions, including her own noble family (the Wu's) and her perpetual foil, Nadashe Nohamapetan. Political maneuverings, scientific discoveries, and an ending I did not see coming all come together to make this an exciting story and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

As in previous books, Scalzi has written some interesting and engaging characters. And by this time, the readers are very familiar with their quirks and personalities. They continue to grow and develop, particularly Kiva Lagos and Cardenia/Grayland II. Both characters have nice arcs that you can trace through the other two books, and the conclusion for each feels genuine, if a touch unexpected. I also enjoyed reading about Marce and seeing him take on a bit larger role. Scalzi's humorous writing style mixed with sarcasm is evident in the characters, which is something I enjoy when reading (I don't really like it when everything has to be Serious all the time).

My only complaints about The Last Emperox are the same I had for the previous two books. First, every few chapters, there seems to be a chapter that is a huge information dump, tons of exposition with little dialogue. For me, these chapters would bring my reading momentum to a screeching halt, as the speed and flow of the story would come to a near halt. Additionally, there is a lot of cursing, particularly the "F" word. While it is part of a character's personality to use this word so much, it seems a little excessive to me. Finally, the amount of sex in the book can be gratuitous, although not graphic. I will say that of the three books, this one had the least amount of sex in it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Last Emperox, and the Interdependancy series as a whole. It was relatively fast paced and engaging, with interesting characters and some newer takes on space travel and science concepts. John Scalzi did a terrific job of telling the story he intended to tell and resolving it well in The Last Emperox. He also left enough threads left untied that he could easily revisit characters, ideas, of the Interdependancy universe without messing with this trilogy or undoing the choices in this series. I would recommend The Last Emperox (and the series) to Scalzi fans, general science fiction fans, and readers who like a bit of humor and sarcasm in their stories.

I received a preview copy of this book from Tor and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi - Book Review

From the publisher: New York Times Best Seller
USA Today Best Seller
io9's New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books You Need to Put On Your Radar This Fall
Kirkus' SF/F Books to Watch Out for in 2018
Popular Mechanics Best Books of 2018 (So Far)
Goodreads' Most Anticipated Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

The Consuming Fire—the New York Times and USA Today bestselling sequel to the 2018 Hugo Award Best Novel finalist and 2018 Locus Award-winning The Collapsing Empire—an epic space-opera novel in the bestselling Interdependency series, from the Hugo Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author John Scalzi

The Interdependency—humanity’s interstellar empire—is on the verge of collapse. The extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible is disappearing, leaving entire systems and human civilizations stranded.

Emperox Grayland II of the Interdependency is ready to take desperate measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least an opportunity to an ascension to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are prepare for a civil war. A war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will between spaceships and battlefields.

The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, as are her enemies. Nothing about this will be easy... and all of humanity will be caught in its consuming fire.

The Consuming Fire, book 2 in the Interdependency series by John Scalzi, picks up fairly close to where the first book, The Collapsing Empire, left off. And, it basically jumps right into the action, as Emperox Grayland II tries to shepherd all of humanity through the upcoming collapse of the Flow streams and the end of civilization as they've known it for the past one thousand years.

While The Consuming Fire is a space epic type of book, it really isn't concerned so much with battles and such; it's more focused on saving humanity and the political battles that Grayland II is dealing with. These schemes are interesting in and of themselves, as it's sometimes hard to know who to really trust, and Scalzi plays his cards very close to the vest, not revealing everything until the climax of the story. The other part of this book that I found really interesting was Marce Claremont's arc. I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll say that it reminded me a bit of the Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath books by Jack McDevitt. The two threads (Grayland's and Marce's) dovetail nicely together.

Scalzi does a fine job with character development, as he mostly focuses on the same point of view characters we followed in the first book. Grayland II continues in her acclimation to being Emperox, becoming more formidable and confident. Marce Claremont sees his role expand and become extremely important. Nadashe Nohamapetan shows up again, and continues to act as a foil for Grayland, although in a different capacity. Kiva Lagos, and her foul mouth, are once again embroiled in conflict with the House of Nohamapetan. Additionally, Scalzi introduces or expands on some characters who were not really a part of The Collaspsing Empire: Countess Nohamapetan, Archbishop Korbijn, Lord Terran, and more members or employees of the Houses of Wu and Nohamapetan. All told, this is a varied and interesting group of characters whose interactions make for an enjoyable read.

The plot of The Consuming Fire is constantly moving forward, and Scalzi fits all the myriad pieces together very well. A little more than halfway through, there is a big reveal that propels the story forward at breakneck speed, and the conclusion, while a fine ending to this book itself, totally expands the scope of where the final book can take the story of Grayland II and the Interdependecy's quest to save themselves from disaster. It wasn't something I saw coming, but all the seeds are there. As far as negatives, I have a couple that are more along the lines of personal preferences: Scalzi's characters use the F-word a lot, enough where it is a little distracting to me when I'm reading; sex is also a driving force for some of these characters, and while not graphic by any means, it seems a bit superfluous at times; and finally, there are a few chapters were it is one paragraph of exposition after another, and while these are necessary, they slowed me down after chapters that pushed the plot forward with snappy dialogue and humor.

Overall, I would recommend The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi. It's both a terrific sequel and a fine book in its own right. Scalzi has written a quickly moving, engaging story with humor and well-rounded characters. I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion, The Last Emperox, in the near future.

I received a review copy of this book from Tor Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.