Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Series: The Interdependency #1
Published by Audible Studios on 21 March 2017
Length: 9 hrs and 23 mins
Genres: Hard Science Fiction, Humor
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Our universe is ruled by physics, and faster-than-light travel is not possible - until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transports us to other worlds, around other stars.
Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It's a hedge against interstellar war - and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.
The Flow is eternal - but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it's discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster-than-light travel forever, three individuals - a scientist, a starship captain, and the empress of the Interdependency - are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.
©2017 John Scalzi (P)2017 Audible, Inc.
I’m a newbie to the work of John Scalzi, and the only previous experience I have with his work was the fun audiobook edition of The Dispatcher. But, given how much those sad/rabid/pathetic puppies loathe him, while simultaneously attempting to ride on the coattails of his success (with one even going so far as to write a knock-off book of this particular title, with knock-off cover art that pretty well screamed copyright infringement, and a fake name that played off John Scalzi’s actual name in the hope of duping unaware readers to make a quick buck!), I figured he had to be worth a read, or in this case, a listen. Happily, I was not the least bit disappointed. So, thanks to all the doggie idjits bemoaning Scalzi’s work for prompting me to finally check out some more of his books!
Scalzi has a pretty large body of work behind him thanks to the Old Man’s War series and several other stand-alone titles. The Collapsing Empire is the first in a new series, and it’s the perfect starting point for new readers like myself.
Thousands of years in the future, humanity has formed the Commonwealth of the Interdependence and spread across the stars. Each of their various habitats are connected by the flow, a spatial anomaly akin to a river in space. The flow has allowed the Interdependence to grow and succeed, and without it humanity would wither and die as each star system becomes cut off from one another. Well, there wouldn’t be much room for drama if there wasn’t a massive problem, and so as it happens, the flow is beginning to collapse. Couple this with a bunch of political and trade guild drama, crosses and double-crosses, a newly crowned emperor, a fermenting rebellion, and random acts of terrorism, and you have The Collapsing Empire.
Scalzi keeps the pace rapid-fire and the tone light, despite a simmering undercurrent of darkness that could quickly turn the whole affair into pitch-black nihilism. Thankfully, there’s room for plenty of hope, and a whole lot of humor. The author also injects some wonderful heroines as the primary leads, and the foul-mouthed, sexed-up, aggressive Lady Kiva might just be one of my new favorites. She’s a total jerk, and I loved all of her expletive-laced rants as she chewed out anybody who attempted to cross her or get in her way.
Narrating all of this is Wil Wheaton, making The Collapsing Empire my first introduction to both the author and narrator. I found there to be a wonderful bit of synchronicity between the pairing of Scalzi and Wheaton, and the latter does an outstanding job narrating. Each character has a distinct voice, and there’s enough range and acting chops to give this audiobook a nice bit of oomph. The science fiction plot itself is easily digested and technobabble is kept to a minimum, while the listening experience itself is highly engaging and kept my attention the whole way through.
The bottom line is, The Collapsing Empire is just flat-out fun. The story is wonderfully conceived, it has some truly terrific character beats, and plenty of laughs. More importantly, it left me fully invested in this series going forward. As soon I reached the end of this audiobook, I immediately wanted to dive into the second installment. But since that’s not out yet, I’ll just have to content myself with some of Scalzi’s back catalog in the meantime.