The Collapsing Empire tells the story of a handful of people living in the far flung future. Humans are scattered around the galaxy or the universe or something. Lots of random settlements, two of which we see, are connected by a McGuffin bit of sci-fi called The Flow. This is much like a Stargate system or a series of Portkeys or Jump Gates or a Warp Field or any other made up means of transport over vast distances you have ever seen. Like these other constructs, the tech doesn’t really matter. So it’s kind of odd when John puts a lot of effort into explaining the tech.
John Scalzi is famous for his snappy dialoge and snarky characters. He is infamous for not doing much on the discription front. He holds true to form here. A lot of random people talk and fuck and die and it’s often hard to tell who they are or what sex they are or why we are even spending time with them.
A lot of nothing happens here.
Followed by rather a lot more nothing.
There are three or four main storylines going on at any time. It takes a long time for any of them to cross paths. A handful of people die, but they are not anyone we care about, and are often people we don’t even know.
This is a book that is setting things up for future books. This means he didn’t want to do too much big stuff in this one. So there are one or two bits of action and a lot of talking.
There were a few funny bits but The Collapsing Empire was not John’s best work. Nor is it his worst…that honor goes to Zoe’s War.
John Scalzi has hit that point in his career where he can write anything he wants. It won’t hurt his feelings a bit when critcs and bloggers and reviewers don’t like one of his books. He has more money than god and a fan base that would pay to read his shopping lists. Collapsing Empire is pretty close to a shopping list.
If you’re looking for the next Red Shirts or Old Man’s War…keep looking.