Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time.

My top 10 are:

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Of course! While I’ve read it many times since, there’s nothing quite like the first time reading about Jamie and Claire.
  2. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: I know that I gasped out loud several times over the twists and turns of this amazing book. I’d love to read it again someday to delve back into the story, but there’s nothing to compare to the shocks of reading it for the first time.
  3. Replay by Ken Grimwood: I read this many years ago, but I was so captivated by this book! Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to time travel, Replay fell into my lap with a whole new approach.
  4. Eagle in the Sky by Wilbur Smith: I read this in my youth and was swept away by the romanticism of the entire plot and the characters. I think a lot of my reaction had to do with where I was in my life at that time… so even though I could read it again, I don’t think it would be the same reading experience.
  5. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: My first time was just last year, and I’ve re-read it since, and will probably re-read it again — but the first time was such an immersive experience that was truly unique and memorable.
  6. Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager: I read this book as a child, and spent years as an adult trying to figure out what that amazing book with all the knights was called! I finally found it again — but I think nothing can compare to reading this as a child and feeling so full of wonder and possibility.
  7. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: Along those lines, even though I was an adult when I read Harry Potter, my first time reading the books was alongside my daughter, and experiencing it fresh and new together was amazing.
  8. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi: This audiobook made me laugh so hard. I wonder if I’d find it as funny if I weren’t constantly being surprised by all the weirdness?
  9. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: I’ve read this book more than once, but the first time was a remarkable experience, where I was absolutely on the edge of my seat for so much of the story.
  10. Soulless by Gail Carriger: This introduction to the world of the Parasol Protectorate drew me right in to its world of supernatural beings in Victorian England. Reading it for the first time was so special!

What books do you wish you could read again for the first time? Please share your links!

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A look back: Series reading in 2020

Remember January? Those good old days when we left our houses? Didn’t think twice about breathing the same air as other people? Sigh…

Back in January, oh so long ago, I set myself some reading goals related to reading book series. And now that 2020 is about to expire (and good riddance!), I thought it was time to check in and see whether I met any of my series reading goals.

Here are the books I set as my priorities for 2020:

The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal – a five-book series:Status: DONE! I listened to the audiobooks, one right after another, and loved the individual books as well as the over-arching storylines. All-around excellent world-building and storytelling. I just wish there were more set in this world!

The Interdependency Series by John Scalzi – a science fiction trilogy:

Status: DONE! Such a fun sci-fi adventure. I’d been hesitant about reading these books, expecting them to be too much on the “hard” side of science fiction — but thanks to the author’s never-fail humor and snark, the books flew by and were totally entertaining.

The Expanse by James S. A. Corey: More science fiction! Prior to 2020, I’d read books 1 – 3, and my goal was to keep going.

Status: A little bit of progress… I read book #4, but didn’t go any further. Yet. I do intend to keep going with the series, and since the final book is due out in 2021, I suppose I’d better get moving!

Poldark by Winston Graham – 12 books in all, and as of the end of 2019, I’d read seven.

Status: Nope. I didn’t read any additional books in this series, and honestly, I doubt that I will. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read, but now that the TV adaptation has ended, I don’t feel all that invested in continuing (especially since the books from this point out supposedly focus on the next generation of characters).

Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black – a fantasy trilogy:

Status: YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES! Not only did I read the three books early in 2020, all right in a row, I ended up listening to all the audiobooks toward the end of the year. And I loved them so, so much! Such a great story, with fantastic characters.

Those are all the series that I set as my goals at the beginning of the year. I also ended up reading one additional trilogy, not on my original list:

The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club by Theodora Goss: A fabulous trilogy starring the cast-off daughters of famous fictional men — the daughters of Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), Victor Frankenstein, and more. The books are clever and funny, and feature strong, amazing women having great adventures. Totally delightful.

So, farewell to 2020! And onward to 2021!

Did you read any series in 2020? Any particular favorites?

Check back in January, when I’ll set a new batch of series reading goals for the new year.

 

Shelf Control #240: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
Author: John Scalzi
Published: 2008
Length: 368 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

On September 13, 1998, John Scalzi sat down in front of his computer to write the first entry in his blog “Whatever” — and changed the history of the Internet as we know it today.

What, you’re not swallowing that one? Okay, fine: He started writing the “Whatever” and amused about 15 people that first day. If that many. But he kept at it, for ten years and running. Now 40,000 people drop by on a daily basis to see what he’s got to say.

About what? Well, about whatever: Politics, writing, family, war, popular culture and cats (especially with bacon on them). Sometimes he’s funny. Sometimes he’s serious (mostly he’s sarcastic). Sometimes people agree with him. Sometimes they send him hate mail, which he grades on originality and sends back. Along the way, Scalzi’s become a best-selling, award-winning author, a father, and a geek celebrity. But no matter what, there’s always another Whatever to amuse and/or enrage his readers.

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded collects some of the best and most popular Whatever entries over the history of the blog, from some of the very first entries right up into 2008. It’s a decade of Whatever, presented in delightfully random form — just the way it should be. 

How and when I got it:

I’m not sure when exactly, but I bought a copy sometime in the past couple of years.

Why I want to read it:

I love John Scalzi’s novels — I think I’ve read them all! At some point after discovering how much I loved his writing style, I visited his blog, Whatever. And kept going back.

I’ve been following Whatever for several years now, but didn’t start until after the period covered in this book. I know I love his snark and intelligence and humor (and cat photos), so I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy this book too, although I suspect I’ll want to read it in little bits and pieces over time.

368 pages of Whatever sounds like A LOT, after all.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Audiobook Review: Murder by Other Means by John Scalzi

Title: Murder by Other Means
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator:  Zachary Quinto
Publisher: Audible Originals
Publication date: September 10, 2020
Print length: n/a
Audio length: 3 hours, 3 minutes
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

From Hugo and Audie Award-winning author John Scalzi comes an exciting sequel to The New York Times best-selling, number one Audible hit The Dispatcher, performed by the incomparable Zachary Quinto.

Welcome to the new world, in which murder is all but a thing of the past. Because when someone kills you, 999 times out of 1,000, you instantly come back to life. In this world, there are dispatchers—licensed killers who step in when you’re at risk of a natural or unintentional death. They kill you—so you can live.

Tony Valdez is used to working his job as a dispatcher within the rules of the law and the state. But times are tough, and more and more Tony finds himself riding the line between what’s legal and what will pay his bills. After one of these shady gigs and after being a witness to a crime gone horribly wrong, Tony discovers that people around him are dying, for reasons that make no sense…and which just may implicate him.

Tony is running out of time: to solve the mystery of these deaths, to keep others from dying, and to keep himself from being a victim of what looks like murder, by other means.

If you’re looking for a quick audio listen that’s a noir/sci-fi treat, you have to check out this new audiobook by John Scalzi!

Murder By Other Means is the newly released sequel to The Dispatcher. Both are terrific. These Audible Originals are written by John Scalzi, narrated by Zachary Quinto, and just so much fun.

In the world of these books, death has been (mostly) defeated. For some unfathomable reason, as of about 10 years earlier, anyone who is murdered instantly zips back to life back in their own home, naked, and completely unharmed. This is not true, though, for natural or accidental deaths (basically, anything non-murdery). Die without murder, and dead is dead.

Hence, the rise of a profession known as Dispatchers. Say you’re going into surgery for a risky procedure — well then, keep a dispatcher on hand, so if things go wrong, one quick bullet in the brain will send you home again. There’s the 1 in 1000 chance that the dispatching won’t work, but most people are willing to take that chance.

In these audiobooks, our main character is Tony Valdez. Time are tough, and there aren’t as many legit dispatcher jobs these days, so when Tony is offered something that’s not entirely by the book, but that pays piles of cash, he does the job. And then things get screwy. After witnessing a robbery at his local bank branch, complete with dead and not-so-dead bodies, Tony is implicated, and when one of the investigating detectives ends up dead too, things go from bad to worse.

Tony has to figure out how to clear his name, get the cops off his back, and solve a puzzle regarding a slew of deaths in the city that can’t be murder… but they sure seem like they are.

At just barely 3 hours, this audiobook is perfect for a quick entertainment. The action is fast-paced, and the narration is terrific. The vibe is noir, but with enough weird elements to let you know you’re living in a Scalzi world. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t a Dresden book (minus the magic) — it’s that kind of smart, quick urban storytelling.

Murder By Other Means includes enough stage-setting that you can listen to it without being completely lost, but it makes a lot more sense to listen to The Dispatcher first, to gain a full picture of what life in a death-less world feels like.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that make me smile

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books That Make Me Smile.

Awwww. Such a happy topic. I’m smiling already, just thinking about creating this list!

Here are ten of my favorite smile-worthy books:

Are you doubting my ability to count to 10? Yes, there are actually 13 books shown, because I’m including an entire series as one choice.

  1. The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger (4 books)
  2. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  3. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi
  4. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  6. Emma by Jane Austen
  7. Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
  8. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  10. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Which books make you smile? Do we have any in common?

Please share your links!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten authors I’ve read the most books by

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By.

It looks like I did this topic back in 2015, but my reading habits have changed since then — so, new and improved for 2020, here are ten authors whose books dominate my shelves.

Note: The numbers as reflected in Goodreads aren’t entirely reliable, since they include novellas and stand-alone stories that I’ve marked as read as well as actual novels and other published materials. So… take the the numbers below with a grain (or ten) of salt.

Seanan McGuire – 38 

Because I adore the October Daye series and the Incryptid series, as well as her various other novels and novellas and, well, basically anything she writes. And this doesn’t even include the 12 works I’ve read by her alter ego Mira Grant.

 

Jim Butcher – 29

And more coming this year, with two new Dresden Files books releasing this summer and fall! Besides the Dresden books, this number includes Codex Alera, some story collections, and Bigfoot!

 

Dana Stabenow – 27

The Kate Shugak series is at 22 books (and counting), plus there are 4 Liam Campbell books published so far, and I’ve read a collection of her non-fiction travel writing. (Plus, I have more books of hers on my TBR, but who’s counting?)

 

Patricia Briggs – 25

I love the Mercy Thompson series, as well Alpha & Omega, plus I’ve read any and all Mercy-verse stories that have appeared in various anthologies.

 

Diana Gabaldon – 23 

I’m going to keep using this picture, because hey, I met DG once in person and it was awesome!

No, there aren’t 23 books in the Outlander series, but this include the Lord John books, the reference books, and the various novellas and stand-alone stories.

 

Gail Carriger – 23

According to Goodreads, that’s 4 each for the Finishing School and Custard Protocol series, 4 for the Parasol Protectorate, a whole bunch of novellas, and two works published as G. L. Carriger.

 

Stephen King – 21

Considering how many books he’s written, this is just scratching the surface! I don’t think I’ll ever run out of backlist King books to read, not to mention keeping up with the never-ending new releases.

 

Tamora Pierce – 19

I went on a Tamora Pierce reading binge last year, reading basically ALL of her Tortall books, one after another. And loved them all! (Mostly.)

 

John Scalzi – 19

So there’s the Old Man’s War series, the Interdependency trilogy, the Lock In books, and various others too.

 

And finally, one that maybe should go into a separate category…

Robert Kirkman – 33

Because I’ve read the entire Walking Dead series in trade paperback editions, and that’s 32 books, plus one more about Negan.

 

Which authors have you read the most? Do we have any in common?

Please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 5/4/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Another week. What is there to say? Working hard (at home, of course)… but at least we had a good few days of sunshine, so I was able to get in some long walks and feel the fresh air on my face!

Oh, and I started a new jigsaw puzzle — first one in a while. It’s making me happy.

What did I read during the last week?

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay: Uplifting novel with a bookstore setting — always a plus! My review is here.

Educated by Tara Westover: I listened to the audiobook of this memoir, and was completely fascinated by it. My review is here.

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi: An awesome wrap-up to a terrific sci-fi trilogy! My review is here.

Read but not reviewed:

Long Story Short by Lisa Brown: Lisa Brown’s 3-panel book review comics used to appear in the book section of my local paper (back when the paper still had a book section, which it no longer does…). Anyhoo, I always enjoyed these literary comics, so I thought I’d treat myself to the newly released book version. It’s fun, but I have to be honest and say that I’m a little mad at myself for spending money on this, when I’m trying to budget my book buying. I flipped through it in about 20 minutes, and now I’m done. Some of the comics are very clever, others made little impression. I think this would be a great gift for a booklover, but I’m not convinced I needed to buy it for myself. Moving on.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling: Yes, I’ve read the tales plenty of times already, but this is a new Audible production, featuring HP cast members such as Warwick Davis, Jude Law, Jason, Isaacs, and more. The audiobook is short (1.5 hours), and includes Dumbledore’s commentary on each story. Totally fun way to experience these “classic” tales all over again!

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Season 5 of Outlander is almost over. As usual, I wrote up my thoughts on this week’s episode:

Outlander, episode 511, “Journeycake” — my reaction post is here.

Next week is the season finale!

Other TV watching:

Never Have I Ever on Netflix is sweet, funny, touching — a must-watch! And it’s only 10 half-hour episodes, so it’s easy to gulp down over a couple of days.

And… I watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Mixed feelings on this one. I binged all of GG’s seven seasons during the past year, and loved the characters and the story so much (except for certain parts and occurrences that I’d prefer to ignore). A Year in the Life takes place ten years after the regular series, and while it was great to see these beloved characters again, it also made me sad. Sad to see how much older everyone is, sad to see that life hasn’t turned out perfectly for everyone, and sad because of certain losses that have occurred. (Also, sad to see some body-shaming going on, which just is not in good taste, but that’s a different kind of sad!). I’m really glad I watched, but I’m left with some dissatisfaction too, and wish there could be more!

Fresh Catch:

My signed copy of Defy or Defend arrived! Thank you Gail Carriger and Borderlands Books! I’m so excited to start this!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay: After finishing The Printed Letter Bookshop, I just had to start this book, which is set in the same small town and has many of the same characters. I’m at about 50%, and it’s charming.

Now playing via audiobook:

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski: I was feeling the need for a little more Witcher in my life right now. These audiobooks are so much fun!

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group is reading two chapters per week. I managed to read a little more, but I’m still six or seven chapters behind.

Past Prologue by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry: Also in book group, we’re doing a group read of this short story featuring the King of Men (Jamie Fraser).

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

Title: The Last Emperox (The Interdependency, #3)
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: April 16, 2020
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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 from 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?

Bravo to John Scalzi for this masterful conclusion to an entertaining and exciting sci-fi trilogy! Not every trilogy sticks the landing, but The Last Emperox absolutely does.

The story picks up right after the end of The Consuming Fire, as the Interdependency’s existence is threatened by the collapse of the Flow, the impossible-to-explain time/space stream that connects the various star systems of the empire. The Flow is what allows humankind to survive, since the empire was designed specifically to make each settlement and star system not self-sustaining, but dependent on all the others. As the Flow starts to disappear, the worlds of the Inderdependency will find themselves cut off and lacking vital resources, and unless a solution is found, the people there will be doomed to a slow, inevitable extinction.

As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Emperox Grayland II, the supreme leader of the Interdependency, has already survived a couple of assassination attempts and failed coups, and her future’s not looking too great either. Despite the threat to their very existence, the noble houses can’t seem to stop their endless backstabbing and manipulation, each attempting to grab as much power as possible for themselves, without worrying too much about the fate of the billions of commoners whose lives are at stake.

As always, John Scalzi’s writing is full of snark and snappy dialogue, as well as complex political machinations and intricate science fiction scenarios to drool over. Also, I just get such a kick out of his unique names for characters, including two of my favorites, Senia Fundapellonan and Nadashe Nohamapetan.

(To be clear, Nadashe Nohamapetan is a terrible person. I just love her name.)

My favorite character (although it’s hard to choose) would have to be Kiva Lagos, who is super smart, totally kick-ass, and never met a sentence that wouldn’t be better with a few f-bombs. I love this interchange between her and Senia (who’s speaking first here):

“It’s not a great idea to be too in love with your own cleverness.”

“What are you, my mother?”

“If I were your mother, I’d use the word ‘fuck’ more often.”

“It’s a perfectly good word.”

“Sure,” Senia said. “Maybe not as every other word that comes out of your mouth, though.”

“I don’t even hear myself saying it, half the fucking time.”

Senia patted Kiva. “I know that. You’d hear it if I used it as much as you did.”

“No I wouldn’t.”

“Fucking yes you fucking absolutely fucking would.”

“Now you’re just exaggerating.”

“Not by much.”

I won’t go into plot developments, because I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. I will say, though, that the ending goes in a way I never would have imagined, and it totally threw me for a loop! It’s cool, though, and makes sense, and even though the story comes to a satisfying close, I’d love to get an update on these characters and this world down the road and find out how it all worked out for them in the long run.

The Interdependency is, plain and simple, a great, funny, exciting, intricate sci-fi space opera. I had a blast reading these books. Read all three!

Interested in The Interdependency? Check out my reviews of books 1 & 2:
The Collapsing Empire
The Consuming Fire

Book Review: The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

Title: The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency, #2)
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: October 16, 2018
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Consuming Fire―the 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 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 preparing 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.

If you like scheming and backstabbing, interplanetary exploration, geeky scientists, and kick-ass women, have I got a book for you!

The Consuming Fire is the second book in John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy, and it goes ten thousand miles per minute from start to finish. No middle-book doldrums here!

We pick up where we left off at the end of The Collapsing Empire. The Flow is collapsing, meaning that the shortcuts through space-time that allow interplanetary travel are starting to disappear without warning. Planets find themselves completely cut off from the rest of human settlement, and any ships in transit who are unfortunate enough to be caught in a Flow stream when it collapses don’t simply float off into space — they basically just blink out of existence.

How does the Flow work? It’s like a river, except it’s nothing like a river, as the story’s Flow physicists continually remind other characters. So, for mere humans like us (I’m assuming you and I are in this together), just accept the fact that SCIENCE. We wouldn’t understand.

Meanwhile, the people of the Interdependency are crafty and clever and absolutely not to be trusted. Most would (and maybe already have tried to) sell their own grandmothers for a chance at greater power. The leader of the Interdependency, Emperox Grayland II, is a smart, savvy, deceptively calm leader who refuses to bow to the nasty, murderous families who want to unseat her.

There’s plotting and faked deaths and bank fraud, prison assassination attempts (toothbrush and spoon shivs are involved) and space battles, previously undiscovered civilizations, and lots of random hook-ups. The characters are classic Scalzi, smart and full of smart-ass commentary and loads and loads of fun .

The 3rd book in the trilogy, The Last Emperox, was just released, and I’m eagerly waiting for my copy to arrive.

If you enjoy sci-fi with plenty of action and a great sense of humor, then you should absolutely check out this trilogy.

Book Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Title: The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency, #1)
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: March 21, 2017
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe by the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Redshirts and Old Man’s War.

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport 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.

It’s been a while since I’ve read John Scalzi — about a year and a half, in fact, since I finished his Old Man’s War series. And I gotta say, it’s great to be back!

The Collapsing Empire is the first book in the Interdependency trilogy, which concludes with the upcoming The Last Emperox, to be published in April 2020.

In this trilogy, humanity has left Earth behind and has settled in a vast collection of systems known as the Interdependency, which functions as an empire ruled by hereditary royalty (the Emperox), with a leadership council made up of representatives of the ruling houses (the nobility), the church, and the parliament. The Emperox is the supreme leader and is also the head of the church. Whew. Kind of complicated.

The planets of the Interdependency are far-flung and without (non-existent) faster than light travel, would be completely isolated from one another. But there’s the Flow, a space-time current that, well, flows between the different system and allows for interplanetary commerce and travel. It’s been assumed that the Flow is stable, but a new, secret study shows that it’s collapsing… and once it collapses, the worlds it connects will once again be isolated. And given how interwoven economically the worlds of the Interdependency are, isolation will likely mean the eventual extinction of the human race, as none of these worlds are capable of self-sustenance.

That’s a lot to take in, right? I actually started this book as an audiobook, as I usually love Scalzi audiobooks thanks to (a) the humor and (b) the awesome narration by Wil Wheaton. With The Collapsing Empire, though, I had to switch to print before I even made it through the prologue. There was simply too much detail to take in, and for me at least, absorbing it all merely by listening just wasn’t going to work.

Thankfully, once I switched to print, I definitely got into the flow (ha!) of the story. It’s not terribly long, but the author absolutely packs it full of people, governmental systems, intricate family relationships, backstory on trade and rebellions, and much, much more.

But beyond how much world-building there is to adjust to, there’s the fun of the characters and their craziness. Scalzi books are always funny, and his characters here are not comic, but so clever and snarky that they made me giggle anyway. There ‘s a lot of scheming and manipulation and threats and bribery and intimidation, and it’s all great fun. Not to mention the fact that the story itself is pretty compelling — I’m going to want to get my hands on the next book, The Consuming Fire, just as soon as I can.

While I really enjoyed this book, I think it was perhaps just a little too packed for my taste. I had to stop and reread paragraphs all the time, just to make sure I was absorbing all the points about the government and the planets and the laws and the houses… like I said, it’s a lot.

Do I recommend this book? Definitely! But just be aware that while it’s mostly light-hearted, it’s not actually a light read. Be prepared to put in a bit of effort, and it’ll be fine.