Review - The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rip-roaring story with a huge dilemma at its center. Scalzi delivers yet again!

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi is part of a new sequence (I can’t find details on how many books it will comprise of but I hope it’s lots!), which is due for release on 23 March. I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Set in a universe where planets in the ‘Interdependency’ are all connected via the Flow. Space travel hasn’t evolved to the level used in most sci-fi stories so the Flow is the only method to get between systems, and for the first time in centuries, the Flow is about to change.

As far as dilemmas go, this is one of the biggest in scope that I’ve encountered. It immediately draws you in. Scalzi explains things clearly and sets it up nicely, allowing him to really focus on character instead of all the science-type stuff.


Scalzi’s writing is a joy to behold. It’s not the prettiest prose but it is clear, concise and has its own character. There are a lot of swear words, so if that offends you, be warned. Above all, Scalzi’s books have a unique feeling to them because of his tone. I’ve picked out a couple of my favourites lines below:

“Prepare for what?” “The collapsing empire,” Jamies said. “And the darkness that follows.” - How great a set up is that?

”…an officious cockwomble.” - Best insult ever!

”Stop whining like a f*cking child.” - Kiva
“You could have just said, ‘I need your help.’ ” - Marce
“All right. I need your help. Stop whining like a f*cking child.” - Kiva
“That’s not better.” - Marce
- Great example of the awesomeness that is Kiva.

…suppressed an itchy feeling. - This is a great adjective which made me really understand what the character was feeling. Itchy might not be what you would call a fancy word, but it certainly does the trick and shows Scalzi’s strength as a writer.

Scalzi’s dialogue, in here and in all his books, is what shines for me. It’s wholly believable and never forced. Most impressive is Scalzi’s ability to deliver a lot of action, background, exposition and character through dialogue. This cuts down on word count and makes it so much easier to fly through.

I loved the way that Scalzi built up the different conflicts. The first, the potential collapse of the empire due to issues with the Flow is a huge issue and is what we focus on right off the bat. What Scalzi builds over the course of the story is the very human conflict between the different families, or guilds.


Every book should focus on the characters within it. Some writers forget this, particularly in sci-fi books. Scalzi has created a bunch of characters that are easy to understand, unique, funny and frankly, awesome.

Kiva is one of my favourite female characters ever. She’s badass and takes no crap from anyone and was the highlight of the book for me.

The scenes at the start between Cardenia and her father, the emperox are heart-warming and tragic.

The women really stood out to me, not because they are all stereotypical ‘strong independent women’ but because they are very real. The book is told from the viewpoint of a female character around 75% of the time. Very refreshing and not forced at all.

Notable issues

Not much in the way of issues. I would have liked the book to have been a bit longer and for the characters to reflect more. It is rather action packed. I do prefer a bit of a longer book so it’s purely a personal thing.

Final thought

Scalzi is in my top two sci-fi authors list (the other is Iain M. Banks). I will be continuing with the series. For anyone looking to jump into sci-fi but don’t know where to start, here is as good a place as any!

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