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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Series: The Interdependency #1
Published by Audible Studios on March 21, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 9 hrs 23 mins
Format: Audiobook
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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 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.

The Collapsing Empire is my first Scalzi book, but since it’s the first in a new series in a new world that wasn’t a problem.  I have to say I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was getting good review and I needed an audio for the Sci-Fi Readathon. Now, I’m a little upset that I have to wait for the next in the series, which, at least according to Goodreads, isn’t expected until 2019. 🙁

The Flow has allowed humans to build a far-flung empire, the Interdependency. The Interdependency is set up so that all the colonies must depend on each other, hence the name. The problem is the flow is changing, moving, becoming inaccessible – outposts will be cut-off, unable to send or receive supplies or people. Eventually, it’s going to be a matter of survival, but now it’s a political issue, one that the brand-new Emperox has to handle.

It’s clearly the first in the series. We get to know the world and some of the major characters. I did like the strong, well-developed female characters, including Cardenia Wu-Patrick, the emperox, the cunning and maybe brilliant Lady Nadashe of a merchant family. I will admit that Lady Kiva Lagos annoyed me a little for her constant use of a choice expletive – I found it a lazy way to tell us she’s tough and unafraid of going against convention.

It’s was funny too, which surprised me a bit. I listened to the audio. Wil Wheaton is the narrator, which is honestly part of the reason I picked it up, but I’m not sure I loved him as the narrator. I can’t put my finger on why, and he was fine, I just never really bought into it. He never disappeared into the story for me, if that makes sense. It wasn’t enough to stop me from listening to other things he narrates, but I certainly won’t seek them out.

Mostly The Collapsing Empire was a lead up to the story. It’s just the start of the chaos to come.

About John Scalzi

John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, where he has written on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, writing and politics, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The End of the Day by Claire North

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The End of the Day by Claire North The End of the Day by Claire North
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Published by Redhook on April 4, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fiction
Length: 12 hrs 22 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Charlie has a new job. He gets to travel, and he meets interesting people, some of whom are actually pleased to see him.

It's good to have a friendly face, you see. At the end.

But the end of all things is coming. Charlie's boss and his three associates are riding out, and it's Charlie's job to go before.

Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. He never knows which.

Charlie is the Harbinger of Death. It’s his job. He’s a mortal, has no super powers except a support staff at an office somewhere who are great at making reservations, getting him across borders and out of jail, and paying ransoms. He meets good people and terrible people, and sometimes he’s sent for ideas or ways of life and not individuals. He celebrates Life and we travel with him.

That’s what we do, we see what he sees, hear what he hears, including random snippets of conversation, go where he goes. We’re with him when he meets people, gives them gifts, tells them he is the Harbinger and sometimes he comes as a warning and sometimes as a courtesy. We’re with him as he listens to people’s life stories and when he is beaten and held prisoner. After all, not everyone is happy when the Harbinger of Death shows up; some are though. Yes, sometimes we see slices of the lives of the other Harbingers – each Horseman has one, and sometimes we see what War or Pestilence, or Famine is up to, but mostly we’re with Charlie. This is a very character and idea driven novel. It touches on so many current issues, war, racism, immigration, environmental change, guns. People can be a dreadful lot at times, but they can also be kind, and loving, and hopeful. And who knew Death could be such a likeable guy?

I loved the story. I listened to the audio version. Her writing is beautiful and touching and descriptive and Kenny was the perfect narrator. His voices during the snippets of conversations set them apart nicely. His Charlie was spot on, humorous at times, but so scared at others and just British enough. In a book with so many characters who only show up for a scene or two, he does a great job giving each his/her own personality, own inflections.

The End of the Day doesn’t really have much of a plot, though, and it’s rather slow. It’s a series of events and they do connect, but it doesn’t follow a traditional structure. It’s more about the ideas and viewpoints than about what happens next. For me it worked. I don’t know if it will for everyone.

About Claire North

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

A Fistful of Divas by Camille LaGuire

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A Fistful of Divas by Camille LaGuire A Fistful of Divas by Camille LaGuire
Series: Mick and Casey McKee
Published by the author on August 26, 2013
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery, Western, Short Story
Pages: 32
Format: eBook
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Young gunslinger detectives, Mick and Casey McKee, are eager to hear some opera singing. But when somebody takes a shot at some visiting divas, the concert is off. The ladies won't sing until Mick and Casey solve a case of blackmail and murder.

So I love Mick and Casey McKee. I wish there were more stories in the series. They are a gunslingers in the old west, a young married couple. And I do mean young. She’s maybe 17. He’s the talker, she’s the shooter and they make a great pair. This time around, the couple want to see singing at the local opera house. There’s a cute story why, involving Casey’s dad. Anyway, with these two nothing is ever simple. Just as they walk in to see who is warming up, there’s a shot, apparently aimed at one of the women on stage. If the ladies are going to feel safe enough to perform, Mick and Casey need to figure what’s going on and stop it.

The mystery was good, for a short story. The actual shooter’s identity is quickly established, but who hired him and why is the question. There are a couple clues and a nice, small list of suspects.

Like I said, I really enjoy the McKees. You get a good feeling for their relationship here. It’s not quite as good as the only full-length mystery in the series, Have Gun, Will Play, but it’s definitely worth the quick read.

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