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Summary

2018 Locus Award, Best Science Fiction Novel

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.

Critic reviews

"Fans of Game of Thrones and Dune will enjoy this bawdy, brutal, and brilliant political adventure." (Booklist)

"Scalzi has constructed a thrilling novel so in tune with the flow of politics that it would feel relevant at almost any time." (Entertainment Weekly)

"Political plotting, plenty of snark, puzzle-solving, and a healthy dose of action…Scalzi continues to be almost insufferably good at his brand of fun but think-y sci-fi adventure." (Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Juvenile

I really struggled to finish this book and I'm surprised at how many good reviews it has.
The basic premis is fine and Wheaton does a reasonable job with the narration, but the dialogue is immature and seems to be aimed at young teenage boys. The culture is unrelentingly modern American in everything from dialogue to attitude and there is no sense at all of a multi cultural interplanetary society. Very few of the central characters were likeable and I really didn't care what happened to them, beyond wishing they could speak without swearing every orher word.
The author conveys no sense that mankind might be changed by living in space, something the Expanse novels handle well. Iain Banks could teach him a great deal about creating believable civilizations (and his ship names are far funnier) and Anne Leckie is so much better at drawing us in to complex alien politics.
I made it to the end only to discover that there's no real resolution and that this is mostly a set up for a series. I don't think I'll bother continuing.

36 of 43 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Ryan
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 20-08-17

Cool concept, badly executed

This novel has cool central concept which is put to waste with some awful dialogue, unmemorable characters and such a lazy ending. Will Wheaton's over exaggerated performance doesn't help either

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Scalzi at Home with Space Opera

I think John Scalzi is at his best when he goes for straight ahead space opera and so this really is home territory for him. The Collapsing Empire builds a promising scenario in which humankind is spread across space on the back of the mysterious "flow" which enables interstellar travel. The flow however is showing signs of instability and the potential impact of that is allegorical to the issue we currently face with climate change. The setup is well done. It is a clever scenario in terms of the habitats that make up the human empire and I am intrigued to see how he develops it in the future books.

Will Wheaton gives his usual fresh and entertaining performance, always a pleasure to listen to. The characters are larger than life as you'd expect and there is plenty of action and no little humour.

It doesn't quite hit the greatest of heights for me though. This is a good read but some of the characters seemed a little one dimensional especially in the dialogue which bordered on the juvenile at times and Wheaton can't deliver "authority" as well as the very best when required.

So not perfect, but still a very entertaining bit of sci-fi that carries promise for a good series going forwards.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Nothing Happens.

Any additional comments?

The only context I could consider this to be a good book is if it's some kind of clever allegory. If the story itself is meant to mirror the universe it describes then it makes perfect sense that it's a small number of interesting things separated by vast, intractable distances of pure nothingness.

The book feels like a prologue that has been stretched out to make an entire book. The premise of the book, all the significant players and the end goal are all set out at the start of the book and these are pretty much set in concrete. That's perhaps the weirdest part of the book because the story could have been greatly improved by keeping some information back from the reader and then revealing it at critical points but instead of this we know all the key points at the start of the book. There's nothing new introduced and there's no exciting twist, the only really surprise in the book being just how little actually happens.

The characters are flat and lifeless, with maybe the exception of one major character who I initially disliked but came to like as they appeared to be the person with actual characteristics on the book. I don't know what anyone looks like, I don't know where anywhere in the Interdependecy is like beyond the most superficial level and I feel no connection to anything in this book. I really didn't like the politics in this book as conversations with political maneuvering in it essentially boil down to "But if you do that then I'll do that which will make you do that but I will in turn will do that" and it's not hard to seem like a canny political genius when seem to know the impact of anything anyone may ever think about doing.

The dialogue isn't terrible and if it were in service to a book where things of note actually happened then I might have liked it. While I initially had misgivings about Will Wheaton he does a very good job of narrating and I'd happily listen to another book he narrated. Apart from that there's not much positive I can say about the Collapsing Empire, the writing is competent but saying that is like saying "Man, someone did a good jobs making these sandpaper socks!"

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant

There's many a book like this, but where this really shines is the irreverence and identifiable characterisation. It makes it likeable, relaxed and enjoyable being that bit more real.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Quite the letdown

Scalzi has created a single character in this book and copy pasted it throughout. This book tries too hard to make every character a "badass space chick" and it loses its novelty fairly quickly.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Scalzi Scalped

Story not that original or engaging. Lacking his usual witty dialogue. Degenerates into stereotypical profanities - f**k used hundreds of times, indelicate references to sex and bodily functions. To top it up, he steals The Culture's style of naming ships. Had this been his debut story, he would have gone unnoticed. Good narration though.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Another excellent book by John Scalzi.

Gotta love his writing style, and the ease at which he introduces Sci-Fi concepts into the story. Looking forward to the second book in the series.
If anyone can't wait for more and hadn't already read it, Scalzi's Old Man's War series is highly recommended.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr
  • London, England
  • 20-07-17

Great story, ruined by an awful performer.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The story itself, political and military machinations in a well developed space opera galaxy, is excellent. But it's absolutely ruined by Wil Wheaton's awful performance; all shouts and laughs and over acting. TBH, I struggled to reach the end. I'll read more of this series, but I won';t be listening to any more of Wheaton's audio-gurning

What didn’t you like about Wil Wheaton’s performance?

I hated Wheaton's performance becuse of the shouting, the screeching, the way he can't see a line without horribly overacting it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

slow to get going and snarky but ...

if i had been reading this rather than listening on a long drive i'd probably have given up. So much of it feels like set up. Scalzi's writing style seems to be close to permasnark - either you'll love that or you won't. His characters are rounded and largely vile although thankfully there are one or two sympathetic types. At the end I realised the whole book was just setting up for a series, and I do like the universe, the plot device and 2 of the characters, so I AM interested in what comes next... just not sure its worth the effort of struggling through the style and sheer volume.

I like Wil Wheaton but he can be a snark amplification unit at times. He's quite capable of disappearing into credible characters but any snarky bits get amplified. For me, a less is more approach would have been better.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 01-11-17

If you enjoy bitching

If you like listening to young girls bitch and complain this is the book for you. The cussing is non stop, as if the characters are undisciplined and can only express themselves through curse words.The book is about the internal struggles of a society that is losing its means of travel called the flow (maybe this is why they are bitching LOL). I was happy when the book was finished I feel as if I suffered to get to the end of this book.

Wil Wheaton did a good job but needs to work on his female voices. Wil's uplifting way he read this book is the only reason I got to the end of the book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Don
  • 27-10-17

Excessive profanity takes away from the story ...

Really liked the beginning of the book, but the excessive F-Bombs really got in the way of the story, especially as it is narrated. Really liked the narrator, though. But there comes a point when I just don't want to hear that.

If this book were rewritten at the PG13 level, it would be stellar and have a broader appeal, I think.

for as much of the story as I got through - it seemed on par w/ Old Mans War in terms of depth, complexity, originality, and characters.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • pat
  • 25-03-17

Definitely not my favorite scalzi

An interesting and engaging story...... Until it peters out with no resolution.

The stopping point of the book feels less like a planed ending and more like the last 50 pages were missing when the book went to the publisher.

71 of 84 people found this review helpful

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  • Adam K Stevens
  • 10-06-17

What Happened Scalzi?

Being a fan of both the, "Old Man's War" series as well as the author's contributions to the METAtropolis anthologies, I blindly purchased The Collapsing Empire. This unfortunately was a complete mistake as I ended hating the writing, loathing most of the characters and rolling my eyes over the the sci-fi concepts introduced in the series. Worst of all was the sarcasm. My god, the main character, Kiva is like some hyper-foul mouthed, self-entitled space-Millennial. Now, I've read my share, and thoroughly enjoyed several stories featuring dislikable protagonists or anti-heroes. However, I think the author's intention was to make the reader find Kiva charming or a tough no-nonsense female Han Solo-esque scoundrel. Instead of charming, I kept hoping she would get dumped out an airlock every time the narrative focused on her. Other characters include a dying space Pope who reminded of Grandpa Simpson and his snoozetastic daughter. I was also disappointed with sci-fi elements of the story which included an intergalactic space highway and a theocratic super government which was hardly fleshed out at all. This book is such a departure from Scalzi's usually superb work, it almost feels like it was ghost written by a far less talented writer. I sincerely hope Mr. Scalzi returns to form in his future efforts and we can dismiss this novel as an unfortunate deviation from an otherwise immensely talented author. Also, Wil Wheaton narration style always bugs me for reasons I have yet been able to explain.

90 of 110 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ron P
  • 29-03-17

Just feels small - no sense of scale, so why care?

This is humanity at stake. Gravitas isn't Scalzi's thing, but geez, this one feels like ... who cares? I know I'm in the minority, but this felt like a draft that still needed some pretty hefty structural revisions.

59 of 72 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Gonzalo
  • 11-05-17

Not the best of Scalzi

I like John Scalzi's work and in audio book I prefer it read by Will Wheaton. I was excited by this new book and series. Unfortunately the book in not the best Scalzi. often because of trademark Scalzi traits. The plot of an empire united by a subspace effect that allows for faster than light travel; now endangered because that effect is going away, is very interesting. I wish the author had taken this book more seriously. I like Scalzis humor but it gets in the way of the plot and makes some of the characters shallow and uninteresting. It wouldn't be a Scalia book without sarcasm and wit but it gets too crass and over the top for the needs of this story. The first book of his I read "The Androids Dream" needed it and was hilarious, but "Lock In" toned it down and was better for it. Wish this one had too.

56 of 69 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Larry The Reader
  • 18-10-17

Listen to the book yelled at you

Will yelled most of the book in a sarcastic tone. Could not tell the characters apart from his voice.
Story was good but not much originality.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • NJ Miller
  • 17-10-17

Returned the book

Too much language with too little story for me. I didn't find it interesting. I've read a couple of Scalzi books, and I was looking forward to "The Collapsing Empire." I didn't find it interesting.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-09-17

Bland all around

I'm not an award winning writer or editor but I found the characters to be bland and crass rather than in any way entertaining. The story seemed like a version of Elizabeth era English drama in space and didn't really seem to try to explore anything new in terms of the human experience or even character or cultural developments. Much of the dialogue was a conglomeration of female power plays about how person A can stomp on person B because they don't agree. I'm glad I listened all the way through but in the end I would recommend other listeners to look elsewhere.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Maverick Mom
  • 28-09-17

Free and not worth the price

I like science fiction. When I saw the free offer I was happy to try a new (to me) author. I am very happy I didn't not lose any money on this audiobook. The story line was interesting. The continuous use of foul language added nothing to the plot and was distracting. Same can be said for the gratuitous sex scenes. Wil Wheaton's performance was okay. I will not be purchasing a Scalzi book in any form.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful