This is the first installment of a promised trilogy, wherein John Scalzi sets up the dominoes of an interstellar empire, then gives them a gentle push and describes just how they tumble. It is a light-hearted and easy read, and largely undemanding. The story flows along at a good pace, absent of boring bits, and with the odd shock or climax to up the ante from time to time. If you have read Scalzi's blog, you will recognise his voice.
The 'Interdependency' (the imperial monarchy, the parliament, the church and bickering trade-guilds) share the government (and the spoils) of two-score planetary systems, linked together by 'The Flow', a convenient hyperspace-like miracle of SF cosmology. And just as well, since there is but one system which contains a habitable world (named 'End' because it is farthest from the imperial centre of 'Hub'), this humanity lives in habitats, domes and tunnels dug into airless rocks and enormous space stations, all of which are dependent on trade from other systems via the 'Flow'.
And now, there are disturbances in the 'Flow'. A system which loses its connection with the Interdependency might struggle to survive. And such a disasters have happened. The link to Earth was lost. A physicist's work suggests that the 'Flow' will soon collapse.
The story follows the exploits of three main characters. The new Emperox, Greyland II, who must learn to rule in difficult times (certainly needs better security!!). Trade Guild member, Lady Kiva Lagos, whose prodigious appetite for sex with underlings and foul mouth are front and centre in her strivings to defend the interests of her House. And Mance Claremont, the physicist tasked with bringing unwelcome news to those who will not understand it, and who will therefore choose not believe it because well, believing it and doing something about it would cost them money.
Scalzi insists the 'The Collapsing Empire' is not an allegory referencing the sorry state of the USA, Brexit and the idiocy of climate change skeptics, but the parallels are compelling. There is a cliffhanger at the end, where Greyland II seeks to turn the central lie of the Interdependency on its head in order to save it. Finding what this cunning plan might be is reason enough to seek out the sequel.
In 'Six Wakes', Mur Lafferty uses a murder mystery, set on a Generation ship to explore the issues of personhood, of sentience and self awareness, whilst weaving in the problems of criminal action, of blame, of forgiveness and redemption and also of revenge. A pretty heavy load for a genre novel.
And it does this with aplomb and precision, using the tropes of the classic murder mystery story.
Six clones, assisted by IAN, an AI, crew the 'Dormire', a Generation ship taking the hopes and dreams of cryofrozen colonists to the new world of Artemis. The technology of cloning has allowed a type of 'serial immortality', making clones ideal as generation ship crew. If a crew member dies, then a new version is decanted, imprinted with the 'mindmap' of its predecessor, and the voyage continues. Back on Earth, cloning remains controversial, and clones are subject to strict legal restrictions, introduced after the traumatic 'clone riots'. Oh, and the clones of the crew are all convicted criminals, who have agreed to expiate their crimes by crewing the 'Dormire'. What you may ask, could possibly go wrong?
The story begins for the reader in the cloning bay. All of the crew are dead, killed by one of their crewmates. They have just been hatched into new bodies. The AI is malfunctioning, and the resurrected crew finds that they have no memories of the voyage, their mindmaps dating to the beginning of the voyage. Who has done this, and why has it been done?
Lafferty leads us through the maze, leaking leads and clues in time honoured murder mystery manner. We learn the backstory and history of each crew member, gradually uncovering their conflicts and secrets, until the big reveal, where all of the suspects gather together in the putative Drawing Room, whilst they unpick the mystery.
It is a smart, clever and well made story. Eligible for the 2018 Hugo Award, and a worthy contender.
This is the most optimistic book I have read from Mr Robinson in a while. As usual, meaty topics are raised and presented for the reader's consideration and thought. In this instance, we have a meditation on how the economic system might be brought back to the control of, and to the benefit of, the plurality of the people. So it is indeed a book for our times.
It is a rather bloated and meandering exploration, through the flooded streets of New York in 2140, where despite the depredations of sea level rise, the Big Apple continues to be a magnet for those huddled masses, yearning to be free. There is a quite large cast of characters, some more likeable or necessary than others. And the authorial voice as the voice of the citizen, fills in the 'state of the world' as it were, for the reader's education. So it does take 300 pages (!!) for the plot to creak into gear.
Most certainly the resolution and hope in the future are tailored to one with my own political views, so I'm rather primed to be satisfied by the path the narrative takes. Hint. If you are a fanboy for the 'wisdom of the market', then perhaps this is not for you. In fact my first reaction to KSRs description of finance 2140 style was to exclaim that despite being knee deep in seawater, nothing had reined in the excess and hubris of the so-called financial wizards.
The novel has been nominated for the 2018 Hugo award. It is in tough company, and despite its comforting SJW tone, won't be rating highly on my ballot.
NK Jemisin completes the 'Broken Earth' trilogy in very fine style, giving the story of Essun, Nessun and the Stillness to a fitting and satisfying conclusion.
The story is told in three strands. That of Essun, and the remnants of the comm of Castrima as they make a difficult forced march across the wracked continent of The Stillness to find refuge of a sort in the abandoned city of Renmanis. Concurrently, the flight of Nessun and the Guardian Schaffa from Jekitty comm, where Nessun has killed her father Jija in self defence, to Corepoint reveals the bones of the the Earth, in all its majesty and magic. These contemporary accounts are interwoven with the story of the origins of the Stillness, many thousands of years past. The reasons for the Seasons, the arrogance and hubris of the civilization of Syl Anagist is laid bare. We learn how the Guardians were made, and how the Stone Eaters came to be.
In the final confrontation, Essun and Nesun face a terrible choice. Must the Earth be ended to end the suffering, or might great sacrifice be able to mend the world.
The very fine sequel to 'Ninefox Gambit' is an easier reading exercise than its predecessor . Perhaps that is because the effects of exotic weapons, winnowers and knife cannons, calendrical heresy or rot and just what being Kel, or Shuos means is no longer such a confusing mystery.
At various times there are echoes of other writer's work, be it Anne Leckie's Raadch trilogy (there are plenty of opportunity to enjoy refreshing teas and sweets in elegant surroundings, gender seems rather fluid, though no taverns in the snow are evident), or even CJ Cherryh's atevi, whose hard-wired manchi might be a natural equivalent to the formation instinct imposed on the Kel.
The story told is a reflection of how tyrannies might fall, what are the conditions which presage such events, and what costs are borne by the participants, both victor or vanquished. Mad revenant general Jedao has survived the events which climaxed 'Ninefox Gambit'. And he has a plan. No less than to free the peoples from their oppressors. Down with the hexarchate, power to the people!. With, he promises, a minimum number of unnecessary deaths and ruination. It is an offer that certain Kel just cannot refuse. And of course, the other factions of the hexarchy can't stay out of the mix