The Collapsing Empire

The Interdependency, Book 1
Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
Series: The Interdependency, Book 1
Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (17,087 ratings)

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Publisher's 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)

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Not a Complete Story, Not Scalzi’s Best

Generally Scalzi’s work is right up my alley: I enjoy the mix of tech and philosophical implications of his sci fi, and the often creative world-building that he achieves without belabouring it; this novel didn’t live up to the average of the rest of his books that I have already read (admittedly, only ~5).

FIRST: IT’S NOT A WHOLE STORY

This is not a self-contained story. Not only is it the first instalment of a series, but there is no self-contained storyline in this novel; it is just a novel that has been quite arbitrarily cut off. There is no resolution, and essentially the entire book is just setting the stage for the actual story. Without passing any judgment on this decision, I’ll just say that you should be prepared to purchase the next books in the series, otherwise your wasting your time.


SECOND: IT’S NOT AN INTERESTING STORY

I’m really surprised by this, as Scalzi’s books are usually rich and detailed and have lots of interesting moving parts, but this one just doesn’t. It largely relies on vulgarity for its humour, but that falls flat and eventually comes to detract from the novel itself (being so contrived that it pulls you out of the story).

The characters are 2D — which is pretty standard for Scalzi — but because there’s nothing else really pulling you into the story, it’s rather painful in this one. They all seem to have more or less the same personality: blandly “ironic” and self-deprecating; it gets boring pretty fast.


THIRD: THERE IS BETTER

Both of Scalzi & of SciFi: for Scalzi, I’d suggest “Android’s Dream,”
If you haven’t read it already. Locked In was pretty good as well.


The Narration:

Narration is such a personal thing that I don’t like including it in reviews: either you like Wil Wheaton or you don’t. If you do enjoy him, I envy you, and you won’t be disappointed by this one :)

Personally, I don’t enjoy his narration: I find he only has one mode (over-the-top: his voice literally squeaks when he gets really worked up). HOWEVER, there were a few elements in his narration of this book that were better than usual: he had a bit more diversity in the representation of characters (unfortunately, he reserved it for tertiary characters, so it doesn’t help with distinguishing primary and secondary characters: for example, everyone from a particular family in this book has exactly the same voice - it’s a bit confusing).

Furthermore, for this book, it is particularly difficult to tell if the shortcomings in the narration are latent in the writing, or more related to Wheaton’s reading.

Like I said, if you like him, you’ll like this, if you don’t like him, it’s not going to change your opinion.


ALL IN ALL

A novel that you can listen to while you do something else, but not a complete story, so you’ll have to buy the rest of the series if you want any sense of closure to the story. I wasn’t drawn in enough to bother with the rest of the series, unless it ends up on sale at a very discounted rate. It’s very possible that the complete series would be much more convincing.

Middle of the road, overall - if you like Scalzi & Wheaton, you’ll probably enjoy this; otherwise, pass on it: there is better out there.


Either way - happy listening. If any part of this review was helpful, please let me know by clicking the button, below :) Enjoy!

13 people found this helpful

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Sort of Boring

What disappointed you about The Collapsing Empire?

It has an interesting premise but gets bogged down with excessive world building, fake physics and sciencey sounding words at the expense of character building.

Has The Collapsing Empire turned you off from other books in this genre?

No I still love sci-fi space operas. This book was just a bad one.

What does Wil Wheaton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Wil Wheaton has a lovely voice that can make even a terrible story tolerable to listen to.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Some of the technology was neat I guess.

Any additional comments?

After listening to this book I never want to hear the words "Fuck" "interdependency" or "emperox" ever again.

23 people found this helpful

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Half a book, a third a story

This book feels so rushed and there is so little character development. Wil Wheaton really needs some practice and slowing down at commas and at least trying to give female character a softer voice. It was very hard to tell who was talking when because everyone sounded the same.

7 people found this helpful

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This was rough.

This needed to be fleshed out much more. As readers we were thrown into a world we had never seen and the writer only let us see with one eye. He (the author) forced us to follow a character (keeva) that seemed so unlikely that we couldn't follow her safely in this brand new landscape. She had so many unexpected tendencies that I couldn't focus on whether to decide that the author wanted her to originally be a rough-shod man or whether we were meant to be inspired at his ability to completely destroy our preconceived notions of a classic Herione.

A fun concept; 'the flow' I only wish I could have been allowed to understand it rather than reverting to the classic cop out that posits 'you as a regular person would never understand'



28 people found this helpful

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Such high hopes

I’ve listened to over 300 titles and never written reviews, but this book has inspired me to do so.

And unfortunately not for the right reasons.

The narrator was just awful!
Male and female characters all sounded the same (I’ve never been so thankful for a “he said” or “she mentioned” before). Actually I thought that one character was female for most of book, until the narrator said “he thought”
One of the main characters sounded older than his father, who sounded like a teen from south beach, Florida. And that’s just the tip of the ice berg.

I am not sure I can honestly review the book because the narrator made the characters so indistinct and made it so hard to loose yourself in the story.

That said, Scalzi didn’t do much to make the characters endearing or give them much personality. I can usually be very empathetic to characters and their situations, in this 9 hour read I basically don’t feel like I know any of the major players, care about any of them or feel like they have anything truly at stake.
Simple logical thought processes and reactions seemed outside of the reach of so many characters and at other times realizations that should have taken work to come to came like a gift from God.

I know others have felt like this book just kind of ended in the middle, but I feel as though a lot of the plot was rushed at the end and neatly laid out with no intrigue or risk taken. Yes, there is sort of a cliffhanger, but if this first book is anything to go by, in the end they all live happily ever after.

4 people found this helpful

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looking for good sifi

Was looking for the next great sifi book. This is not it. The story is ok- but the character development so shallow. The reader is the worst.

4 people found this helpful

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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.

80 people found this helpful

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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.

92 people found this helpful

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Mediocre

A few pages out of Foundation and some meh storytelling. It has potential to develop into something great with subsequent books.

15 people found this helpful

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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.

66 people found this helpful

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  • Sal
  • 04-14-17

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.

57 people found this helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 08-20-17

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

14 people found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 03-22-17

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.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 08-31-17

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!"

11 people found this helpful

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  • Phil H
  • 04-11-17

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • dot_stockport
  • 04-23-17

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • sircompo
  • 04-05-17

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Christopher
  • 08-24-17

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 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • BJXRN
  • 03-28-17

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.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Grazzer
  • 02-12-18

Not quite what I was expecting

But Scalzi spins a good story. This has political/business trickery and manipulation as its main content against a backdrop of the end of the only practical means of interstellar travel is falling apart. Good villains to boo and unwilling heroes to cheer. Just have to be patient for the next book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Guildfan
  • 12-14-17

Most Entertaining Sci Fi Book

John Scalzi’s latest book drew me in immediately with great characters and a compelling storyline. Then, there is Wil Wheaton’s narration and voice acting. Hugely enjoyable and a superb effort in creating voices for the many characters in the story.

6 people found this helpful

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  • james
  • 08-01-17

I could listen to Wil Wheaton read a corn flakes box.

Another great story by Scalzi. There is a fair bit a swearing, so you should be aware of that. I finish it in one seating.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Craig
  • 03-30-17

Space politics

Wil Wheaton does a fantastic job as always. One of my favorite narrators. He has had many great pairings with Scalzi's work.
This one however was not one of my favorites. I've listened to every book available from Scalzi and thought most were very decent. But politics is a subject I hate. The story is predictable with only minor surprises. I found my self waiting for plot developments I thought were going to happen to show themselves.
I didn't dislike the book and will probably listen to the rest of the series. The story just didn't suck me in.
When creating a world there is a lot of information to convey and Scalzi does this better than other writers who lose me early on because I can't keep track of who is who, where they're from and who their allegiances lie with.

If you're a Scalzi fan you will probably love this book. If like me you aren't really interested in backstabbing politics then you might find it a tougher listen than you're used to. But as always Wil Wheaton will be sure to get you through it.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-24-17

This is just the beginning

This is my second book from Scalzi, and I liked it very much. That said, this book is very much only the beginning of the story, ending in a cliff hanger just as the battle lines are clearly drawn.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-28-17

Great world building but language so-so

Really enjoyed the world, plot, intrigue, turns and twists in this well crafted novel. The language was a weak point for me, it felt somewhat repetitive and pubescent at times - as if all the characters were drawing from a somewhat limited vocabulary which never really managed to stand out. The swearing was a bit pubescent and dull, rather than colourful and imaginative. (Think how many times can you put the F word in a sentence - it just gets a bit boring after a while). But nevertheless I really enjoyed the story and am curious about what will happen in the next instalment - hoping the word smithing may improve a bit.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 03-31-17

yeahnah

if you are a scifi geak it's weak science very average storyline in my opinion not worth the buy.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Takudza
  • 04-07-17

Excellent!!

Loved it to bits. The only disappointing thing is that I have to wait for the next book in this series. No one does space opera like John Scalzi.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Dave
  • 05-26-20

Well enjoyed.

There's a certain style to the author that's almost enjoyable . . . there's a lot of profanity but I'm no angel. I think Wil Wheaton performed wonderfully. A must listen . . .

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-11-20

Imaginative and politically relevant to our times

A scifi novel about a civilisation facing imminent catastrophic collapse due to changes to a natural phenomenon they had depended upon for a millennium. Within that setting, this is the tale of how one Emperox - something like an emperor - faces down greed, denial, stupidity and vanity to try to save humanity. It's fun.

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  • Edan Mumford
  • 05-05-20

Relevant, thoughtful and very funny at times

This was my intro to the works of Scalzi, and it was a treat.

Smart, clever space opera and a parable of our times regarding how politicised structures will ignore the truth even at their peril. Oh yes, did I mention some very funny moments. The reader is great and pulls off all the characters with great aplomb.

Highly recommended.