I five-starred Scalzi’s Old Man’s War earlier this year, calling it my dream blend of science fiction. In that book, Scalzi effortlessly worked in a new world, tech, humor, drama, action, and characters the readers cared about. It was so well done. So, when Audible had The Collapsing Empire audiobook on sale for $2.99, I snatched it up. As a bonus, it was read by Wil Wheaton.
This book has already been reviewed myriad times on this site, so I won’t go too much into the plot. Short story short, humanity is spread across the galaxy and is connected by some kind of space highway called “The Flow”, which most people don’t understand. Humanity is connected through a complex system of government, religion, and trade called The Interdependency. There are political and merchant houses vying for power. The Flow changes course from time to time. The flow changing and stranding certain planets presents a problem because of the interdependent nature of…The Interdependency.
While this book was entertaining, it was only fine. The world-building and the chess pieces in the political intrigue of the book are solid. The characters are not. I cared about one or maybe two. It’s hard to get too invested in the stakes of the story when you don’t really care if everyone lives or dies. I also thought it was weird that every character in the book is sarcastic and quippy and glib. Surely some member of humanity would have a different personality type. It reminded me of the worst parts of an Ernest Cline book.
While I didn’t love Scalzi’s writing, I did love Wil Wheaton’s reading. This is the third or fourth Wheaton audiobook I’ve listened to, and he is always great. His characterization in this book was very helpful and added more depth to the characters that I thought was on the page.