I have long been a Scalzi fan and am always eager for his next book. Fortunately, he is the type of author that is able to churn out books on a regular basis which has fed my appetite for some time now. The Consuming Fire is the sequel to The Collapsing Empire (which I really enjoyed and reviewed last year!), together they are The Interdependency duology. However, I stalled on this book. Scalzi’s books tends to be easy reads that can be quickly ripped through, this book is no exception, but it took me several weeks to finish. With how small the books are, TCF clocks in at 313 pages, I wonder if it was a publishing decision to split the story in half as it seems this could have been one volume.
The second book picks up right where the first one ended. The setting is still creative with the concept of Flow, chunks of space with different time that connect far flung parts of the galaxy, so faster than light travel isn’t necessary. Humanity is fully space faring with most of the population living in habitats instead of on planets. The Interdepedency is built on the ability for far flung groups to easily trade with one another, providing materials and goods that each habitat wouldn’t necessarily be able to make on its own. With the Flow beginning to collapse, humanity is facing its most dangerous challenge. The dialog continues to be witty and entertaining, and I enjoyed the narrative bouncing between characters. Scalzi plays around with some interesting ideas regarding religion and the use of religion to complete an agenda.
But even in a speculative fiction world there is still bureaucracy, resistance to change, preference to deny facts because they are uncomfortable, and those looking to profit as much as possible from the impending situation. All of which are unfortunately too familiar. Maybe this is why the book felt more of a drag as we have been dealing with this all too often of late in our world. Due to the scope of the crisis, nearing the end I kept wondering if this was a duology, the way I thought it was, or if I had been mistaken and there would be other books. But it is indeed a duology. The solution to the Flow collapse problem felt a touch “deux ex machina” and wrapped the overall story up much faster than I anticipated. To be fair, there are still a lot of wrinkles that humanity will need to sort out at the end of The Consuming Fire but things wrap of very tidily for the main characters.
Overall it’s a good read if you enjoy Scalzi. However, I’m starting to think I need to take a respite from him. I wanted more from this story. It has the bones to be a fantastic space opera but that’s not what Scalzi writes and so it isn’t, which left me feeling a little disappointed at the end. Your mileage may vary.