This is the first full length Scalzi novel I’ve read, and I quite enjoyed it. The prologue begins with a mutiny on board a space ship, though the mutiny is slightly disrupted when the space ship drops out of the Flow, one of the trails used for faster than light space travel between systems.
After this, the novel leaves behind the crew who were only used to introduce the fact that the Flow might be unstable now. The novel follows a few different characters and introduces various competing political entities. Cardenia was the second and illegitimate child of the Emperox of the Interdependency, and was never raised for the throne but due to her brother’s death, she is about to bear this burden. As she finds out after the coronation, she has a larger challenge than anyone could have expected. The Flows are getting ready to shift, and all the planets will lose their connection to each other. While one or two Flows have been lost in the past, the future consequences of this will be huge. The system has been set up so that none of the planets can be independent (hence the Interdependency) which allowed Cardenia’s family to maintain political control but now it means that many of these planets will be doomed if actions aren’t taken to redistribute resources. However, that means revealing the collapse/shift of the Flow and the panic that will come along with it.
It also follows a family of scientists on an outer planet. They have been doing research on the Flows for the Emperox this entire time, and are now getting caught in some odd political upheavals even though they have always tried to stay neutral until now. This planet will be one of the first to lose contact with the wider empire which is why it is fortunate that it is one of the few planets that actually still has the resources and climate to sustain life on its own. Models show that the collapse are going to happen much sooner than even Cardenia’s father expected, and the son goes to the capital to alert her of her shortened time line for action, even knowing it likely means he will never see his family again.
I enjoyed the novel – it was a fun space adventure, and had a fascinating concept. Sometimes it’s nice to simply have an engaging adventure story as long as it is well plotted, and this one definitely fits the bill. The characters may not be incredibly deep and complex but they are still interesting, and the politics and stagnation in the face of disaster do seem rather accurate – just look at various governments’ reactions to climate change for a current example.