This reads exactly like a political space opera written by John Scalzi. Which it is.
What, you wanted more in the way of a review? Fine. The Collapsing Empire combines John Scalzi's strengths and weaknesses as a writer with the strengths and weaknesses of the political-intrigue space opera as a genre. If you like these two things, you'll like the combination.
That's still not enough for you? Okay, here's the checklist. The Collapsing Empire has:
- Funny, snarky dialogue.
- A great opening scene, which is unfortunately a little bit disconnected from what follows.
- Intrigue, politics, a scheming villain, several reasonably-appealing protagonists.
- Adequate but shallow characterization.
- Less idea content than in a typical Scalzi book. The best idea--build an interstellar empire that stays peaceful because no planet in it has the resources to survive without the others, due to legal monopolies--isn't really built out.
- A bit of action.
- A strong whiff of Dune--not in the setting or in the writing, but in the machinations. (Look what I found after having drafted that sentence.)
- A 34th-century setting in which the characters are nonetheless recognizably people like us.
- A lot of profanity.
- Some non-explicit sex.
- Not much in the way of description. I have no clear idea of what the characters look like, for example.
- Quick pacing.
- A story with a beginning, middle, and end, but one which is nonetheless unmistakably setup for the main story.
I read half the book riding a train to work, and the other half riding a train home. I'll read the next one. The Collapsing Empire isn't the strongest of Scalzi's novels. On the other hand, it scratches the itch for Classic Style Science Fiction, and that's good enough for me.
For a somewhat different reaction, look here.