Global warming. Climate change. For more than four decades scientists have investigated and warned that human technology and civilization would have dramatic effects on the ecology of our planet. While the science and results are indisputable, some still resist accepting the facts presented and argue for the status quo. In The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi explores how a discovery about a different type of natural phenomenon could very well be the undoing of the human race once we move out into the stars, and how people respond when the scientists reveal the news.
When the Flow was discovered, it allowed humans to leave the solar system. An extra-dimensional field with “openings” found at scattered points in our space-time, the Flow allowed for faster than light travel, which is otherwise impossible. It allowed for the creation of colonies, some in space, some on planets, all of which are great distances from Earth, farther than humanity would have been able to otherwise reach. Over the centuries, the Interdependency was formed. It is a collection of human outposts that are intrinsically dependent upon one another. Each provides resources the others need, and no one settlement can survive without the others. For hundreds of years this has led to a contentious, yet peaceful, existence for humanity.
But the Flow can change. It has in the past. The Flow's stream closest to Earth was lost over a millennium ago. Another settlement was lost a few hundred years ago when the Flow “shifted” and was no longer accessible. Now a scientist has confirmed his suspicions that the Flow, in its entirety, is about to move in such a way that will isolate all human colonies.The scientist is racing against a ticking clock to get this information to the Emperox of the Interdependency in the hope that even a small part of humanity can be saved.
In The Collapsing Empire, award-winning and best-selling author John Scalzi weaves a tale of impending doom predicted by science, and how the news is heeded, ignored, and used for personal and political gain. The parallels to our own world and climate change are hard to miss, even though this is a story on a galactic, rather than planetary scale. There are also story threads exploring religion and its uses and abuses within a culture; how wealth and political power insulates those who have it from those who don’t; and much like Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, how these factors affect someone who has been thrust into a position of incredible power they did not choose and for which they are mostly unprepared. The only thing missing from this story is how these developments will impact those at the lower end of the economic scale. The story inhabits the highest echelons of this culture and never dips below those who would be classified as “minor” nobility. While it is a riveting story, this type of discovery would affect the entire culture, not only those at the “top.” Hopefully, Scalzi will explore “the rest of us” in one of the next installments in this series.
While this sounds like it could be a seminar in political science, The Collapsing Empire, like all of Scalzi’s work, is also a rip-roaring space opera. The fact that he continues to imbue well-trodden Sci-Fi tropes with truly thoughtful issues in such imaginative ways, while still keeping his books so much fun to read, is a wonder! The Collapsing Empire is the first book in a new series., with a publcation date for the next entry not set.