Length: 336 pages
Release date: 18 October 2018
The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.
Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.
While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.
In the beginning was the lie.
There can be few better places to jump into SFF than John Scalzi. It’s not just because his books have low attention span requirements, even though that’s part of the reason. The Consuming Fire is a perfect example of why he’s one of the most accessible authors in the genre.
There are all sorts of pitfalls that we know to dread from the second book in a trilogy–dragging pace, convoluted plots and melodramatic cliffhangers, just to name a few. The Consuming Fire can’t be bothered with any of them. It’s simply and brilliantly more of everything I loved about the first book, 90% of which I now realise is just reading the name “Kiva Lagos” again and again, even if it’s written in bright yellow Sharpie. I would read an entire spinoff about this woman’s escapades.
Great as Kiva is, I’m not forgetting Cardenia/Grayland II, who proves herself every bit the BAMF, or Marce Claremont, who goes on a truly epic and spoiler-filled (don’t worry, none of those here) side quest. Along with several other key revelations, it makes you see the Interdependency in a totally different light. The novel’s short length could have felt rushed, but instead John Scalzi leaves me in awe that he packed so much development into so few pages.
And the ending? So much justice boner. I knew it was coming, and it was still better than I could have anticipated. This series can be frustrating sometimes because its whole premise is that powerful people get to shit all over powerless people and the system will cheer them on, so to finally see some of those powerful people get their comeuppance is sweet, sweet karma. This whole book should actually be posted on the ProRevenge subreddit. It would have as much truthfulness as most of the stories on there.
Scalzi delivers all the high-stakes adventure and cutthroat twists in his trademark cinematic, assured writing style, with snappy dialogue seemingly written to translate to the silver screen. What I wouldn’t give to see this series made into film. It’s never happening, because no studio would greenlight such a big-budget project based on relatively obscure books, but a girl can dream. The Last Emperox, sadly, doesn’t look like it’s coming out until 2020 anyways. That’s plenty of time to ponder on the what-ifs.