The Most Fun You Can Have Without FTL: John Scalzi – The Consuming Fire

I love these moments when I appraoch a book series sceptically, expecting it to be not for me, and then enjoying every single page. John Scalzi may not be a character-focused writer but damn if he doesn’t write exciting, clever, and super funny stories that keep me glued to the page. Although other people said the trilogy declines after the first book, my impression was the opposite. I enjoyed this even more than The Collapsing Empire and I will jump into the final book very soon!

by John Scalzi

Published: Tor, 2018
336 pages
The Interdependency #2
My rating:

Opening line: Years later Lenson Ornill would reflect on the irony tha his time as a religious man would be bracketed by a single and particular word.

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi is the dazzling follow-up to The Collapsing Empire – a space opera in a universe on the brink of destruction.

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional pathway between the stars, is disappearing, leaving planets stranded. Billions of lives will be lost – unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures. But it’s not that easy. There are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth – or an opportunity for them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others prepare for 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 between spaceships. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy . . . and all of human civilization is at stake.

Middle books in trilogies have a tough job and are often treated as the unwanted stepchild, a book that kind of has to be there to connect the cool beginning and the epic ending, but one that doesn’t really move the plot forward and doesn’t really offer any big twists. Well, there have been several middle parts of trilogies that ended up being my favorites in their respective series, because despite their reputation, middle books – when done well – can kick serious ass!
The characters are already established, the world is set up, so now there’s plenty of time to dive deeper into the human relationships, go sightseeing in this fictional world, and maybe even reveal a vital plot point or two.

Well, Scalzi does most of this to perfection. The world of the Interdependency, dependent on the Flow connecting all the various stations and planets that make it up, is a cool idea. Which Scalzi immediately decided to destroy in the first book because the Flow is falling apart, the “roads” that connect one place to another are closing and all the Interdependency’s stations will soon be on their own. A state they cannot survive because none of those places have all the resources needed for long-term survival. And the one planet, End, where people can live on the surface, is already closed off and happens to have a civil war raging on it. Plus, Ghreni Nohamapetan is there and if there’s one thing you don’t want on your habitat, it’s a Nohamapetan.

I read The Collapsing Empire in June and still had the major events in my mind, but Scalzi does a phenomenal job at reminding us not just of the biggest plot points but also reintroducing us to the world and its characters. I appreciated this enormously!
With the Nohampateans’ scheming it’s good to be reminded of just how far the intrigues go, who is controlling whom, and what the current emperox Grayland II plans to do about it. Because she doesn’t alraedy have enough on her plate what with the Interdependency crumbling alongside the Flow…

Look, I had so much fun reading this book, I hardly know how to explain it. It offers a perfect combination of political intrigue, scientific and historic discovery, action-packed sequences, and even more emotional moments between characters. And not always the characters you’d expect. 🙂
Whether it’s lines like “Alas, poor Dorick” or pretty much anyhting Kiva Lagos says or thinks, there is also humor aplenty in this book and even the kind that shows how Scalzi doesn’t take himself too seriously.

[…] which on one hand would be a very not-Kiva thing to do, but on the other hand who gave a fuck if it was “not-Kiva,” because she wasn’t some fucking fictional character destined to do whatever some goddamn hack wanted her to.

I actually cheered out loud during certain scenes when one of my favorite characters did something particularly brilliant or when Grayland II used words like a Jane Austen character. Making them sound like a compliment but actually being deeply biting and cleverly insulting. It may just be me, but I totally love it when characters do that, especially when the person they’re talking to deserves it.
And Kiva is just Kiva. Hardly a sentence passes her lips that does not contain the word “fuck” which is probably why she has no fucks left to give when Nohamapetans try to trick her. Kiva may be the only character in this series that truly stands out and maybe that’s why I love her so much. She’s far from perfect, she’s definitely not your average Mary Sue, but despite her sometimes questionable actions, her heart is in the right place.

As for the other characters, they are still pretty weak. At one point, during a dialogue, I got confused as to who is speaking because everybody pretty much sounds the same. They all have a similar sense of humor and sarcasm and can’t be well distinguished. But even though I am such a character reader, I didn’t mind. Because the story is just so much fun. You get to watch the good, the bad, and the in between guys as they try to scheme their way into positions of power, as they try to save people’s lives, as they try to work on the science of the Flow, and that means there’s never a boring moment.

I loved how Scalzi managed to advance what we know about this world and its technology while still leaving a few questions open to be answered in the next book (I hope). That Memory Room has been super interesting from the get go but there’s more to learn in there than you’d think. And the Flow, although its demise has been calculated and proven by the worlds brightest mathematicians and Flow specialists, has a few surprises in store as well.

I think this series may just turn me into a proper John Scalzi fangirl after all. I cannot wait to pick up the third book and I have already pre-ordered Scalzi’s next novel The Kaiju Preservation Society. Because come on, that sounds too cool not to check it out!

MY RATING: 7.75/10 – Very good!

4 thoughts on “The Most Fun You Can Have Without FTL: John Scalzi – The Consuming Fire

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