The Consuming Fire, John Scalzi (Tor 978-07-6538-8971, $26.99, 320 pp, hc) October 2018.
In The Collapsing Empire, the first book in John Scalzi’s Interdependency series, we were introduced to the Flow, a quasi-mysterious force that allows humanity to traverse the vast distances between inhabited planets with relative speed and ease. The Flow has flowed in predictable ways for centuries – until now. In that first book, a Flow stream collapses while a coup against the head of the Interdependency that governs the system unwinds. It ends with a bang. The Interdependency’s head, Emperox Greyland II, survives, but, of course, there are consequences.
The Consuming Fire picks up shortly after. Greyland II has issued her prophecies, Lady Nadashe is in jail, Marce is calculating how quickly each stream will disappear, and Kiva Lagos is being very… Kiva Lagos, which is to say brash and randy and smart and, frankly, my favorite character that Scalzi has created.
Lady Nadashe’s family continues to plot against the emperox in interesting and deadly ways. There are surprises that await Marce, whose hypothesis about the Flow proves to be incomplete. Greyland II grows into her power, despite her near-death experience and the death of her closest confidant.
With Scalzi, though, a tight plot is a given, as is sharp dialog and snappy sentences. With this book, however, a dependable system’s accurately predicated collapse maps nicely against our real-world changing climate – not in terms of the math but in terms of how people react to that fact. There is a welcome sharpness to this book and its lack of patience for those who can’t see beyond increasing their own profit, no matter how much suffering they cause. It’s a fun book, mind, but it’s also an angry one.
Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.
This review and more like it in the December 2018 issue of Locus.
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