Adrienne Martini Reviews The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

The Last Emperox, John Scalzi (Tor 978-0-7653-8916-9 $26.99, 320pp, hc) April 2020.

The Last Emperox is dedicated ”to the women who are done with other people’s shit.” That alone is a great summation of what drives the plot of the third book of John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy, which includes The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire.

While the dedication may be aimed at the reader, it also succinctly describes the three characters who continuously circle each other. First is Cardenia Wu-Patrick, the titular Emperox.

Her (so far) short reign has been punctuated by attempted coups, a well-placed murder or two, and the physical collapse of the Flow, which is what holds her empire together.

A decent amount of the shit the Emperox is done with has been manufactured by Nadashe Nohamapetan, a high-ranking member of the House of Wu who believes (with some reason) that she should be the Emperox. Rather than take this indignity in stride, Nohamapetan is driven by a fury for vengeance. But her plots keep being thwarted by Cardenia and Kiva Lagos, our third woman done with everyone else’s shit. Kiva is an agent of self-interested chaos, mostly, who is slowly learning the benefits of real connection with other people.

These three are squeezed together by the impending end of their world as they know it — and by the knowledge that no one else will be coming along to rescue any of the Interdependency’s citizens. Into this roil, Scalzi throws some truly surprising  moments and some subversion of expectations. The Last Emperox is a solid ending to a fun, frequently resonant series about a culture that really doesn’t want to face its own undoing.

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 June 2020 issue of Locus.

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One thought on “Adrienne Martini Reviews The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

  • July 24, 2020 at 2:16 am

    I read this one. It is a great fast-paced story, with great characters, and with some very sad implicatton about the human nature or human condition, call it whatever you want. First, the management/governments does not look further than their noses. Second, people, and this is not limited to upper echelons, even confronted with an impending doom, try to go on ignoring the ranger, and refuse to change their ways. It is also one of those books, that reaffirm my believe that the speculative fiction is not literature of the future, but of today.
    The book ties well the threads. It seemed to me that in the second book one of the “secondary” characters had taken over the plot, but it turned out that there was a good reason for that. I can not say more, for fear of spoiling the story.


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