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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