Review: The Collapsing Empire

Cover Art

Cross-posted on Goodreads, sans footnotes.

Every time I read a John Scalzi novel, I’m reminded what a good writer he is.* This one’s no exception. He handles the big picture and the small, personal details with equal deftness.

After I finished the epilogue, I jumped back to the prologue. With the knowledge of everything else that happens in the book, it was fun to see how this little piece of the story — largely unconnected to the events in the remainder of the novel, featuring characters we wouldn’t see again — still added to the whole.**

When I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure if it was a stand-alone novel or the launch of a new series. When I got to the end, it was pretty plainly the opening volume in a multi-volume set. (Don’t get me wrong — the novel is complete in itself, but the ending indicates there’s more to come.) Under normal circumstances, I’d have felt a twinge of irritation at this, but in this case I was relieved. I want more time with these characters, and I want to know just how they’re going to deal with an empire in collapse.

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

One final note: Peer review is important. Read the novel and you’ll see what I mean.

* In a lot of ways, John Scalzi’s writing reminds me of Joe Haldeman, who is one of my favourite writers.

** A note on prologues: Elmore Leonard famously wanted writers to avoid them, and generally speaking he’s right (IMHO). But any list of “rules” of writing are really guidelines, and usually reflect what works best for the author writing the list of rules. I’ve read a lot of Elmore Leonard’s detective novels, and I can’t recall ever running into a prologue there.

I don’t skip prologues when I read, but I do notice when they really don’t connect at all to the story. When that happens, I agree, it would have been better to excise the prologue entirely.

The Collapsing Empire‘s prologue was fun enough — and connected enough to the overall story — that I read it twice.