Since the word “empire” is in the title, it shouldn’t be a surprise that The Collapsing Empire reminds me more than a bit of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Not in a plagiarized way, just that both series are telling a story about an empire that is about to collapse.
In this first novel of a planned series, the setup occurs. The emperox, a gender-neutral term for emperor/empress, has just changed. Regular space pilots are starting to notice that there are problems with the Flow, the method used to travel “faster-than-light”. Without the Flow, each system will be isolated and, with the exception of End, none of the human population lives on planets. Earth was isolated from the rest of the human population centuries ago, when the Flow moved. The Nohamapetan family is being more ruthless than usual. And only three scientists know why.
I usually enjoy Scalzi’s standalone novels, but the ones he writes as series I find less enjoyable. Lock In and its sequel Head On are the exception. I’m not sure why that’s so. The plot moved along well, I didn’t get bogged down in it, but I never really found myself caring for the characters or for what was going to happen. The world-building isn’t especially exciting; it’s a far-flung space empire that’s lost track of Earth. That said, the science either agrees with science as it’s currently known or is at least plausible.
All in all, it’s a perfectly acceptable science fiction novel; I’m just not sure why it was nominated for a Hugo.
Scalzi, John. The Collapsing Empire. New York: Tor Books, 2017. Kindle edition. Amazon.