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The Interdependency #2

The Consuming Fire

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The Consuming Fire―the sequel to the 2018 Hugo Award Best Novel finalist and 2018 Locus Award-winning The Collapsing Empire―an epic space-opera novel in the bestselling Interdependency series, from New York Times bestselling author John Scalzi

The Interdependency―humanity’s interstellar empire―is on the verge of collapse. The extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible is disappearing, leaving entire systems and human civilizations stranded.

Emperox Grayland II of the Interdependency is ready to take desperate measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth―or at the very least an opportunity to an ascension to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war. A war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will between spaceships and battlefields.

The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, as are her enemies. Nothing about this will be easy... and all of humanity will be caught in its consuming fire.

304 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 16, 2018

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About the author

John Scalzi

148 books22k followers
John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.

(If you want to contact John, using the mail function here is a really bad way to do it. Go to his site and use the contact information you find there.)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,369 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 118 books157k followers
October 28, 2018
I was excited for this second installment of the Interdependency series. Lots of fun and clever storytelling. Interesting characters. A true space opera. But damn. So much exposition. So many characters explaining various histories and technologies instead of finding other ways to get that information across. There is far more explaining than actual story and the story is so good! Leave the explaining. Give us more of the political and romantic intrigue of these characters. Still can’t wait for the next book.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
405 reviews2,201 followers
October 21, 2018
I have to admit that I’m blown away. This is how you do a middle book in a series! I had a few misgivings about The Collapsing Empire (and some of Scalzi’s earlier novels), but he has completely outdone himself with this second Interdependency book. It’s fun to see his writing get better and better as he goes. The pacing is tighter, the story flows with more fluidity, the characters are much more distinct from one another now, the prose is drastically improved over the last one, and the payoff is massive. I may have actually thrown the book down and said “Yes! Wow, that was satisfying.” when I finished it.

I’ve mentioned before that, thematically speaking at least, the Interdependency series is Scalzi’s Dune. That still rings true, but The Consuming Fire also feels as dense and conspiratorial as A Song of Ice and Fire, or like a solid espionage thriller. It tells a compelling story while also blowing the worldbuilding wide open and fleshing out some of the concepts that were underdeveloped in The Collapsing Empire. All of this and it does a fantastic job of catching the reader up with effortless exposition, in case it’s been a little while since you read the first in the series. I went back and reread the first book in the series just before starting this one in an effort to refresh my mind on the events thus far, but honestly, I think you could pick up The Consuming Fire as your first read in this series without really missing much. After 20-30 pages you’re all caught up and good to go. It’s impressively handled.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books567 followers
December 3, 2019
Another fun and creative work with a good blend of palace intrigue, action, imaginative sci-fi ideas, and inevitable ‘Scalzi snark’. I enjoyed this book, coming off a poignant and emotionally difficult read, it was nice to escape into Scalzi’s ‘Interdependency’.

As to the plot, I think the strength is the mix and pacing. For as much politics, religion, and manipulative maneuvering as there is, this book still moves quickly. There is action, including assassination attempts, prison escapes, and spaceship battles, but it’s quick and limited – almost as if Scalzi’s trying to hold back on what he already does well. I like the Dalasyslansian side quest and I’m sure we’ll see more of that storyline in the third book. I didn’t mind that the science behind the ‘flow’ is shifting, but I’m not sure about the flow ‘effervescence’. It feels a bit of Dues ex Machina to allow some additional plot points to be added into future storylines. No more details on this to prevent spoilers.But, I loved the fact that the story is not predictable – nothing kills a sci-fi book for me than an obvious plot. The reveal of historical plot points is fantastic and make my imagination dream up all kinds of potential storylines for book three. Along the same lines, the expansion of the memory room concept is cool and classic Scalzi. It also opens a lot of doors for the story.

It did feel like Scalzi is intentionally working on his weaknesses, specifically focusing on unique character development, relationships, and female perspective. I appreciate this effort, even if it’s not his sweet spot of fast-moving action and brain-stirring sci-fi ideas. IMHO, he’s improving (hah – who am I to say), and I liked the kickass Kiva and I care about Grayson and I hated Countess Nohamapetan (as intended, I’m sure). The female characters feel more fully developed to me than in “Old Man’s War”, even if they are a bit more preoccupied with sex than most IRL women (of course, what do I know about women – nothing – ask my wife).

A solid second book in an enjoyable, well-paced, and well-mixed space opera. Four stars for this fun, fantastical, space frolic across the far-out Interdependency Flow!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
December 10, 2018
Two things:

What this novel does right, it does very right. Namely, he's got some very tight prose. His barebones linear plot always manages to explain everything in crystalline fashion, leaving nothing occluded, and it shows in just how much he accomplishes in such a short novel. I'm reminded of some of the best short novels of the Golden and Silver age of SF in both the style and function with one caveat: there's nothing at all racist or homophobic or sexist about it. :)

Second thing: His underlying message about climate change deniers in terms of a collapsing wormhole network works fairly well. Hello, idiots, your house is burning down! :) Ah, alas.

The soapbox is a thin veil. I'm trying not to mind but it is the vehicle for the whole novel.

Even so, it doesn't detract that much from my total enjoyment of the novel. Indeed, I almost gave it a 5 star just because I had a lot of fun and it turns out to be a super easy read. :) Between the funny moments, the alternately cool action moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance, I call this a sure bet. :) It's a great space opera by Scalzi! Looking forward to the next!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
March 21, 2020
Scalzi hit it out of the park with this one!

Galactic travel is breaking down in this part of the galaxy and human civilization is in grave danger. The emperox of the Interdependency is convinced, but she’s surrounded by a lot of extremely wealthy, powerful people who aren’t so sure, and are actively conspiring against her.

It reminds me very much of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, except updated with a more complex plot and better technology. Also more humor, way saltier language, and frank talk about sex.

Full review to come. And now I get to start the ARC of the last book in this series!
Profile Image for donna backshall.
643 reviews177 followers
August 8, 2019
Welcome back to all you crazy, agenda-driven characters from The Collapsing Empire. It's just freaking dandy to have your machinations, duplicity, and of course, sarcasm, here again to smack us in the face, in true Scalzi form.

In this second book of the Interdependency series, we again embrace the empire as Emperox Grayland II understands and rules it. But we also become privy to some fascinating revelations about the Interdependency's origins as well as the ability to navigate it.

"I was just talking about you,” Cardenia said, coming up to him.
“To your imaginary friends, I see.”
"They’re not imaginary. They’re just not real.”
“Very subtle distinction."

We already knew it was all about The Flow, which (not a spoiler) is Scalzi's extended metaphor for Earth's climate change. What we didn't know was that Cardenia needs to start asking her "imaginary" predecessors the right questions or risk missing valuable information that could save the empire.

A library is not information; it is a means of preserving information. In every case, before memory or information can be stored, someone must decide what must be stored. Someone must choose. Someone must curate.

There are so many compelling activities happening all at once -- sex, betrayal, power struggles, religious skepticism, political manipulations -- but I never felt like I was reading the space equivalent of a soap opera. It was Scalzi's special brand of scathing humor that propelled the story forward, and kept it from getting bogged down with a gossipy or soapy feel. It's never clean, but damn, it works.

And finally, a hat tip to Wil Wheaton for again nailing the narration on the Audible audio version. It's almost uncanny how no one can perform John Scalzi's raucous writing like he can.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,034 reviews2,605 followers
October 25, 2018
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/10/25/...

In my review of The Collapsing Empire, I wrote that while it marked a strong return for John Scalzi to the realm of space opera, ultimately it is the next book that will determine whether The Interdependency series will sink or swim. So now that I’ve read the sequel, what did I think? Well, I’ll be honest—I was hot and cold on it. There were moments where I felt the novel floundered, but others where things really soared to new heights. I’m going to say that, for the time being, we seem to be in a holding pattern.

The Consuming Fire picks up where the previous book left off, with the future of humanity cast in doubt as it is revealed that the extra-dimensional conduit known as the Flow—our species’ primary mode of travel between the stars, and the only system linking human colonies across the galaxy—is on the verge of collapse. Once it goes down, billions will be cut off and left to die, leading to the complete destruction of the Interdependency, the network of human hubs making up the interstellar empire.

The Emperox Grayland II, formerly Cardenia Wu-Patrick, is trying her best to prepare for the coming disaster, but unfortunately, distractions caused by bitter infighting with the other noble houses aren’t helping. House Nohamapetan, longtime rivals of the Wus, is up to its old tricks, conspiring with the Emperox’s enemies in the government to try and seize the throne. But Grayland, determined to convey the dire news of what’s happening to the Flow, has some tricks of her own. As head of the Church of the Interdependency, she reveals she has been having religious visions, styling herself after the first Emperox who was famously known to have been something of a prophet.

I feel so conflicted about this book. On the one hand, the world-building is compelling, and the majority of the characters are interesting to follow, but there were also times where I found myself almost dying of boredom, which is not something I thought I would ever say about a Scalzi novel. I love his work. I always have. But a knot of dread had been forming in my belly ever since I read in an interview that his Interdependency series would be paralleling the climate change debate, and I worry that my fears have come to pass. As a general rule, I could care less what an author’s political and social leanings are, as long as they can write and tell a good story, and above all keep the blatant preachiness about real-world issues out of their books. Speaking as someone who reads SFF for the escapism, it’s always disheartening to watch a novel all but become a thinly veiled opportunity for an author to stand on their soapbox. While I’m no stranger to message fiction, things tend to get dicey whenever ideas are elevated above story elements, such as plot and characters.

Some of which I suspect was happening here, because things certainly felt a little…off. Characters, which are normally Scalzi’s forte, unexpectedly came across as flat and uninspired. A couple of them have been transformed into instruments of polemic, where their dialogue feels forced and scripted, almost in a grandiose and melodramatic “now, how do I turn this into a mic drop moment?” kind of way. Kudos to Scalzi for also trying his hand at something more cerebral, but his mistake might have been to force his usual snark onto this series, which reveals he has only one mode of humor. Nothing wrong with that on the surface—heck, some of the books that have made me laugh the hardest have been Scalzi’s. But again, it didn’t seem to work as well here. It felt like every time the moment called for some comic relief, inevitably it would involve Kiva Lagos walking in dropping a few F-bombs, because haha, that’s one sure fire way to get a laugh, right? Apart from Cardenia/Grayland, who has become almost as unmemorable as Marce, Kiva’s character was perhaps the biggest letdown in this sequel.

Still, credit where credit’s due, when the story gets good, it gets amazing. It’s probably no surprise that my favorite sections were all related to the parts about government conspiracies, assassination attempts, jailbreaks, and old Countess Nohamapetan being up to her usual wicked self. There was also plenty of intrigue as our characters are faced with significant questions following a meeting with an isolated remnant of a previously cut-off population, and I think this thread can lead to some consequential developments.

All told, The Consuming Fire suffers from an obvious agenda and a little of second-book syndrome, but I love John Scalzi too much to be writing The Interdependency off just yet. Everything now rests on the shoulders of the next book, which I hope will step up the storytelling and the character development, because in the end, those elements will be the key to this series’ success.
Profile Image for Philip.
500 reviews673 followers
April 14, 2020
Re-read in preparation for book #3:
4.5ish stars.

Liked it even more the second time. Felt a lot more cinematic. I’d love to see a movie of this. There are some great characters and I definitely connected with Cardenia/Grayland more this read. I’m deciding who to cast as her in my film version. Her “address” at the end is just as epic as I remember. So satisfying. Audio by Wil Wheaton highly recommended.

4ish stars.

Didn't love it quite as much as the first, but still a lot to love. Like Emperox Grayland's monologue at the end? Fire. I still don't get a great sense of her character, but maybe it's because she needs to have so many different faces and it's hard to reconcile all of them as an outsider.
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews187 followers
March 14, 2019
In his second Interdependency novel, John Scalzi picks up the threads he left dangling at the end of The Collapsing Empire: Kiva Lagos settles into her role as custodian of the House of Nohamapetan only to get a front-row seat to its matriarch’s treachery; Marce Claremont makes a stunning discovery (or re-discovery) while studying the collapse of the Flow streams; and Grayland II uses every tool at her disposal to consolidate power and convince the masses that the Flow collapse is real and urgent.
This sequel comes out of the gate swinging, with Scalzi’s crunchy humor and hyper-efficient prose delivering a raucous mini-epic of a prologue that sets up Grayland II’s use of her position as leader of the Interdependency Church to advance her agenda. Scalzi is at his best when he offers a heady but digestible mix of action, humor and philosophical inquiry, and his opening salvo delivers all three in spades. The rest of The Consuming Fire offers plenty of the first two but seems willing to leave us hanging with the questions it poses about mixing church and state and the role both play in civic life. Perhaps the problem is that it spends all its capital on the lives of the governing elite while the lives of the governed are little more than a blurry rabble taking up space in the background.
There are a lot of great action scenes and character moments in The Consuming Fire, and it has a “less talk more rock” edge over its annotative predecessor. Two books in, the Interdependency is entertaining enough to satisfy Scalzi’s fans; here's hoping some of its still dormant seeds will germinate in the next book.
Profile Image for Mike.
483 reviews376 followers
December 10, 2018
Review for The Collapsing Empire

I always enjoy Scalzi's books. They are fast paced, witty, and reside in fascinating, well developed worlds; The Consuming Fire is no exception. Following hot on the heels of the events of The Collapsing Empire Scalzi wastes no time in continuing the fast paced story of an Empire whose foundation turns out to be built in the equivalent of cosmic sand.

I think this book's strongest point is its story. Scalzi does a wonderful job both creating the framework for it to take place in as well as populate that framework with a good story. There are lots of moving parts and conflicting agendas as well as the looming collapse of interstellar travel, the basis of human civilization. Scalzi builds on this by killing off some characters and throwing some pretty important revelations by the end. It was a gripping read in that respect and makes me very eager to get the next book.

I will say, however, that the character work was a bit week. They were good enough to advance the plot but I never felt like they were fully realized characters. Don't expect to get deeply emotionally invested in these characters, they are mostly just what the plot needs them to be in a given moment. But that's ok, the story moves along fast enough that the action and story can carry the reading experience and just let the characters serve as a means to that end.

So while not the most well rounded book, it was a heck of a ride and I can't wait for the next one.


Chapter 1 excerpt
Chapter 2 excerpt
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,972 reviews850 followers
December 29, 2021
Segunda lectura porque acaba de salir el tercero de la saga y no me acordaba de casi nada. Y como estos van de intrigas políticas más que otra cosa pues eso, que en contra de mis principios me lo he leído entero. Y con agrado.

Mantengo las cuatro estrellas y todo lo que escribí en su momento (que es lo que viene tras esto).

Lectura 2019: A ver, con Scalzi no te aburres (casi nunca, que de Redshirts mejor no hablar)

Y este cumple. Cumple con sus diálogos con humor/sarcasmo/ironía, cumple con sus nuevos personajes, con los giros argumentales y cumple con mantener el interés sobre los personajes que ya conocíamos.

Y, sin embargo, me parece una novela un poco floja. ¿Tal vez porque esperaba más de él? ¿Tal vez porque las intrigas palaciegas no me atraen demasiado, que con JdT ya tuve bastante? Pues igual es por algo de eso. Tiene momentos geniales, eso sí. NO muchos, pero hay escenas buenas, buenas.

Como ya me he reconocido fiel de Scalzi le cae la cuarta estrella, y así acabo el año no siendo rácano. ¡¡¡ Feliz Año Nuevo per tutti !!!
Profile Image for Choko.
1,203 reviews2,583 followers
March 26, 2020
So, I am definitely on a Sci-fi kick these days and I am happy to have books like this to read and to stoke the fire of that kick! Scalzi does not disappoint! I am very partial to his writing to begin with and the constant political games of power between the powerful houses of The Interdependency and the vast scope of stellar science fiction, make me even more attached to his particular style of storytelling. He never lets me down with the clever banter and sometimes tad too explicit manner, but I can see how all the scamming and plotting could lead to slightly choppy action. It is totally worth it in the end. Not as funny as some of his work, but he hasn't gone all Doom and gloom on us either. I would definitely recommend it to sci-fi fans and those who enjoy the political side of the genre.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,737 reviews649 followers
February 24, 2019
For most of you this isn’t your first Scalzi read. For the rest of you, it better not be because this is book #2 in the series.

Those of us who know Scalzi appreciate his sense of humor, his imaginative plotting and his adept dialogue. What I hadn’t appreciated until this book was how nuanced his sense of evil was. So, this is a dark comedy about the veniality of those in power.

For most of this book we are on the home world of the Holy Empire of Interdependent States and Mercantile Guilds ruled by the Wu family through Emperox Grayland II who is also head of the Church of the Interdependency. Those familiar with book #1, The Collapsing Empire, know that physical change has come unbidden to the Empire with the predicted (but not believed) collapse of the “Flow,” which is the equivalent of a wormhole conduit between stars. Scalzi keeps this very much in the “now” while stirring into his pot measures of politics, religion, history and science.

Some of the things that I enjoyed: the whole government and guilds structure; the idea of the collapse of the Flow and its consequences; the ability to consult with past leaders*; and the idea that humans have had to expand but have not been able to find many suitable planets so they have had to construct giant orbiting dwellings.

There is nothing that you are called upon to figure out. It’s more of a: "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy (ride)." And, if you can ride it out you are in for some excellent amusement even if you conclude that it is: “…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” In that case, the only thing you may have lost is a little time. For me, it was a good trade that had me chuckling at: “What fools these mortals be.”

*I think that I want to say more about this but I am going to save it for a “comment.”

Postscript: On further consideration, I feel that readers need to determine how sensitive they are to certain words. This comes from reading "No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters" by Ursula K. Le Guin. In her collection of blogs, I came across this:
"I keep reading books and seeing movies where nobody can fucking say anything except fuck, unless they say shit. I mean they don’t seem to have any adjective to describe fucking except fucking even when they’re fucking fucking. And shit is what they say when they’re fucked. When shit happens, they say shit, or oh shit, or oh shit we’re fucked. The imagination involved is staggering. I mean, literally. There was one novel I read where the novelist didn’t only make all the fucking characters say fuck and shit all the time but she got into the fucking act herself, for shit sake. So it was full of deeply moving shit like “The sunset was just too fucking beautiful to fucking believe.”

Though I believe there is a definite shared value between Le Guin and Scalzi, The Consuming Fire is notable for its repeated (and to my sensibility) humorous use of the word. It appears within the first thirty words of the prologue and certain paragraphs can be almost cacophonous, if it were not for the humor that underlies it. Alright, here’s an example for those willing to read further:

“…but the problem with that was, for a rich person, Kiva was spectacularly unmotivated by money. She liked money and she liked that she had money, and she was aware that a life lived without money would well and truly suck…she never thought about money….Instead, Kiva had two primary pursuits: Fucking, which she was enthusiastic about nearly (but not entirely) to the point of indiscrimination; and running things, which she enjoyed and which as it was turning out she wasn’t all that bad at….For now, anyway. Until either the Nohamapetans grabbed it back from her, or all the Flow streams collapsed and they were all fucked anyway. Exciting fucking times, Kiva thought to herself.”

"So why do you work for evil fucks?" Kiva asked Fundapellonan later, as they were lying in Kiva's bed after some better-than-average sex.
Fundapellonan looked over at Kiva, annoyed. "The House of Nohamapetan is not evil."
"Sounds like someone needs a refresher course on certain recent events."
"Fine," Fundapellonan said. "Some members of the House...may be evil."
"Fratricide. Murder. Attempted assassination. Embezzlement. Questionable taste in men. That's just one of those motherfuckers.
"Are evil. Well, were, evil."
"Still evil, just dead."
"But I didn't even work for her."
"You worked for her mom. Where do you think she got it?"
"But I don't even technically work for her. I work for the house."
"Which is run by the countess, your boss, and her family. You're splitting hairs here pretty fucking fine."
"I'm a lawyer; that's my actual job...."
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,221 reviews226 followers
February 17, 2021
John Scalzi really bucks the trend of making book two in the trilogy little more than a bridge from book 1 to book 2! There's plenty going on here that I could talk about for pages and pages, but - review space.

So, there's a teensy bit of bridgeing, but really only what is necessary to keep the trilogy working in concert. Mostly what there is, is some absolutely phenomenal plotting, exploring, and figuring out of mysteries. Kiva, in particular, is given a shot at character development (one aside in the narrative would imply that the author wasn't allowed a lot of say in the matter, which sounds about right) and comes out the other side herself, only a little more 3D.

The political side of the main conflict of the series is given the spotlight here, and Scalzi doesn't miss the chance to get in a couple of thinly-veiled jabs at real life stupidity, but also doesn't let that take focus. It's a fine line, and he nails it.

I'd been planning to spread this trilogy out, but The Last Emperox is looking awfully tempting....
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,147 followers
August 21, 2019
I wolfed this down the day after reading the first one and enjoyed it a lot. I slightly get the feeling that Scalzi goes too easy on characters in this series--there's a sense of threat but fundamentally everything goes the MCs' way. This may well be what you're after at the moment--the knowledge I'm guaranteed things working out is why I read romance, and of course I haven't read #3 yet so maybe it all goes tits up then. Still, having built up a very effective threat framework, it was kind of dismantled fairly quickly with the good guys suffering very few real hard losses.

That said, it was a hugely fun read with predominantly female characters exhibiting a wide variety of strengths and a lovely (in its own terms) f/f relationship, plus one spectacularly good bit of writing about a lost spaceship that gave me the screaming ab dabs. I will definitely grab #3 when it's out.
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews233 followers
April 14, 2020
Beginning is a bit slow, but after 20% once plot starts moving it's the usual Scalzi goodness. Very satisfying ending.
Look forward to the next book. Only two days to go! :)
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books703 followers
October 29, 2018
Another fun installment in a comedic space opera about dire consequences. I don't think it was as amusing or taut as the first book, but I still read it quickly and with a few good chuckles.


Things to enjoy:

-Kiva and Cardenia. The stars of the show again, this time Kiva is in charge of finances, and Cardenia is announcing she's a prophet. They were still fun characters with their very own motivations. Kiva's mouth never stops running.

-Scalzi's humor. A few timely self-references, a few acerbic comments on the nature of man and its institutions, and lots of snark. I was hoping for a quick, funny read and was not disappointed.

-The Auvergne and Dasalysans. That was a fun scifi twist.

-The "Got ya's". There were a few lines of dialogue or maneuvering where you just couldn't help but reflexively start to dial the Burn Unit. There were some real stunners.

Things that weren't as tight:

-The politicking. He's excellent at running down the list of consequences for everyone's bad decisions. He's less subtle in his machinations. In a book all about machinations, it gets pretty noticeable.

-Repeats. There's a lot of hand wringing, a lot of "hey reader, remember this?" moments, actual bits of dialogue repeated not for comedic effect or character affect, and scene structures ()

-Cartoon opposition. All the opposition is cartoonishly evil and moronic. Moreso than last book.

-Cliffhanger ending. The epilogue ends like a chapter break. I'm not as upset because I felt the main story was resolved, but it's clear we're jumping right into the third book. I don't usually love this, and while it's not as offensive as some I've read, it's still not my favorite writing trick.

-Crass. It was a bit more crass than last book--I know, that's saying something. It's weird, because I feel Cardenia (and to some extent Kiva) are pretty well built women characters...and then so many others are not given that care. A few lines about women's autonomy and experiences that really felt in poor taste.

I enjoyed it, I still zipped through it. But the first book was a masterpiece of everything falling down around two women diametrically opposed in personalities and desires. This one is a mediocre intrigue, a belabored book of rebellion and a skimpy space romance (I mean more in the space faring/adventure sense, but I guess maybe also the relationship-centric book sense). However, if you're reading or planning to read this book, you likely found the main characters of Collapsing Empire interesting, and you do grow to care more for them in this installment. Plus, it's still snarky. A fun, light romp. Turn off brain, insert popcorn.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,638 reviews329 followers
October 25, 2019
FIRE continues with Scalzi at his best, and he avoids middle-book slump in his new space-opera cum political-intrigue novel. You definitely need to read The Collapsing Empire first, and, as always, start with the publisher's summary at the top of this page.

"I was a teen-age Emperox." Grayland II comes of age early in her (unexpected) reign, and decides to publicize the coming disaster that losing the Flow will bring by..... having religious visions! It's not quite as nutty as it sounds, and usefully flushes out some of her opponents. And Cardenia Wu-Patrick (her alternate identity) discovers romance, which is fun, and unexpectedly tender. She (and we) make some unexpected discoveries on the history of the Interdependency, and Lord Marce the Flow physicist advances his (and our) knowledge with an expedition to a system lost 800 years ago after a Flow shift.

FIRE comes to a most satisfactory conclusion, as the Emperox prepares to address Parliament, leading off with what my favorite badass character Kiva Lagos calls the Best. Party. Ever. It's quite a bash. Don't miss it! More to come next time. Can't wait!
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,053 reviews529 followers
April 30, 2020
I saw a Tweet a day or so ago in which John Scalzi revealed that his Publisher Tor had sent him a burrito blanket as a gift to mark The Last Emperox (volume three) achieving bestseller status. Scalzi then put up a poll that required his fans to vote on whether or not he should post a picture of himself as a human burrito. You can guess what the answer was. I will attempt to describe the picture.

Scalzi is a hilarious and irreverent presence in the Twitterverse, adding a measure of sanity and wit to what is so often a digital cesspool. It is obvious therefore that his joie de vivre should spill over to his fiction. And if there is a singular phrase to describe The Consuming Fire, none is better than ‘great fun’.

If that sounds disparaging, it is not meant to be. We are living in tumultuous times, and more than ever I am turning to books to take me away from it all. Yes, this has always been a fundamental driver of the writer-and-reader ecosystem, but I think that now it is even more important than ever before.

Writers must also be grappling with the weird situation in which the world finds itself. Apocalypses and dystopias are dime a dozen in both horror and SF, but few could have predicted what is happening now.

Yes, Scalzi noted in The Collapsing Empire that any resemblance to reality was purely coincidental, as that opening volume had been written quite a while before the Covid-19 pandemic. But I also believe that writers act like lightning rods that tap into the zeitgeist.

I must admit to being a bit non-plussed by The Collapsing Empire when I read it. It is basically an old-fashioned space opera bootstrapped to a medieval political thriller. Who would have thought that once it conquered the stars, humanity would resort to a system of hegemonic rule?

Here a number of select families not only control all trade and commerce, but vie among themselves for the most influential positions, the chief being the Supreme Leader, or Emperox (which Scalzi reveals in The Consuming Fire is a gender-neutral term for emperor).

Key to this geopolitical context is the Flow, which is kind of like a Star Trek version of the Silk Road, a network of wormholes stitching known space together. Importantly, this has resulted in humanity expanding to areas it normally would never have reached, in a range of diverse environments and habitats. In fact, the only habitable planet other than Earth is fittingly called End, as it is located at the furthest extreme of the trade network.

The Collapsing Empire introduces us to Cardenia, the newly-minted Emperox whom the ruling families regard as both a lame and sitting duck, ripe to be replaced with someone (anyone) eminently more suitable to the position and its status.

Poor Cardenia, who goes by the official moniker of Grayland II, finds herself in the unenviable position of having to preside over a realm that is falling apart. Here is perhaps where Scalzi saw fit to post his disclaimer about this being fiction…

Known only to a couple of esoteric mathematicians, the Flow network itself is on the verge of imminent collapse. This will leave countless human habitats stranded, and effectively cut the ties that hold commerce and community together.

Much of The Collapsing Empire sets the scene for The Consuming Fire, which I was really curious to read. In what direction could Scalzi possibly take his story? The answer to that is as unexpected as it is immensely entertaining and satisfying.

And for those readers who were offended by the fact some of the characters swear more profusely and colourfully than sailors on shore leave, I was gratified that Gonre Onrill’s first phrase, on line 4 of the Prologue, is a laconic: “Well, fuck.”
Profile Image for Scott.
1,158 reviews106 followers
December 3, 2018
Let me start by saying that if you don't smile when I say "Kiva Lagos" then you are dead to me.

Loved this book as much as I loved the first book in the series.
Background: I read books for the characters and yes there should be a plot but characters are what really jazzes me and gets me "into" a book.

Scalzi can write.
I mean he can really write great characters.
Sure he has a lot of swipes at (let's just call them what they are...idiots) climate change deniers in this book so there are greater themes etc. etc. etc. but he just pulled me in to the story and did not let go.

There was a lot of politics and back room dealing and we're still dealing with the end of the "Flow" and who know how many millions that will die and worlds that will end but I just loved the characters, their interactions, their growth, their dialogue, did I mention Kiva Lagos?

It's a good space opera with a good plot that unravels at a nice clip but similar to Stephen King, Scalzi just makes me feel what the characters feel and he makes me care about them in a subtle way that is just staggering in how effective it is.

On a side note: I read ALOT of fantasy. This book was a few pages over 300 and I feel and know more about the plot and the characters than I do from your usual 900 page doorstop of a fantasy (Sanderson, Martin & Weeks take note how to write).

Highest possible recommendation.
Profile Image for Antonio TL.
211 reviews25 followers
January 11, 2022
De acuerdo, tenemos una sociedad gobernada por una familia muy parecida a los Borgia en que tienen la autoridad política y espiritual y además un montón de dinero. Y hay una mujer intrigante que se parece mucho más a un Borgia en temperamento y que realmente quiere deponer al Papa espacial actual para poder casar a su hija con el próximo Papa espacial. Se avecina un desastre de la astrofísica que hará que los diversos planetas de esta civilización queden aislados unos de otros. Hay un montón de intrigas, conspiraciones, asesinatos, politiqueos, provocados por estos intrigantes Borgias. También hay incluso algo de ciencia. Es una sociedad tan desordenada, complicada y fascinante como cabría esperar cuando ha sido creada y gobernada por Space Borgia durante generaciones. Pero, aparentemente, no fue lo suficientemente complicado porque ahora una expedición científica se ha topado con un pequeño grupo de humanos que han estado luchando por sobrevivir completamente separados del contacto con cualquier otra persona. Ah, y tenemos una nave pensante (con un "fantasma" incluido) que da la noticia de que el colapso de los caminos a través del Flujo (la anomalía que permite viajar a través de vastas extensiones de espacio en una pequeña fracción del tiempo que tomaría incluso a la velocidad de la luz) es artificial. Porque, por supuesto que lo es. Incluso en miles de años en el futuro no podemos tener cosas bonitas sin que alguien las arruine por codicia o arrogancia o simplemente porque pueden.

Algunos autores dirian: He aquí un mundo rico y complicado lleno de personajes interesantes, política y ciencia. Veamos cómo se desarrolla este maravilloso juego de ajedrez que he creado.

Scalzi: Demonios!! Las piezas del tablero son ahora tus gatitos y tu oponente es un mono atiborrado de cafeína. ¿A que es más divertido es ahora?

Yo, por mi parte, prefiero jugar según las reglas de Scalzi.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews190 followers
May 5, 2019
What The Consuming Fire lacks in depth, it makes up for in entertainment and solid plotting.
While reading this sequel, I finally understood what exactly wasn't working for me when I reread - and loved a lot less - The Collapsing Empire. It's about the relationships. And with that I do not mean only the romance, even though it's part of the problem.
Every relationship the characters have in this book has basically no depth to it, even when the character involved aren't completely flat (and they often are).

In this installment, Marce and Cardenia like each other because... plot? Because they're a man and a woman? I don't know, and it's been a while since I read a relationship so lacking in chemistry, and it's not like Kiva Lagos (whom I love) and her female love interest are that much more convincing either. Yes, I love that there was bisexual rep and an f/f relationship, but the romantic subplots are flat and the author didn't convince me that any of the characters were even only physically attracted to anyone. The "friendships" and mother-daughter relationship do not feel fleshed out in any way either.

Which is a shame, because this series is so much fun. It's such a wild ride, I couldn't stop reading, and the plot twists truly surprised me. It's twisted and political and full of intrigue and all the things I love. I only wish it wasn't so plot-driven it's almost impossible to actually get attached to anyone.

It even says a lot of interesting things about how societies and empires work, and about the role of religion in empires. The thing is, fast-paced fun books with flat characters and character interactions don't feel as fast-paced and fun when you reread them, and this means this series will ultimately end up being forgettable, no matter the interesting worldbuilding, themes and plot.
Profile Image for Melindam.
633 reviews275 followers
February 1, 2021
3,5 stars

Tight, fast-spaced, exciting and funny. My 2nd book by John Scalzi.

He doesn't waste many words on descriptions and navel gazing, which I quite appreciate, even though I wouldn't mind a bit more info occasionally.

Still, this series is very entertaining and I am right onto the last book.

Surprisingly, I find that the shining star of the series is a foul-mouthed, sex maniac, tough cookie of a bitch, which couldn't be further away from me and my tastes, but I guess this is John Scalzi for you. :)
Profile Image for Lata.
3,614 reviews192 followers
December 11, 2018
Scalzi's did not disappoint with this second Interdependency instalment. Grayland is working really hard to get everyone to take the Flow collapse seriously, Marce is talking to scientists about the Flow collapse, Kiva Lagos is going through House Nohamapetan's finances, and finding plenty of financial shenanigans, while the Countess and Nadashe Nohamapetan are busy scheming.
The story and language are zippy, and frequently funny, even while the plans against Cardenia grow wide and fast. And the Flow continues to degrade. I like the details Scalzi's introduces about an earlier Flow collapse. And I have to agree with Kiva; Grayland's party was the best.
Profile Image for Tanabrus.
1,841 reviews160 followers
July 10, 2022
Arrivato al secondo volume, mi ritrovo ancora incerto riguardo il giudizio su questa serie.

Da un lato abbiamo un concetto che era già interessante nel primo libro, e che qui lo diventa ancora di più con informazioni che ci portano a prima della nascita dell'Interdipendenza ampliando l'universo che possiamo conoscere e riscrivendo in parte la storia che pensavamo di conoscere.
Abbiamo alcune sorprese, sia riguardanti l'ambientazione (i superstiti) sia la trama.
Abbiamo un nuovo personaggio che mi ha fatto per un attimo pensare a un collegamento impossibile tra questa serie e quella dell'Old Man's War (e mi ha fatto capire quale sia una cosa per la quale Scalzi va pazzo: persone che diventano navi senzienti), e un'evoluzione interessante di qualcosa che pensavamo di conoscere e che invece era molto più di quanto non si potesse pensare.

Però i personaggi continuano a rimanere estremamente piatti e poco interessanti, ormai si salva solo la Lagos.
E francamente ho trovato gestiti assai male i vari complotti e controcomplotti. Tutti un po' troppo semplicistici e rapidi, leggeri. Ininfluenti. Alla fine non si ha mai l'impressione che ci sia davvero del pericolo su quel versante, anche se l'imperatox dovrebbe essere ingenua, inadatta e totalmente nuova al gioco dei tron... ai giochi di potere delle cascate nobiliari dell'Interdipendenza. Invece, grazie anche a un piccolo Deus Ex machina, si dimostra astuta, intelligente, esperta e senza scrupoli coi nemici. Probabilmente troppo per le credibilità, francamente.

Per cui boh, c'è del buono e c'è del cattivo.
Immagino dovrò vedere come si conclude il tutto.
Profile Image for YouKneeK.
645 reviews79 followers
January 28, 2022
The Consuming Fire is the second book in John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy. It picks up shortly after the first book left off.

I continue to really enjoy the story, although I did think this book had some slow spots. There were some chapters that took more time to grab my interest, and some POVs I was less interested in than others. My favorite parts were the ones and I was really interested in the whole storyline surrounding that.

I don’t have anything more to say that I didn’t already say in my review for the first book. It’s an entertaining, fast-paced read, with a good dose of humor. I rated the first book at 4.5 stars and rounded down to 4 on Goodreads, but I’ve decided to just give this one a solid 4 stars due to the aforementioned slow spots. On to book 3!
Profile Image for kartik narayanan.
735 reviews205 followers
November 10, 2018
The Consuming Fire is a mildly enjoyable book and is better than its predecessor. But, for the most part, it shares similar attributes while emphasizing the intrigue and politics more and de-emphasizing the 'science' aspects. its tone is a bit ragged fluctuating between seriousness and humour. And while the climax is a bit satisfying, there is a huge deus ex machine that occurs.

Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,421 followers
February 13, 2021
This is the second instalment in The Interdependency series.

The Interdependency is a space empire spanning innumerable light years and travel between each human colony is viable via the Flow. The Flow runs like a river through space and allows the spaceships that enter it to travel at a speed faster than light and across the vast universe in months or years rather than centuries and multiple lifetimes. However, just like a river, the Flow is changing course and millions of lives might be lost in space if this occurs.

Emperox Grayland II has more than just the potential destruction of every human habitation to contend with as enemies seem to be forming all around her. Every notable house has a reason to want her spot and they don't care about the blood spilled in the process of getting to it.

This series is just so damn clever! The entire construction of the flow was intriguing but the second half of this book provided a stream of new additions that opened up this space empire even further, both geographically and historically. It was as taxing as it was rewarding to puzzle out exactly how this immense, space-wide construction was pieced together, who the governing bodies were, and where they were scattered across it.

Whilst the scientific importance remained at an all-time high, this second series instalment was also very heavily politically focused. Underhand tactics were consistently discovered and continuous new attacks were constantly thwarted. Despite fictional politics being highly intriguing, they often slow the narrative pacing but these developments ensured that was never the case, here.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, John Scalzi, and the publisher, Tor Books, for this opportunity.
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