–spoilers for The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire-
Series: The Interdependency (#3)
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 14/04/2020
The Interdependency is doomed. With the Flow collapsing, interstellar travel will soon become a thing of the past. Emperox Grayland II stagess a last desperate bid to save as many people as she can. Unfortunately, not everyone is quite so altruistic . . .
John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy is easily my favourite of his works. And there are a lot of those to choose from. He’s as prolific as he is entertaining, and The Last Emperox encapsulates everything that is so brilliant about his writing. It’s funny, thought-provoking and fast-paced, and plenty more besides.
By this point in the trilogy, the stage is well and truly set. There are no major new additions here, though there are twists and revelations aplenty. The sides are chosen, with familiar characters on both of them. As the story weaves and turns, there’s plenty to keep you guessing right up until the very end. But these aren’t the sort of crazy, out-of-nowhere plot twists that we see too much of these days. There’s groundwork in spades, and even when you don’t see them coming they leave you not asking ‘what?’ but rather, ‘how did I not see this coming?’ The climax itself is a frenetic burst of reversals and revelations, lightning quick yet somehow never feeling rushed.
Scalzi’s greatest strength has always been his sheer readability, and this is apparent here as it ever is. There’s a real unputdownableness to his work, and you’ll be hanging on for just one more page, then one more chapter. That’s what I kept telling myself, and I ended up finsihing the book the next day. It’s clear, concise, yet never too bare or basic. It is, in a word, addictive. Scalzi doesn’t set out to tear up or rewrite the rulebook, but he does subvert it, and uses every tool in his arsenal to hook you. There are times when it feels not so much like you’re reading a book, but that someone is sitting with you telling the story. I imagine audio listeners would find this even more apparent.
While the plotting is gripping and the world of the Interdependency ripe for exploration, the most memorable parts of The Last Emperox are it’s fantastic cast of characters. Grayland II continues to be a balance of ruthless in the streets, quirky in the sheets as the unlikely woman thrust onto the throne. Nadashe Nohemapetan is the perfect counterweight, being ruthless all the way through. As the villain of the piece, she naturally gets many of the best lines, and seeing her build her coup against Grayland is an absolute delight. And then there is of course Kiva Lagos, the foul-mouthed, flippant and downright fabulous third wheel in all of this. You could write entire essays about her – I’ve seen some myself – and she brings the cast to a pleasing fullness. The supporting characters are all on good form too, always feeling like they might, just possibly, be living their own lives beyond what we see on the page.
If you’ve read the first two volumes, The Last Emperox will deliver everything you could ask for. If not, but you are a fan of big, action-packed space opera, then this trilogy is just what you’re looking for.