Proper Review of the Consuming Fire

No but really one character does swear a lot.

The sequel to The Collapsing Empire is yet another example of part 2 of a single novel. Which is an issue mainly because the first part of the book is in a sort of mid-book plot plateau. For a complete story, having a middle bit that has to spin its wheels a little while characters react to the initial action is not a bad thing. In John Scalzi’s interdependency, starships exist hyperspace flow shoots with zero momentum and are essentially stalled when they reach a new star system. Likewise the Consuming Fire is initially on impulse engines only, if not drifting in space.

There’s a lot of talking and plotting and counter-plotting that is important because this is supposed to be a world of plotting and counter-plotting. However, it feels inconsequential even at the time. Of course it is MEANT to be futile in the face of a systemic collapse of the hyperspace routes that hold the Empire together. Meanwhile, the story is plotting a new course and warming up its engines.

Don’t get me wrong, I *like* dialogue but it is a relief when the story charts a course towards a newly opened bu short lived flow shoal and heads off into some space exploration action. From this point on the novel picks up the same momentum and sparkle from the first novel. New revelations, some clever twists to the backstory and the Empereaux getting some control over her life pulls the story along to a satisfactory conclusion.

There’s plenty of set-up for the sequels but there is a definite end to this particular arc. Initially disappointed, the book finally delivers enough to make me intrigued by future stories of how the Interdependecy survives (or not).

8 responses to “Proper Review of the Consuming Fire”

  1. Rick Riordan’s House of Hades suffered from being very much an installment rather than a standalone. I can see why the series has such a fan following, but the climax felt like just a prelude to the next volume.

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  2. I did quite like the backstory revelations. Also the Emperox getting her act together and taking charge while still having a bit of fun. The whole bit with the exploration of the temp shoal was fairly suspenseful along with revelatory.

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  3. “The sequel to The Collapsing Empire is yet another example of part 2 of a single novel. Which is an issue mainly because the first part of the book is in a sort of mid-book plot plateau.”

    This the reason I haven’t really checked out this book yet, despite reading TCE and having read 90% of Scalzi’s other works – TCE spent an entire book building up to an ending that was spoiled by the very title, which made most of what came before feel inconsequential. The fact that the first half of this book feels the same to you make me think I might never get to this one.


    • After my experiences with part 1, I will only read The Consuming Fire if it shows up on the Hugo shortlist, probably while grumbling about the hugo electorate and their bad taste.

      I’ve liked other works by Scalzi, but this series just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t help that K.B. Wagers did the “the unexpected heir takes the throne and has to deal with external and internal crisises and assassination attempts” so much better. And if it’s the analogy for climate change aspect you’re after, Kim Stanley Robinson offered climate change without analogy.


  4. Can’t possibly discuss particulars without becoming spoilerific, but I just like Scalzi’s last-act springing of the surprising-yet-inevitable big plot twist. You can see when he does so that this development was inherent in [thing redacted here], but only as one of those beautiful ‘Of course’ reactions in retrospect.

    It’s not going to be among the greats for 2018, but I felt it did a perfectly fine job of expanding the scope, twisting the possibilities through new/old revelations, and setting up the big finish, which is what middle novels are supposed to do. (Not to mention that the man still has an ear for great dialogue.)

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