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Posts Tagged ‘The Last Emperox’

I haven’t done a review in a while and those that I have done for other websites and magazines over the years are gone  from the web. I did download a whole lot of them with the view to put them here but I haven’t got around to it.

I enjoyed The Interdependency Trilogy a lot. I’m sort of writing this as a form or procrastination from working on my Phd exegesis. Here goes.

The Last Emperox (Audible Edition)

By John Scalzi

Performed by Wil Wheaton

I had been hanging out for this third book in the Interdependency Trilogy so I was keen to listen to it. Published in April, 2020, I was entertained by the Audible Version. Wil Wheaton was excellent as the narrator and performer of the characters. I enjoyed listening to the Last Emperox so much that I immediately went back to listen to the whole series again. Combined, Scalzi’s words and Wheaton’s performance was so good that I want to buy the print versions as well to add to my collection, just so I can savour this series.

Scalzi has outdone himself. I understand that the MRAs (The men’s rights activists) the sad and very sad puppies, are against Scalzi’s stand as a feminist, as a social justice warrior and as an science fiction author. Well he has stuck it to them with this series with the content as it contains a lot of things that those detractors hate and apparently he earned big bucks from it. I feel like cheering here.

The Interdependency Trilogy is a critique of the globalised Neo-liberal capitalist society. At least that is what I thought it was. In addition, it is feminist or at least I read it that way. The heroes are female and the dastardly baddy is a female. Also, most of these leading characters are descended from people of colour. Cardinia Wu-Fitzpatrick’s paternal line is from China originally. She is Emperox Grayland II, a shy, sensitive and passionate leader, thrust into power and who unlike the rest of the court, cares about the everyday people. Feisty, sweary Kiva Lagos’s family were from West Africa and she just powers through the narrative, starting out a little self centred and self serving and focussed on profit but then learning how to try monogamy and developing a social conscience. I’m not sure where the villainess, Nadashe Nohamapeten’s family descend from but the name sounds exotic enough to complete the picture. There are male characters in the series but they aren’t the big characters sketched by Scalzi in the starring roles. There’s Lord Marce, the mathematician, sensitive and normal and Grenny (sp) Nohamapeten, the arch villain who is barely competent and the puppet of his sister, Nadashe. He’s stuck on the planet End in the last part of the trilogy.

The Last Emperox was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. To my mind, Scalzi has some great ideas and also great characterisations combined with narrative grace. His work is accessbile. He’s does not appear to be trying to dazzle the reader with heavily constructed or artistic prose, but rather telling a fast paced narrative, with lots of reminders of key events so the reader doesn’t have to remember too hard about what happened. At times, these reminders serve a dramatic purpose, even comedic, when the baddy, for example, doesn’t understand why someone doesn’t want to join the new scheme.

With the Interdependency, Scalzi has built a system of interconnected systems that depend on ‘the Flow,’ a naturally occurring space/time phenomenon to interact, trade and so on. A number of times, Scalzi points out in the series that you can’t go faster than the speed of light, but the Flow allows this travel. Not a worm hole, but maybe something like a series of them, but not just allowing passage between different points in the systems, but also playing around with time as well. The crunch is that the Flows are collapsing and that these systems that are so interdependent won’t be able to continue as normal but they will die out as the various worlds are in systems that can’t support life, except for the planet End.

I was listening to The Last Emperox and the whole series in April/May while in social isolation. It was really profound. In The Last Emperox, the interdependency is going through a crisis, on the verge on the collapse and the leaders of the great houses were in denial, more denial and even more denial and then they panicked. When Scalzi wrote this there wasn’t a hint of pandemic and that our globalized economy would suffer from a major disruption. So in the real world that denial, more denial and then the powers that be trying to keep their money and economies going juxtaposed with keeping people safe resonated between the novel and real life. I actually laughed when I heard that in the story. The societal elements of the science fiction were coming true.

For me, I see another piece of popular culture responding to the issues in society and discussing them. It is ironic that The Last Emperox landed during a pandemic, which shut of most of the travel between nations, gutted world economies, required dollars from governments to support workers and had a strong right wing agitation to get back to work and make money and some left leaning government support to keep people going.

With a deft hand at intrigue and political machinations, Scalzi had me on a roller coaster ride. There are secrets, lies, mathematics, coups, murder, scheming and betrayal all so Nadashe can become the Emperox. It’s a kind of fixation for this character, a goal without a good understanding of what that means–just power, give me power. Nadashe sort of represents those right wing elements in society who are out for the money and power and damn the rest of the world. Emperox Grayland II is trying to save everybody and her enemies think this is: one not possible; and two crazy as they just want to get to End with their money and their lives and leave everyone else for dead. Meanwhile, with the support of Grayland II, Lord Marse is trying to find a way to save everyone or as much of everyone as possible, and he has an idea, but how can anyone get anything done when there are coups, assassination attempts, murder and so on.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I want to assure you that this is a fast and satisfying ride. It made me think deeply about things and I guess that makes it a great book, but I also laughed with along with this story and hung on every word.

In a talk last year in Australia, Scalzi said that Old Man’s War was a response to Starship Troopers by Heinlein, which was in turn a response to War of the Worlds by H G Wells, the first of its kind. I’ve been trying to think what the Interdependency Trilogy is in response to on the literature side, possibly The Expanse (TV series name), in part, but the novels by James S. A Corey. Why I say this is that Corey’s series discusses capitalism and exploitation and differences in wealth also known as the human condition. It has the sweary older woman of Indian descent, Belters who live substandard lives, multiple races and an alien invasion that upsets the status quo. There is also a hint of Iain Banks Culture series in there too. Whether this is conscious or unconscious or not, this response to the previous works has made something exciting and new.

The books in the series are reasonably succinct too. The Audible versions were under ten hours. I like this aspect too because I’m not committing 20 to 30 hours into a narrative which can at times make me guilty. Thank you John Scalzi.

 

PS this review is by no means as thinky and analytical as it was in my head. I blame real life on that and my brain.

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