Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.
Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.
The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.
I got a copy of this from NetGalley to review and I was very excited as I really enjoyed Redshirts and have a lot of Scalzi’s other books on my TBR list. It’s been a while since I read a space-opera and this reminded me just how much I love them.
I won’t say too much about the plot, because I loved it so much that I don’t want to spoil a thing for anybody as it kept me gripped right until the end and I could barely put it down. The writing is fantastic, it flows so well and really helps you immerse yourself in the novel. The dialogue between the characters is great and they all have their unique voices.
The characters though, the characters are what really made me love this novel. Cardenia is the reluctant Emperox and I’m not usually a fan of the whole “reluctant ruler” trope but here it worked really well. I also loved how she was fully represented, including at one point describing how awful her cramps were from her period which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen mentioned in a Sci-Fi novel before and I adored it. Then there’s the fantastic, sex-positive Kiva who will sleep with anybody and is very open and unashamed about it. At one point she’s trying to decide which of a pair of siblings would pleasure her the most. Her sexuality is never mentioned, but she’s definitely not straight (I read her as bisexual). These are the two main POV characters and so it was excellent getting to read a space-opera mostly from the view of very well-written women. The final of the three characters is Marce, a scholar from the planet End, whose father studied the Flow and he’s also great fun to read about and in particular, I really enjoyed his interactions with Cardenia.
The worldbuilding is excellent and I really like the system that has been set up with powerful families and guilds having monopolies on different items making all the systems dependent on each other, which of course is a massive problem now due to the issues with the Flow.
This is a book I would highly recommend and not only did I adore it, but it’s made me put the rest of Scalzi’s books to the top of my TBR list because I just really enjoy his writing style.