BOOK CLUB: The Last Emperox

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(Book 3 of the Interdependency series)

Author: John Scalzi
ISBN: 978-1509835355
Copy courtesy of Pan MacMillan


“The Last Emperox” is the third in the Interdependency series, and that’s its major weakness. This is not a novel that stands particularly well by itself – although the story is easy enough to follow, I found very little emotional engagement for a reader coming to it without having read the earlier installments.

Scalzi made his name as a writer of military fiction, with a heavy debt to writers such as Robert Heinlein. Here he has moved away from military fiction – this is more focused on politics – but his early influences are still evident. It’s partly about the tone he adopts, and the detailed explanations, but is also about the astonishingly accomplished female characters who are multi-skilled, multi-talented, sexually open, and seemingly impossible to repress.

The Interdependency is a sprawling human empire that encompasses many star systems. The empire has specifically been developed so that the star systems are interdependent – none can survive without the others. Each has resources that the others lack. This deliberately fostered interdependency is based on the use of Flow streams, which enable space ships to travel between systems in weeks or months rather than decades or centuries.

But now the Flow streams are beginning to collapse. And the experts are saying that there’s no way to stop it, or to establish new streams. Soon these interdependent systems will be alone. Emperox Grayland II is faced with the most basic, terrifying task of all: saving humanity.

Which you might think would be everyone else’s priority too, but no. The jockeying, politicking, and outright dirty tricks (see assassination) as individuals try to wrest the throne from Grayland are incessant. And not all the noble houses are interested in saving their people: some just want to save themselves.

There’s a lot of exposition in this novel – a surprising amount, actually, as you’d think a fair bit would have been gotten out of the way in the first two novels. I found this something of a weakness for the novel. The action is entertaining and interesting, but there’s not a lot of it, and sometimes the novel felt like a series of lectures rather than a story.

When the action kicks in, though, this is really enjoyable. The characters are vivid, there’s some smart arse humor, and things move fast. It’s a shame the balance of the novel doesn’t lean towards more of this.

I hadn’t read the previous two novels, and as a new reader I found the amount of exposition also made it hard to engage with the characters. For much of the novel I felt I was observing what they were doing, as the narrator expounded, without being emotionally immersed in it.

The major characters are all female. The only exception, really, is Grayland’s lover. While there are certainly other males in the novel, none really felt like major characters. The women are universally intelligent, have sex with multiple partners without a second thought, and are very very good at a surprising array of things. While it’s a pleasure to see women depicted so positively, and taking centre stage, I did feel that many were rather one dimensional. Their weaknesses are minor and easily surmountable, and none seem to suffer much in the way of self doubt. It made it a little hard to relate to them.

This is a thoughtful novel, and one that is better planned than some of Scalzi’s earlier novels. It’s got a clear plot line and a clear end goal, and the novel has a sense that it’s building towards a climax for both this novel and the series. There’s some serious thought given to how people behave in a crisis, both selfishly and selflessly, and the costs of those behaviours.

The plot was easy to pick up, despite being the third in a trilogy. Certainly, I felt at times that I was missing some nuances or details, but it wasn’t difficult to understand what was happening and why. This is probably in part due to the amount of exposition; I had a sense that some things were being repeated.

“The Last Emperox” is a novel that will be really appreciated by a certain audience, and will probably repel a good many people not in that audience. If you don’t like science fiction, extensive exposition, or obscenities, this is really truly not the novel for you. This is a decent science fiction novel, which will please many of Scalzi’s fans, and indeed many science fiction readers who are yet to discover Scalzi. But I would recommend starting with volume one.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading “The Last Emperox” by John Scalzi. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

5 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Last Emperox

  1. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi, and published by Pan Macmillan is the final book in the three book Interdependency Series. A series set well into the future, in a galaxy far, far away… and Yes I did see ‘Star Wars’ overtones, with the empire spanning multiple star systems; the desperate fight to save civilisation against impossible odds; and the power struggles/assassinations and plots between the wealthy Houses whose families control all the economic trade between the star systems.

    The reigning Emperox’s rule is tenuous at best. She has already survived one murderous coup, and there are still more plots afoot. However added to this, Cardenia Wu-Patrick, also known as Emperox Grayland II, must also find a way to stop a complete disaster. The pathways that link the star systems together, and support life across the Empire – the Flow- are collapsing. It is up to Emperox Grayland, her scientist lover Marce, aided by artificial intelligence beings, and the indomitable Lady Kiva to save humanity!

    I had not read the previous two books in the Interdependency Series, and found it took me a little while to work out what had gone on before. While at first confusing, there are enough recaps and remembrances by the various characters to be able to piece it all together. There is also a lot of discourse and explanations throughout the book to allow you to piece together ‘the science’. What is less easy is understanding all the many political allegiances, histories and relationships between the characters and their competing ruling Houses. Perhaps for the same reason I found it hard to emotionally engage with any of the characters.

    This was certainly an action packed read with lots of poltical intrigue. However although I did enjoy it I found it a little ‘over done’ and cumbersome in parts, and the characters although spirited were a tad one dimensional.

  2. The Last Emperox is the first book I’ve seen by John Scalzi and I won’t be looking for any more.

    It is a great shame that the brief description in the selections didn’t mention that this was a Science Fiction novel. The missing and possibly most important detail meant that people like me, who would never willingly pick up a science fiction book got it as a selection, people who would have devoured the book as lovers of science fiction missed out because they didn’t realise what it was, not a lovely fantasy.

    It is a conclusion to Scalzi’s Interdependency Series, with two other books before this. I don’t have any idea whether it would have been helpful to read the first two, only science fiction devotees could answer that.

    As someone who can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my hands, someone who reads and loves reading, this book was totally wasted on me. It would be almost unfair to give it a rating and I’m really sorry it wasn’t more clearly defined in the selections so people who would really appreciate it as a science fiction novel may have missed out. I’m looking forward to my next read which will be much lighter with fewer profanities that leaves me calmer, not stressed and defeated.

  3. The Last Emperor by John Scalzii is book 3 of The Inderdependency Series and published by Pan Macmillan.
    Admittedly I struggled to complete this book to review. I felt lost unable to quite grasp if it was because I had not read the previous 2 books in the series or because I was unable to relate to any of the main characters. I was surprised by the strong, dominant female main characters of Emperox Grayland II (Cardenia), Kiva Lagos and Nadashe, but unfortunately I found them slightly 1 dimensional. But then again the dedication at the start of the novel may have given me a hint “To the women who are done with other people’s shit”.
    I have previously enjoyed many sci-fi genre books but unfortunately could not appreciate this offering. Thank you though Beauty and Lace Bookclub and Pan Macmillan publishing for the opportunity to read The Last Emperox by John Scalzii.

  4. I was a little concerned starting this book given that it was the third book in the series and many authors are not great at bringing you up to speed with what has previously happened. I was however pleasantly surprised when in the first chapter I felt really comfortable with who the characters were, what the situation/story was, and was then ready to explore the politics, murder and chaos of the paths between solar systems collapsing.

    Whilst I am a huge sci-fi fan, once the summary was over, I felt like I was going through the motions. There was little further exploration into the characters (than the summary) and as I read I became less interested in their situation and was not upset when some of them were killed. Sadly, this book had the potential to pull you in, and hold you, gripped to the last page but failed to reel you in. I really wanted to like this book but found it challenging to stay focused, rather thinking of other books that I could read instead.

  5. Having not read the previous books, I quickly found this a bit of a struggle to grasp. I began each chapter trying to take it all in and felt like it was a bit of a chore, but to be honest, by the end of each chapter I was enthralled.
    Not something I would usually chose to read, but I stuck with it. Really would recommend reading the first two books before trying to dive in here though, as for me it is definitely not a stand alone read.

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