cover image The Consuming Fire

The Consuming Fire

John Scalzi. Tor, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8897-1

Scalzi makes good use of the setting and characters established in The Collapsing Empire for a space opera sequel centered on the battle for control of the interstellar Interdependency. The ruling House of Wu clashes with the ambitious Nohamapetan family in the face of undeniable evidence of changing physics that could isolate whole worlds: the Flow, the naturally occurring interstellar travel network that forms the empire’s infrastructure, is collapsing. Wildcard Emperinox Grayland II claims to have religious visions as part of her calculated attempt to save humankind. Scalzi’s key players remain individually distinctive and delightfully outrageous in their interactions without becoming caricatured. A section about the exploration of a newly reaccessible world falls into a tired mode as old computers reboot and a meeting with a degraded remnant of the population feels like alien first contact, but the story brightens again when the shipbound avatar of an old king breezes in to do historical exposition. This novel sits perfectly in its second-book role, leaving the reader deeply invested in the developing story, with plenty left to tell. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Literary. (Oct.)