Tor | 2020 (16 April) | 320p | Review copy | Buy the book
The Last Emperox concludes John Scalzi’s clever, witty and thoroughly entertaining space opera trilogy, the Interdependency. Under no circumstances should you read this final book without having read the other two first – The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire. If you haven’t read them yet, you’re in for an absolute treat. This review assumes you’ve already had the pleasure.
The Flows that connect the planets and space habitats of the Interdependency are closer than ever to failing. All hope lies at End, the only planet among all of them that can actually sustain human life. But there’s a very real problem, quite apart from getting everyone there in the first place and in time, which is in real doubt, and that is that transporting billions of people to one small planet will doom it every bit as much as all of the other planets. It’s a huge dilemma for the Emperox Grayland II and it doesn’t make matters any easier that her very life is in peril as assassination attempt after assassination attempt fails, but only just, and for how long? The great families of the Interdependency are fighting for power but they’re also fighting for their survival, which makes them even nastier than normal. The Emperox knows from where the greatest danger threatens. She must play her own game to outwit her rival and keep the hopes of humanity alive. But the Emperox has one advantage and she is called Kiva Lagos.
It’s hard to imagine a more entertaining and plot-filled space opera trilogy than this one. There is so much going on! The world building is superb and played out against it is the incredible story of a federation of planets that is facing its demise, and soon. As time runs out there is a scramble amongst the most powerful while the Emperox, a thoroughly intriguing and likeable, conflicted figure, must try and deal with the ethics of it all, which means confronting her own ancestors in the enigmatic ‘Memory Room’. By this stage of the trilogy, masks have largely been dropped and the true nature of the main characters revealed. Many of them aren’t pretty but they’re certainly entertaining.
Favourites have to be the foul-mouthed Kiva Lagos and the appallingly ruthless Nadashe. Both women are scene stealers and huge amounts of fun to read. They are worthy opponents and the reader can expect surprises along the way. Jaw-dropping moments can be found in abundance among these pages. But we also see characters ‘outside the office’, in their relationships, and this adds something human to this story of the approaching apocalypse.
The Last Emperox is packed with action and intrigue. The pace doesn’t let up for a moment. But what makes this book, and the trilogy, stand out is the genius of John Scalzi’s imagination, writing skill and wit. There is so much to resolve in this novel but it’s all pulled together so cleverly and with sharp humour. I loved the Prologue, which reminds us of previous events in such an original and funny way. Some characters are almost like clowns, such as the Acting Duke of End, and we can’t wait to see them get a custard pie in the face. The idea of The Flow is fabulous, as is the backhistory of the Interdependency, which we learn through the Emperox’s encounters with her ancestors.
I have loved every book by John Scalzi I’ve read (I urge you all to read Lock In and Head On) and The Last Emperox is no exception. Now that the trilogy is done, I can’t wait to see where he takes us next!