The Interdependency series is a trilogy of scifi books by John Scalzi. The three books came out the past few years, and I recently finished the third installment.
In the distant future, mankind has conquered the stars. A hyperspace-like interdimensional network of passageways called ‘the Flow’ allowed humanity to conquer the stars. Supposedly, humanity originated on a planet called Earth, but they lost almost all knowledge about that time, along with the planet itself. As the series starts, they have lived in a large interstellar empire connected by the Flow for a millennium or more.
The interstellar empire is called the Interdependency, and it is exactly that: a large number of star systems completely dependent on each other. There is but one world where humans can actually walk on a planet surface without a protective suit; End, which is at the ass-end of nowhere. Most of humanity lives on space stations. And those have been designed to need each other’s produce to survive. And at the center is Hub, where a web of Flow streams meet. Hub is also where the spiritual and practical leader of the Interdependency resides: the Emperox.
Cardenia Wu was never supposed to become Emperox. Then her brother died in an accident, and now her father — the current Emperox — is dying too, thrusting her into the center of things as the new Emperox. Meanwhile, a scientist on End discovers something terrible about the Flow…
The books mostly alternate between three characters: Cardenia Wu, Kiva Lagos, and Marce Claremont.
Cardenia, as explained above, is in over her head right from the get-go. She’s a kind person, and was never supposed to end up in the snake pit that is the Interdependency upper crust. As the outsider, she is both relatable to the reader, and since everything is new to her, we learn about the world through her eyes.
Kiva is a ship’s captain, and a very selfish person. She’s somewhere far enough down the line of succession that she can wield influence, but she is by no means in charge. She swears a lot, is promiscuous, but somewhere inside her is a core of good that her peers among the Interdependency royalty lack.
And finally, there’s Marce. He grew up at the ass-end of nowhere, with his father the Count of End. He is a scientist through and through, helping his father unravel the flow and the dangers that are to come. He’s an idealist, and a nerd, but he isn’t stupid.
At the start, the plot feels somewhat fractured, because in the first book there are three different story lines. Of course, we soon understand the connections, and over the course of the first book they come together. The second and third book grow the characters further and explains how they deal with the threats facing the Interdependency from outside and from within.
A Good Read
The three books are each some 300 pages long. For a scifi book, that’s not very long. The Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton, for example, is 4 times that. But that’s part of Scalzi’s style, compact and to the point. However, to his credit, he mostly manages to avoid talking heads syndrome.
I’m a big fan of Scalzi’s blog. That might color my judgement, but I like the Interdependency trilogy. Each book takes a bit to rev up to full speed, then drags you through to the end. Still, the whole trilogy left me somewhat… unfulfilled. The writing is very skillful, but all in all, I missed a certain depth to the story.
A 1,000 page trilogy is not short, but the story follows three different persons along a universe-shattering epic. It’s a lot of ground to cover. Because the story is so tightly focused, I feel it doesn’t go far enough in showing the world. Yes, the story is a good read, but I still felt as if the story was like a stone skipped across the surface of a lake: pretty, but never breaking the surface. It was very polished, but I missed the gritty stuff underneath.
Not that a thousand-page tome like Peter F. Hamilton’s stories is perfect, that is flawed in other ways. But Hamilton takes the time to really paint a picture of every aspect of a science fiction world. Scalzi… less so. We don’t really know the Interdependency at the end of this trilogy. This was less of a problem in books like ‘Old Man’s War’, where the world is much closer to our own and the story is far less epic.
Still, the books are good. I can recommend them to anyone who likes science fiction, especially if you dislike long-winded tales (it took me two tries to get through Hamilton’s first trilogy).