This is a post that I’ve thought about writing since finishing John Scalzi’s second book in his Interdependency series a few months ago. The Consuming Fire is a fine novel with interesting concepts, well developed characters, and a solid drama piece. The story was centered on how the giant sprawling space empire was slowly failing because the interdependency relied on a means of FTL travel that humanity didn’t control called The Flow. The first book was solid too, but the second one did an excellent job of expanding it’s world, pushing the rookie leader of the interdependency into positions she hasn’t had to go into, and making the relationships between these characters deeper. I haven’t felt a need to wait for a book in a while and I can’t wait until the finale is released in 2020. Still, there was one thing that constantly bugged me during its run. The lack of understanding of how to make the story more believable.
The first book that I’ve read from John Scalzi was his famous Red Shirts novel and that was a brilliant book that made fun of the original Star Trek series with a lot of love and solid criticism of plot elements that happened in the tv series. It’s the book that made me very interested in his work. Reading the first Old Man’s War book was the first thing that made me call his writing and world building into question. That scene when the protagonist and friends were being lifted up by a space elevator before being sent into the beyond of space for the plot to begin. How did the space elevator work? No one knew the answer or ever sought an answer for it after the fact. Yes, the technology was completely alien to the people on board that elevator because that was the point. On a thematic level, having protagonists brought into a stranger world through things they know nothing about is a good sign that crazy things are about to happen that go beyond explanation for them. Still, there could have been some technobabble at play to at least attempt to explain it. At least don’t put the former science teacher on that team so that there wouldn’t be someone to at least attempt an explanation. It’s a nit pick, but it’s something that bothers me. This is something that got a little worse as time went on through the series and made it’s way to The Interdependency series too.
What is the most important thing in the Interdependency series? I already said what it is, right? It’s the Flow Network. What is it? It’s that network that allows space ships to travel through space using some kind of technology and it’s changing. How is it changing? We don’t know, but it is. There is talk of equations, flow experts, and flow network prediction changes with some being wrong and some being right, but we don’t know anything about the equations or how they are calculated. There is almost no time dedicated to the explanation of how these equations are discovered or experts calculating how they are formed, only that they exist and are driving the plot forward according to prediction that we have no idea how people ever formed them. Thematically, it all works for what the story needs to accomplish. Very functional and powerful in some ways. No questions or problems there. Knowing about how the flow network works would be nice and add so much to what is going on in the story. We would be able to feel the drama other then “it’s stopping and changing now”. It’s is the central thing in the story after all. A little goes a long way.
Other story attributes and revelations that are handled in a similar sort of way, even if there was a bit of a lead in. I’m not going to spoil it, but the conclusion of the second novel, The Consuming Fire felt a little rushed and out of nowhere in some ways. Another piece of technology that has been prevalent through the whole book series is a room that allows the leader of the interdependency to ask all the past leaders for advice and guidance. In this book, a ship that one of our character’s discovered in another area of space shakes up the entire world that we know of and it seemingly comes out of nowhere. Why is that prevalent? Because it has technology on board that is a later version of what the leader uses to consider their actions. The entire series could have gone without that revelation, so it’s almost unneeded and ground breaking knowledge that didn’t need to exist. Kind of like what Astra tried to do with Polina. Add that and the sudden conclusion when most of the leader’s problems are solved completely out of nowhere and I’m just not happy with how Consuming Fire ended at all. The book’s ending needed more time to cook before being released.
Yes, I know that a lot of this is kind of pointless nitpicking because Scalzi’s books are still great. If anything, they are 4/5 books for me that I can easily recommend to anyone because you can read them in a short amount of time. They are only a little over two hundred pages each and flow (ha) pretty well with decent writing and everything. A little bit of effort would go along way regardless of that. I’m not asking for his books to be hard science fiction that need everything explained including the engines and cores of the ships and such like The Expanse novels (which I need to talk about at some point), but knowing more about the major things the book’s plot are centered on would add so much power and fulfillment to this experience as a whole I think. That glaring flaw just bothers me the more and more I think about these novels. Still like them, but the weak points in Scalzi’s writing really bother me sometimes.
Thank you for indulging my own little bits of insanity with this post. It’s yet another thing that was stuck in my head for a long time before I wrote this post. Next Sunday will be very different and even horror themed to fit with this month. The only undeniable horror thing I’m going to write about for October, the month of horror. I don’t think you would expect this thing though. I didn’t either honestly. Until…tomorrow when I post again.