Lighting finally struck for me this weekend. Anyone who’s been reading along with me these last few months has noticed that I’ve reviewed 4 of John Scalzi’s books:
“Old Man’s War”
“The Ghost Brigades”
and “The Collapsing Empire”
Scalzi has always been a bit of a conundrum for me. I’ve generally found his books to be entertaining but I haven’t been nearly the fan that so many seem to be. The first three of the books listed above – at least for me – fell squarely in the mediocre to good category – a tick above average – despite the fact that “Old Man’s War” was nominated for a Hugo and “Redshirts” won both a Hugo and a Locus award for best science fiction. I enjoy him – his books have just never impacted me in the same way that they so obviously have so many others.
I actually enjoyed “The Collapsing Empire” more than the first three. I found the world to be extremely well-conceived and he gave me one of my stand-out favorite characters in Kiva Lagos. I had some quibbles with the book but they were minor. Overall, it was a very fun read that I strongly recommended.
Here’s where the lightning comes in. I read “The Consuming Fire” and – for the very first time – I’ve found a Scalzi book that I enjoyed in a completely unconditional way. The world develops in such a way as to become even more interesting. The Emperox matures and becomes a far more interesting character – growing into her power and position. There’s a truly entertaining encounter with a new AI / Hologram personality that I found to be a great addition and that left me wanting more in future volumes. Most importantly, there was – again – a solid helping of Kiva Lagos – who was every bit as powerful, fascinating and lovable in a very intimidating and kick*ss way as she was in the 1st book. She continues to be one of the most enjoyable new characters I’ve come across this year. Most importantly, Scalzi builds up to and delivers a wonderful climax in this book where the good guys dominate, all the bad guys get served and a great platform is built for future installments. Thank you John Scalzi – for finally giving me a book that I really loved. From now on – I’m all in.
As I was reading the book and thinking about this review, I considered putting in a minor quibble about the fact that so many of the characters were just so witty in their banter that the personalities seemed to blend together a bit but I’m not even going to go there. I ultimately decided that it would be a bit petty to throw out a minor, technical criticism of an aspect of the book that I really, truly enjoyed. I just wound up letting go and giving myself permission to appreciate Scalzi’s humor the way it deserves to be appreciated. There were just too many conversations in the book that left me chuckling. It was good fun.
I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you liked or loved “The Collapsing Empire” or just love Scalzi in general, you’re going to love this book. Of those I’ve read, this one is far and away his best. I’m with Kiva on this one: “F**cking best party ever!”.
Very Best Wishes For A Great Week
PS: I feel like I’m on a bit of a roll here – three great reading experiences in the last two weeks – “Port Of Shadows” by Glen Cook, Uncompromising Honor” by David Weber and now “The Consuming Fire” by John Scalzi. All have been great reads that I’d highly recommend. I’ve also managed to finish “The Accidental War” By Walter Jon Williams and I’m in the middle of Steven Erikson’s “Rejoice: A Knife To The Heart” – which I hope to finish early in the week. Keep an eye out for reviews of both this week. “Rejoice” in particular is quite unique and different from anything I’ve ever read by Steven Erikson.
PPS: I may have made a HUUUGE mistake last weekend. I’ve mentioned several times in these posts that one of the changes in my routine over the course of the past year that’s freed up so much reading and writing time has been a conscious decision to step away from computer gaming. It was a great choice and I’ve gotten through more books in the last 9 months than I had been reading in twice that time during preceding years. Here’s the mistake – my son was home for Fall Break last weekend and we spent time talking about gaming – a hobby we’ve always shared. It spurred me to look through some Steam titles that I’d been ignoring for awhile and – on a lark – I decided to download Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). I went there because I’d been an enormous fan of Skyrim – I don’t even want to think about how many hours I put into that one – an open world game that in many ways served as the inspiration for ESO. Very sad to say that it’s just a beautiful, immersive game that I’m going to have to spend some time with – which means that I’ll be doubling down on time management in order to now serve three loves instead of just two. Wish me luck!!