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Book review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency, #1)The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good science fiction is a joy forever. John Scalzi writes good SF.

In this first installment of a new series, humanity has spread across the cosmos, and each world is united with all others under a single umbrella called The Interdependency. Interstellar travel and the spread of humanity was made possible by the discovery of a force known as The Flow, accessible at designated points in space-time. The Flow changes and shifts, opening up new areas of the universe and, occasionally, cutting off others.

The Flow is currently in a period of flux, and this fluctuation seems to be more volatile than other previous shifts. In fact, it seems that The Flow may disappear entirely within a very short time, thus leading to the collapse of the empire of the title.

The house of the Emperox, the leader of the Interdepency, is also in flux.  The Emperox died suddenly and his daughter, the new Emperox, was not quite prepared to be thrust into leadership so soon.  That, and the expected Flow catastrophe, makes for an uneasy start to her rule.  As you may have anticipated, all the uncertainty leads to much political maneuvering — read that as plotting and backstabbing — among the rest of the ruling houses of The Interdependency.

So, politics, impending doom, human foibles, space travel, and lots of foul language. Vintage Scalzi. I can hardly wait for the next volume.

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Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

William Dodd, a history professor, was appointed as Ambassador to Germany in 1933, when Adolf Hitler was Chancellor under Hindenburg. In 1934, after Hindenburg’s death, Hitler became the head of state and began a systematic implementation of his plan to rid Germany of its “undesirables”. And Dodd began sounding warning bells.

Sadly, those warnings were unheeded, and even resented, by State Department bureaucrats in Washington. A particular cadre within the State Department was determined to undermine Dodd at every turn. His reports on Hitler’s actions and worsening conditions for German Jews were minimized and dismissed.

One can only wonder if the 20th century might have been less bloody had someone, anyone, taken Ambassador Dodd’s reports seriously.

It was strange and disturbing to read this while living through the 2016 Republican race for the Presidential nomination. While Hitler was already in a position of power and Trump,, were only jockeying for one, the parallels were more than a little unsettling.

By the way, Erik Larson spent a great deal of time on Martha, Ambassador Dodd’s daughter. While her exploits were marginally interesting, I ultimately didn’t care who she married, how many people she slept with, or what her political views were. To me, the real story lay with Dodd, Hitler’s government, and the U.S. diplomatic corp. Larson apparently didn’t think that story had enough meat in it. Or enough sex. Thus: Martha. And three stars. Because Martha. *yawn*

So, other than the Martha digressions, this is an excellent book, well-written and documented.

Oh, and it didn’t really take me five weeks to read this book. I had to put it down for most of the month of February because I was doing a play — rehearsals and performances took all of my reading time. Once I had the time, I was done in about four days.

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