John Scalzi's Collapsing Empire: an epic new space opera with snark, politics and action to burn

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Regular Boing Boing readers need no introduction to John Scalzi, whose smartass, snappy, funny, action-packed science fiction novels are a treat to read; but new fans and old hands alike will find much to love in The Collapsing Empire, the first volume in a new, epic space-opera series.


I just finished it last night. No spoilers but John Scalzi can write a space opera like now one else as far as I’m concerned.


Well, drat. I’d better move it up the reading list priority. (It’s a Scalzi book; it was automatically on the reading list as soon as I heard of its existence)

The dilemma is that I’m halfway through a Daniel Jose Older audiobook right now – and on top of everything else, he does his own voice acting, and reads his works like free verse poetry. It’s mesmerizing.

For those (like me) who like sprawling galactic space opera, I can’t recommend the Exordium series by Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge highly enough.

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Looking forward to this one, I just got it for my Kindle to add to the list for vacation.
I really liked the Old Man’s War series and Lock In. The latter was my favorite book of the year when I read it.

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Will this or Charlie Stross’ upcoming Space Opera novel make me miss Iain M Banks more? Will there be snarky ship names? Awesome spectacle? Deep thinking? Swift action?

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Already sitting on my reading table, I have thoroughly enjoyed all of John Scalzi’s books I have read. Once I get through Six Wakes (Mur Lafferty), it is next.

I look forward to reading it, despite my mostly inviolable policy of not reading books with ‘first in an epic saga’ as part of their description unless the rest of the damn epic saga has already been written. Scalzi gets an exception, but barely.

It’ll just make you miss Iain Banks more. It’s a super quick read, and like others have said, it’s just a setup for the next ten novels in the series, which is always disappointing.

Uh…probably not… maybe.
Daniel H. Wilsons new one though is up next.

I liked the Old Man’s War series, for the most part.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say Lock In was the best book I’d read all year, but it was damned interesting. It was set in this world where a worldwide meningitis pandemic had given about 1% of the population Locked In Syndrome, and affected some more in a way I can’t describe without spoilering the whole book. Instead of the book being about this world, it used the world as a conduit for a mystery story with interesting philosophical implications and strong tie-ins to Disability culture. It was this book that really introduced me to Scalzi, and is still one of my favorite of his books.

Yes, this is one of the reasons I liked it so much - mystery is my normal genre (which casts a wide and varied net) by people like James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, T Jefferson Parker, Carl Hiaasen, Lawrence Block, etc…
I think he did a first rate job of writing someting that could be considered an excellent mystery, yet was a “near future” scifi kind of thing, too…
Plus, it was overall a great story with good characters and I found little fault with it in general.

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I love Scalzi but he or his publisher has decided the Kindle version of the book is $13 which is only a couple of dollars less than the physical hardbound with two day delivery delivery so no thanks until sanity returns to the ebook price.

At least one other of his books is actually priced more for the Kindle edition than for the physical edition which is obscene.

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I’m not a huge fan of “space empire” books, even ones where they are ostensibly collapsing, but this was highly readable, breezy, and a pleasant read for high-functioning tweens on up.

You definitely get the sense of “more to come” throughout the book, in that this is clearly “first in a series”, but overall it didn’t wow me nearly as much as some of his other stuff.

Worth a read, though possibly not an immediate read.

I’ll put it on the request list for my library. They tend to order them right away, which is nice.

Do we really have to have the whole “materials are a minor proportion of the book’s production costs” conversation again? I’m pretty sure Cory posted that breakdown on bb at least once.

And at what point do you feel I mentioned anything about cost of materials? I said I find the book excessively expensive, that is a statement of personal opinion and not arguable any more than if I said “I don’t like strawberry ice cream”…

With respect, Mr. Doctorow is not a god who issues divine fiats that may not be argued with. He has his opinion on things and I have mine.

Cost of production does matter and the costs for an e-book are minimal compared to a physical book, storage costs even less so and transportation costs are nil.

If these things were not relevant than paperback books would not cost significantly less than hardbound…(And as one may easily note, sell in far higher numbers as a rule, likely bringing more cash to the author.)

My original statement stands on its own though: I find the cost of this book excessive in the format I prefer and some others are outrageous in charging more for the electronic book than a physical copy. Thus I shall wait until it comes down or do without. This is how the market works.

I can see an e-book selling at close to par for a paperback since publishers fear cannibalizing their traditional markets, but when it approaches the cost of a hardbound, nope, not happening.

Publishers seem to be getting greedy. No surprise of course as that is also how the market works. They make their choice and I make mine. If an author does not price their product at a price I wish to pay, I do not buy. These things work themselves out over time if left alone.

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You said you find the ebook cost excessive while expressly comparing it to the hardback. I eagerly await your list of qualities that distinguish the two and are not the material embodiment of the artefact – and that you, presumably, feel make the ebook version inferior, since you’re not prepared to pay the same amount for it.

I don’t recall saying anything about Cory Doctorow’s words being divine truth, so by all means feel free to argue with him. Or with the NYT, who actually pulled together the numbers.
Of course, those are based on a $26 cover price for the hardcover, and seeing how Amazon is offering the hardcover at $15.45… If anything, you should be amazed at the low price of the hardcover, not decrying the high price of the ebook.

You certainly have the freedom to buy or not buy a book in your preferred format, at your preferred price. What you don’t get to have is your own reality in which I said that the cost of production did not contribute to the cost of physical books.

What I did say was that the cost of materials accounted for a minor proportion of the total production cost of a book. If you want to argue with that statement, please bring along some numbers to support your position.

As far as this pricing structure being outrageous, though… Consider this for a moment: If the book was offered only in ebook form, would you still be outraged over the price?

Price anchoring is a real thing. Just as you’re outraged because your preferred format is too close to the hardback, which is perceived as being more of a luxury, people whose preferred format is the hardback are being subtly encouraged to buy because of how inexpensive that format is, compared to the ebook. And since physical books are taking back market share

Hardbacks, and ebooks that are a similar price, aren’t priced high because they cost a lot to manufacture, it’s because that is the price the market will bare.
Right now, fans will quite happily pay £10 for an ebook of Collapsing Empire because they’d like to read it right now. In a few months, the paperback will come out, at a lower price, and the ebook will probably drop to a similar price. Down the road the ebook will probably get discounted more, maybe even down to “free when you buy book two for £15”.

As far as costs go, the cost to the publisher for the hardback is only around 10% on top of the price for the ebook version, most of the production costs are things like copy-editing and administration (and paying the writer) which are common to all formats of the book.

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