Stranger Days #42: The Trilogy We Deserve

A chalk board with scrabble tiles that spell out Stranger Days.
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

I know, I'm still on a book-kick but I can't help it. So many good things to discuss.  I just finished The Last Emperoux by John Scalzi, a sci-fi writer who I first encountered when I read Red Shirts.  This satire of Star Trek, embraces the trope of Red Shirts, characters who are created specifically in stories (particularly space-traveling sci-fi) to be the sacrificial lambs and die to move the plot forward.  It's here that I found Scalzi is such a delight to read.  

But that's not the book I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about not just A book, but an entire trilogy that he just finished. The Interdependency.  I just listened to and will be reviewing The Last Emperox, the third book.  But I'm not going to talk a lot about the plot or the narration.  Rather I want to talk about the elements within the novel that are most resonating with me as the book concludes.  

The basic premise of the trilogy:  It's thousands of years in the future; Earth is but a fading memory. The Interdependency is numerous planets connected by a series of "tunnels" in space (named "The Flow") that cut down travel from one planet to another from years or decades to days. However, most planets in the Interdependency do not live on hospitable planets but in enclosed spaces on planets. Each planet has something work creating and contributing to the existence of other planets so trade and a reasonable peace exists--largely held together by the aristocratic class of merchants who gain control of entire products and processes across systems.  As the name suggests, the planets are interdependent upon each other but also upon the Flow.  Unfortunately, the Flow is breaking down and no one is really listening nor willing to do anything about it.  All of this is backdrop to the arrival of a new and unexpected Emperox (their name for emperors).   

That's the premise, what this leaves out is Scalzi's skill at the ridiculousness. If you are ever looking for really good insults, skillful swearing, or twisted ideas for revenge, read a chapter or two in any of this trilogy and you'll find something.  That is, Scalzi writes with a hilarious flourish that makes it not just an interesting but a laugh-out-loud series. There's an element to his writing that makes me think of Douglas Adams (another reason why I wanted to talk about Scalzi for this post is to make that Adams cross-reference since this is my 42ND POST).   

Ok, so why all this talk of this trilogy.  What stands out?

The Aristocratic Merchant Class
While there is an Emperox, there is a ruling aristocracy that is constantly wheeling and dealing in order to squeeze out more profits from every corner of the universe and using every legal (and many illegal) angle possible.  They occupy both political and business positions, using their clout in both domains to increase their wealth and exploit others.  
The Pettiness of Elites
When they're not hoarding wealth, they are engaged in petty squabbles or enacting opportunities to insult, humiliate, or even kill people whom they feel have done them some imagined harm.  In this case, there's an element here that so strongly reflects President Trump and his childish antics to go after people that disagree with him.

The Ignoring of Science
The collapse of the Flow is largely rejected or disregarded until it can no longer be debated; yet even then, the concern becomes how to best profit from the impending destruction of society rather than how to resolve the problem. An easy parallel here can be seen with regards to climate change and the stalemate between the science and the monied interests.  

The Increasing Disconnect
Towards the latter part of the trilogy, when different parts of the Flow are collapsing, different parts of the Interdependency find themselves cut off from one another and it becomes increasingly hard to get from here to there. The disconnection disrupts systems, communications, and relationships. And it's this increasing alienation that resonates most strongly with me at the moment. This idea that we have been disconnected from the network of life interactions to which we have always been familiar with is the fulcrum upon which I feel the trilogy captures the current moment in our world.  

So if you are looking for an enjoyable, amusing, and resonant trilogy to enjoy, take a look at Scalzi.  

What other stories are you engaged with that you feel capture or resonate with the pandemic?

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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