BOOK REVIEW: Jon Mollison on The Corroding Empire

Thursday , 23, March 2017 9 Comments

Jon Mollison has the lowdown on Castalia House’s latest monster hit:

The Amazon blurb brags that, “Kalsi shows himself to be more Asimovian than Asimov himself.”

I wouldn’t go quite that far.  The Corroding Empire fails as an Asimov pastiche (tribute?) in a few ways.  It features a long string of characters who are well rounded and relatable.  It doesn’t contain a strong undercurrent of smug superiority over the poor, benighted hoi polloi.  It doesn’t make a case that the world would be a better place if only the poor, benighted hoi polloi would turn their every decision process over to the technocrats who really do know better than they what’s best for them.
What it does contain are seventeen short stories and vignettes that document the long, slow, slide of a galactic empire into chaos as a small coding error multiplies and ripples out through the vast, interconnected networks that control everything in the galaxy.  Some of the stories are simple character studies.  Some are rip-snorting action.  Some consist mainly of people standing around talking.  You know, about science-stuff.
Even better, it’s not about impartial technocrats willing to allow trillions to suffer NOW because it will make life better for people 900 years from now.  Instead, it’s the stories of those who fight and struggle to make life better for the people suffering through the long, slow decline.  Even if they cannot fix the galaxy, they still do everything they can to fix their own little corner of it, to hold the threads of civilization together for just a little while longer.
And in that way, this isn’t Asimov.  It’s something far better.

Read the whole thing!

  • deuce says:

    “And in that way, this isn’t Asimov. It’s something far better.”

    What it sounds like, to use one of Azzy’s far superior contemporaries as a benchmark, is FOUNDATION as written by Poul Anderson. Not bland and bloodless, but passionate and determined. Not arrogantly technocratic, but red-bloodedly heroic.

    Perhaps “Kalsi” should just rewrite all the main books in Asimov’s canon. That might be worth reading.

    • Carrington Dixon says:

      “FOUNDATION as written by Poul Anderson.”

      Domnic Flandry, anyone?

    • deuce says:

      But, of course. That said, Poul was doing his own thing. It’d be cool to have actual rewrites/reimaginings of Azzy’s stuff just to say, “Don’t waste your time. Read this instead. Same thing, but better.”

      I was only being half-serious. I was thinking of it as methadone for the hopeless Azzy addicts.

  • John E. Boyle says:

    Anyone who can write like Poul Anderson should be writing their own stuff, but if this “Kalsi” person can write anywhere near that good, I’m onboard with them rewriting Asimov.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    Welp, so goes out the window my secret theory that Jon Mollison is Johan Kalsi.

    One thing I did notice at amazon is that both Scalzi’s and Kalsi’s books do not have one Asimov book, Foundation or otherwise, listed under “Customers who bought this item also bought”.

    Contrast that with the “Customers who bought this item also bought” list of say Jeffro’s Appendix N which has books by Paul Anderson, Jack Vance, Robert E Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    I don’t have the words to describe what that means…

    But it goes something like this:

    “Bla bla Pulp Revolution something something regress more words here if you write it you will be able to own a town or buy a mountain because the human heart has not changed in 100 years.”*

    *This ain’t snark. I really do not have the words for it. Or at least the words to convince people that something incredible is right here to be taken and emulated.

    • keith says:

      Appendix N thing is great and encouraging, folks are actually going on and reading the authors and works in question, instead of just reading ABOUT them for teh hip online erudition mang.
      Scalzi thing is business as usual.

  • JonM says:

    It’s interesting the things you notice when you actually *read the book you’re reviewing*.

    Hey now, Hooc, that’s quite the compliment. I’ll take being mistaken for Johan Kalsi any day – dude’s got some serious writing chops. But honestly, I’m not smart enough to create the subtle threads that run through the book – I’m barely smart enough to follow them. I kinda wish I’d read this for the Puppy of the Month Book Club so Nate and Frisky could have explained more of it to me.

  • Jesse Lucas says:

    No way Kalsi is one person. The shifts are too sudden. Everyone was in on this, probably including some friends of Vox that are in this on the DL. I suspect Wright or VD did all of the first part.

  • keith says:

    SJW tears. They are even more delicious than usual.

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