The Last Emperox Spoiler-Filled Discussion Post (WARNING: Spoilers!)

Now that The Last Emperox has been out for a full week, I think it’s time to open up a place for people who have read the book to be able to discuss it without worrying that they will spoil the plot points for others, so for the next few days at least I will keep this post’s comments open for people to talk about the events of the book amongst themselves.

BUT BEWARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET READ THE BOOK, because the comment thread to this post will be allowed to have spoilers! Spoilers galore! Don’t read it unless you’re willing to have the events of the book revealed to you. You have been warned! Repeatedly!

Okay, folks, get to it in the comments.

83 Comments on “The Last Emperox Spoiler-Filled Discussion Post (WARNING: Spoilers!)”


    This comment thread is likely to have spoilers.

    Do not complain about it having spoilers.

    You have been told it will have them.


    So there.

  2. I’d love to hear your explanation for your choices in the last third of the book. Can you explain the logic behind how you handled the death of Greyland in particular?

  3. That last not-exactly-headfake was harsh man.Was really hoping for Cardenia and Marce heading for Earth together, yaknow.

    Love the book as a whole, but that… eh, I’m a sucker these days for happy endings, we need more IMHO. Especially when lately we don’t exactly have them.

  4. Hi Mr S! First off, would have loved to see you in person at the book tour this year. I’ve made the trip several times and its always great to see one’s favorite author (and get a book signed). Understandably, that wasn’t gonna happen this time around, but the virtual book tour is fun too.

    Loved your latest book! I won’t be the first to spoil anything, but seriously, when I read what you’d done with Kiva I yelled so loudly with unadulteraded joy I probably set of a car alarm outside. Great great finish to the trilogy. Aaaand….you did leave the door open to re-enter that universe! udos to Wil Wheaton too… his narration is amazingly fun.

    Thanks for the stories. They never cease to entertain.

  5. I was thinking the end of Greyland the 2nd’s life you could have gone in so many different directions. I was thinking that you might have had Mars taken on the same kind of persona as Greyland II in a machine as a way to have them be together forever and yet I did love the ways it ended. Didn’t expect to see Kiva Lagos as the Last Emperox but that could almost be the next trilogy exploring the flow shoals with Kiva Lagos. Thanks for another fun ride into your mind of possibilities.

  6. I really kinda hate that Cardenia solved her problems by killing herself. I realize that she uploaded her mind to the memory room, and so in a way didn’t die, but she did. The closed casket had me really hoping she faked her death so she could live happily ever after under a new identity, maybe running away to Earth or something, and leaving a copy of herself behind to take care of the evacuation. But suicide as a solution to her problems is problematic.

  7. John H:

    You posted the question twice and I assume the second version is the preferred version, so I got rid of the first version.

    The explanation: I thought it was more effective for the story that way.

    (This will, incidentally, be the answer to most story-based questions.)

    I should also note that while I’m happy to answer questions, mostly this thread is designed to let other people chat amongst themselves about the book. Most answers I provide at this point will likely be unsatisfyingly vague.


    I understand that not everyone will be 100% happy with my story choices and am fine with that.

  8. I was really pissed when Lady Kiva got shot in the face. I actually used her favorite word out loud.

  9. Sorry I don’t quite know how to spell the names of the characters as I listen to the books with Wil Wheaton and haven’t until this time bought the hard cover, yet it hasn’t arrived yet, probably virally delayed.

  10. Liked the book a lot, and think the trilogy works better as a whole than any of the single volumes did alone.

    I’ll add my voice to those who found Cardenia‘a death somewhat unsatisfying. With all the options available to her I can’t see how it solved any of her problems better than alternatives would have. It certainly won’t remove those problems for Kiva. But it’s a very small fly in an otherwise excellent soup.

  11. I have to admit I was shocked and saddened when IT HAPPENED, but with the benefit of a week’s hindsight, I can better understand (and mostly agree with) Cardenia’s choice. Honestly, given the enormous social and political complications of the situation (and Cardenia’s determination to save as many people as possible), it does seem to be the course of action with the highest probability of success.

    Another Scalzi home run. And I really, really, really would love to see Kiva’s (undoubtedly unique) solutions to the challenges she will face in the future.

  12. Usually, when books change POV characters with each chapter, there are one or two characters whose chapters just feel like filler. Occasionally, there are books like the “Expanse” series where each new chapter makes me think, “Cool! I wanted to know what happened next for this character!” The Interdependency series does this for me too. Even Grenny’s chapters. He’s a prick, but at least I could pretty much count on him always being unhappy with how things were going for him.
    I just finished listening to the audiobook, and of course Wil did an excellent job. I especially loved Chenovert, greatly due to Wil’s performance.
    I know that there are no more planned books in this universe at this point, but short stories of the continuing adventures of Marce and Chenovert would be a great spin off.

  13. Well my hope is that like Douglas Adams shows us the way , a good trilogy is made up of a minimum of five books. Apart from a a possible sequel to Earth I would love to go to End a few centuries later.

  14. Was it a “death” though? I took it more as an ascension.

    Yes, very sad that Marce and Cardenia can’t be together physically, but the book has another example of a close relationship between the two different… um, modes/ Species? With Chenevert and Marce. It won’t be a sexual relationship anymore, but Marce and Cardenia can/will still be close.

    That was a good plot twist, but it didn’t startle me as much as another twist which revealed something about the Memory Room.

  15. My reactions, in order:
    Then uncontrolled giggling during the jail break.

    Only disappointment was that I gobbled it in two sessions. Wanted to make it last.

  16. I love the series, but honestly I was hoping for a bit more from the final book. The wrap up of what happened on End seemed like kind of a deus ex machina. But…

    I trust that you held to your own authorial vision, and that’s what I want you to do. I’ve consumed almost every one of your books on Audible over the past few years, and I eagerly await your next book — and ideally, the next 20 books. So maybe, just maybe, I missed the point and the ending-on-End was what it was supposed to be. Would you care to comment?

  17. It seemed implausible to me that the Memory Room had the hardware / capacity for a second personality. We learned earlier in the book that all of the other emperoxes weren’t there as personalities, they were just emulated by Rachela. But the implication at the end is that Cardenia’s own personality is there alongside Rachela’s. And we know from discussions that creation of that capacity is hugely expensive and, one assumes, time consuming. The idea that the Memory Room could have accommodated Cardenia so quickly was a stumbler for me.

  18. I would love to see the story continue with the story of Marce return to Earth. Also, Kiva is great. Let her spin off into another series. Now get to work Scalzi and quit resting on your laurels. Its been 7 days, what have you done for me lately!

  19. Another mourner here, though I knew from her introduction in book 1 that Cardenia was doomed. It all fit, and it wasn’t a suicide, just the latest in a series of assassination attempts. I was surprised at how much grief I felt for this character, and sympathy for Marce, who did have the consolation of his work, but still. As I write about it I feel it again. Interesting with Kiva that she softened with the experience of true love–a little bit similar to the Brianna character towards the end of “Grace and Frankie”. Kiva was not my favorite character but as I reread the series prior to receiving my preordered, shipped copy of the Last, I found her a little more interesting and intelligible than the first time. Cardenia/Grayland II along with Marce, was even more attractive to me this time. One thing I find, rereading these books, and the others by our host, is that most of my questions are answered in the text. As one’s emotional response changes over time, points are clarified, characters become clearer, etc. So I’m hoping the next time I read this series, knowing what I know, the fatalistic stuff about being doomed will make more sense to me. In the meanwhile, to buck myself up, I’ve read Robert W. Chambers, 1908, Some Ladies in Haste, very silly, with happy endings all round. The Green Mouse, one of his best, is available on Project Gutenberg.

  20. Loved that Kiva ended up being the titular Last Emperox, and loved her arc overall from eminently self-serving, to self-aware and self-serving. Her discomfort with the whole monogamy thing was fun to read, too.

    Like many others so far (and my wife), I found Cardenia’s death to be unsatisfying from a story perspective, although I didn’t find it problematic in the same way as @patintheworld did. I read this as a willing self-sacrifice in the face of very limited options (and by extension, a commentary on the limits of power–even nearly absolute power), rather than a capitulation to despair. Her breakdown in the Memory Room really underscores that for me. She’s not despairing of life, she’s grieving because she recognizing the potential life she has to give up in order to serve the greater(est?) good.

    I like also that the fall of the Interdependency didn’t neatly and completely wrap up with a magic-resonator-Flow-shoal based solution. The work is going to stretch on for many, many years, and there will be some devastation that simply cannot be mitigated. The parallels with various crises here on Earth are painfully clear.

    And finally, the jailbreak set to instrumental versions of modern pop hits? *chef kiss* Reminds me of the elevator scene in Blues Brothers (

  21. Can I just add in my vote for a series featuring Kiva? Because my gods, I love her and desperately want to see how she deals with all the stuff that comes with being the Emperox.

    Also, “Welcome to your jail break” might be my favorite moment of the entire series.

  22. I have literally just turned the last (virtual) page on The Last Emporox and my immediate reaction reaction is – yep, a good end to the trilogy. I will be honest and say my ‘admiration’ for you wavered – twice precisely with the ‘incidents’ involving Kiva then Grayland (I know spoilers are allowed but it doesn’t feel right). I ‘may’ have forgiven you – give me some time to think about that.
    Thank you John – a good (and complete) story though the setting could be revisited at a later date (real & fictional)

  23. I half expected the tablet in the jailbreak scene to say, “Don’t panic,” and Wil’s performance of the tablet’s lines reminded me of Eddie the Shipboard Computer in the original radio version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which I’m pretty sure Wil is a fan of.

  24. There have been a couple of instances where I’ve flung a book across the room after reading a “surprise” or twist that upset me. I didn’t do that here at Cardenia’s death, ONLY because I was reading it on a Kindle.

    Very enjoyable trilogy, loved the characters, wished that the story could keep going!

  25. I’m afraid I’m also bothered by Cardenia’s death. In-universe, she had the perfect opportunity to fake her death and still let her cybernetic ghost accomplish all that she did by being “dead.” It’d normally be difficult for an officially-deceased Emperox to hide their continuing existence, but she would’ve had the perfect opportunity to lie low for a few weeks and then leave the Interdependency with Lord Marce on his expedition.
    I understand why Scalzi made the choice he did, as it works well as an emotional narrative arc, but it disappointed me. It didn’t feel necessary.

  26. I loved the mutiny, the jailbreak was awesome (even though I was fully expecting it once she was jailed).

    IMO @Steve re the Memory Room – the hardware for 88 emperoxes would be a bit much, but I understood the primary objection by Rachela was the competition (she wanted to see what happened and provide some guidance, and there was no guarantee the others wouldn’t take a more active role). Hardware for one more, especially with the advances brought by Chenovert, wouldn’t be a stretch. YMMV

    Read the book, then listened to the audio. The second time through caught some of the subtle foreshadowing. Recommend re-reading soonest to anyone finishing the book.

  27. Enjoyed the book and the series. Many loose threads to spin off short stories set in the universe. Felt like homages to Clarke were sprinkled in: Rachela and Cardenia being virtual beings together is like 3001, with HAL and Dave Bowman residing together in the Monolith. As well, the repetition of exposition from prior books has a 2010/2061/3001 feel about it. On the minor critiquey side, Kiva isn’t really the last Emperox, as it’ll take decades to centuries to move everyone, and although Cardenia dissolves the house monopolies she didn’t abdicate or eliminate the dictator form of government; presumably there will be another emperox after Kiva dies (her and Senia’s kid, presumably). But to that end, it seems unlikely that Cardenia would have Kiva let Marce leave so abruptly. They need his skills to figure out the transient flow streams. She (Greyland) was willing to die for duty, so it’s jarring she’d tell Marce to take a one-way trip. Same goes for losing Chenevert. The combination of Cardenia, Rachela and Chenevert as a brain trust advising Kiva and her successors is pretty powerful. And hmm, three machine intelligences — we are back to Clarke! Thanks for a good read, sir. Hope you revisit this setting with future books and stories.

  28. Jonathan:

    Nah, the Interdependency is dissolved when the Flow collapses entirely. All the systems will be on their own with no political ties to any others. Kiva’s heirs may be the Regents of Hub and the Associated Nations (presuming that system retains the monarchy at all), but the title of Emperox of the Interdependency will end with her.

  29. I finished the book a couple days ago and am still trying to sort out my feelings on it. I was surprised by Grayland’s death, but then realized I shouldn’t be, though I didn’t expect it to come immediately after the revelations about Rachela, etc. I also feel like it wouldn’t have solved the problems nearly as neatly as was made out in the book. I doubt that all the scheming and politicking would have just shut off because Grayland’s “ghost” appears and says “I totally named a successor 3 days before I died!” and everyone was like “Oh, ok, sounds good, hail Kiva!” without, at the very least, putting up a fuss in the courts or whatever governing bodies get involved when the succession is in question.

    I kind of felt that at the end I was reading a different book than I thought I was reading when I started. I enjoyed it, as I’ve enjoyed the series as a whole, but I expected a little more in the way of how a society deals with its end vs. a story that’s more about individuals and the past than the present/future.

  30. Kiva’s “jailbreak” scene is the funniest bit I’ve read all year. I will broke no argument on this. It is known and it is written. Kudos on that one, John.

  31. Really enjoyed the finale. I hope this is understood as a compliment to TLE and not a diss at other works, but I thought it was your best “finale” – I don’t particularly feel like you left anything out or elided over some important development. There are certainly (loose ends is the wrong word, but spin-off fodder seems like a craven characterization) open questions (we’ll go with that) about what could happen next, but I was really satisfied with this trilogy as a complete story.

    I do hope you come back to this universe at some point – Kiva, Marce, Vrenna (I was really saddened by how little screen time she got), Cardenia and Rachela all could certainly have another adventure or two, either in groups or singly. I’d also be fine going backwards to see the Rupture or sideways to see the other parts of human space post-Rupture.

    My really important question is how many words (if any) like “Emperox” have I been pronouncing incorrectly?

  32. The proposal really got to me. And then Mr. Scalzi broke my heart. Liked the mutiny and the jailbreak as well but feel like we really missed out by never going to Oktoberfest. Maybe a short story someday?

  33. Overall I liked the book, but man it does feel like it ended a couple chapters short. Kiva of course was awesome. This was a great series and honestly, really ended up on the nose about things considering the current “climate” of things from the last few years.

    I would really like to see a short story collection touching on the trip to earth, Kiva’s challenges over the coming years and decades, and maybe a story about End dealing with cramming an entire empire into a single solar system. There’s still so much I want to know and experience in this setting!

  34. At first, I was mad Greyland was killed, then I went through the whole book a few more times (Audio version), then it occurred to me, if you want to have a leader completely dedicated to the job they are entrusted to have (which it occurred to me we do not always have that), then this is a very effective way to demonstrate the attributes of a truly good leader. Greyland cared about the people, the masses the elites couldn’t give a shit about whether they lived or died.
    Cardenia gave up her “and the lived happily ever after” for the truncated version of it as “and they lived” for her people. I would see that as a fair trade.
    John: Thank You for your writing. I hope this encourages others to seek a better class of leader in the future.

  35. I think that the way Cardenia died was a bit prophetic. Her death didn’t have enough text to make it seem like she was actually dead. There was no description of the funeral, nothing. It almost guaranteed that she would come back. Apart from that, I loved the book. My favorite part was probably when Cardenia announced Kiva to be her heir, which I thought was funny in a sarcastic way. Thanks for the great book!

  36. I really liked the book and the trilogy, great job!

    I liked the characters, and the choices Cardenia made seemed to fit with her character — everyone’s, really. There was no point where I felt thrown out of the book, like someone had done something because the plot outline said they had to do it to get the story to next scene — though John is usually very strong in that area IMHO.

    The one minor quibble I had with it was perhaps what I had (mis)read into the foreshadowing — I thought the earlier conversation with Rachela implied that there wasn’t room in the system for two fully formed consciousnesses, that Cardenia would be just memories Rachela/Jini could draw on like the other emperoxes. So it didn’t seem like the technology was in place for that continued consciousness, and I thought it meant that Rachela had also sacrificed herself to let Cardenia have the system resources. But then it looked like they were having a conversation at the end where they were both existing in the system. [Edit: just hit reload and Steve Roth seems to have had the same stumbling point]

    Anyway, I really liked the universe, too, and would love to see more. The playful exposition from the first may also work to introduce a new view from the other side. What happened with Earth and any connected colonies?

    Patintheworld: was it suicide though? It was an assassination that she saw coming and let happen anyway. I suppose allowing yourself to die a foreseeable and preventable death is like suicide, but until you had mentioned it the only s-word I had associated with the choice was sacrifice.

    Meta: Easter release date :)

  37. Thanks for a great listen/read, as usual. (I wonder what Wil Wheaton’s reaction was when he received the first manuscript in this series. Does he think you chose the characters’ names on purpose to punk him?)

  38. Kiva not being dead, saw that one coming. Cardenia being dead, did NOT see that coming.

    Who knows, perhaps with all of the trade secrets from every house made completely public, a system or two might eventually end up self-sustaining enough to decide that they don’t need to transition to End?

  39. Listened to all of them back-to-back and enjoyed them enormously. But I must say that was the most CHEERFUL jailbreak ever. Thanks for the giggles!

  40. Krissy‘s facial expression is super spot on, I audibly gasped a couple times!
    Anyways, some non-coherent thinky bits:
    Wil‘s narration was spot on, as expected.
    Kiva‘s non-death was a bit too obvious for my taste though. (No direct mentioning of her death, and she was providing too much of fun for everyone to die)
    I’m super jealous of Cardenia‘s enormous middle finger she keeps throwing in peoples‘ faces.
    When she started her ghost monologue I fully expected Mars to be her heir, with the rest of the book him being hilariously shit at it. Kiva made sense though, I immediately remembered Cardenia mentioning a plan to her.

    I had immensely fun listening to it, thanks for all three of the books!

  41. You made me cry, you monster, well done. *hugs* for Cardenia, and Marce. Kiva remains absolutely awesome though

  42. Like a lot of people, did not believe that « she » was really dead until the conversation with Marce. She would not dare play with his feelings… :-(

    Still processing that one. How can we be such suckers for happy ending?

    +1 with all those who please, pretty please ask for further short (or long) stories in that universe, about the trip to earth, prequels on the Rupture, sequels on Ends… endless possibilities! ;-)

    Thanks a lot for a great end to this trilogy!

  43. It was very entertaining, as expected. As Bob mentioned above, I didn’t buy that Kiva died, but I was shocked when Cardenia died. Also, I did not predict Kiva becoming the Last Emperox. I am genuinely curious whether you planned for that from the beginning, or if it arose naturally as you progressed through the story. it seems like a really big plot point not be outlined, at least roughly, early on.

    Echoing others, I would love more story stories/novellas/etc. in this world with these characters (although the same could be – and has been – said for the Old Man’s War and Lock In universes as well. Keep on creating is I think what we all want, basically :-)).

  44. What is it the uploaded consciousness of Grayland II says to Kiva — she’s relieved Marce took the option to try and find Earth? I assume it’s because there’s less risk her heartbroken fiancé will come back at any point if the Evanescences (sp?) flow back from End to Hub, and Marce tries to return where he can be used by her and Kiva’s enemies.

    While I would’ve preferred she find a way around her problems other than the death of her body, it kind of makes sense that the weakness in dealing with the constant plots against her was Cardenia — sweet, human Cardenia who loves Marce, and only reluctantly displays the ruthlessness a Great Leader in turbulent times needs. She has the brains and compassion to see the need to think beyond her own needs — with Cardenia and her hostages to fortune removed, Grayland II can advise Kiva as Emperox on the best way to accomplish their shared goals. (Kiva, at least, can be VERY ruthless to her enemies!)

    My wife, Fantasy Author Tamora Pierce, often likes to say that “Nice People Make Lousy Kings — and King Jonathan of Tortall is a GREAT King!” whenever someone asks why he’s being a SoB to a character they like. Of course, if you’re on the receiving end, it’s hard to see the difference between a Great King and a Ratbastard…

  45. I thought I found hints of hommage to Roger Zelazny and Steven Brust. I probably missed a lot of others.

    But mostly I was very disappointed by this book. It ended WAY too soon. I could have used another 300 pages. I was totally absorbed, looking for plot twists and surprises, loving the characters (KIVA is an original!) and then BAM! It ended.

  46. I’m totally ok with the Memory room supporting two consciousnesses. After all, Raquela and Chenovert had a conversation about their shared code base, and Raquela mentioned that there was some stuff in there she was considering. (I’m working from my flawed memory of one Audible listen, but I do seem to recall that). Given that, it seems totally plausible that Raquela could have upgraded herself to support another mind, even if she didn’t already have the capability.

    I totally didn’t buy Cardenia’s reason for dying. Sure, it solved a problem, but she could have solved it without dying too. Faking her own death has been mentioned more than once. I thought Cardenia’s explanation was the only weak aspect of the book. I would have preferred if she had had two plans, with “Plan B – Oh shit, I got killed, but we can deal with that” being one of them. I would have bought that explanation better than her dying being “Plan A – I die, ’cause yanno, I’d make a better ghost”.

    Wil’s performance of the entire audio trilogy was a delight! Thank you, Wil!

    Kiva’s “Best Party Ever” in Book 2, and the jailbreak in Book 3 were my favorite scenes by a long shot. Totally awesome! I could (and will) listen to them over and over!

    I screamed in my car “Oh no, you DIDN’T” when Kiva was shot. I thought “Oh bullshit, like THAT really happened!” not believing Cardenia had actually died, and barked “Oh, that’s PERFECT!” as I realized the reveal of Kiva as the Last Emperox was coming. All wonderful moments!

    Thank you, John! I loved it all! Well, except for Cardenia.. you bloodthirsty bastard! ;-p

  47. I was secretly hoping going in that Kiva would end up with the title of Last Emperox, and was delighted when it happened. On a side note, at this point you could write “Kiva Lagos Reads the Fucking Phonebook” and I would heartily purchase it.

  48. One thing I am curious about, near the end when Cardenia and Chenovert are talking:
    “Promise that one day you’ll come back. That he’ll come back.”
    “Oh, Cardenia, Chenevert said. Why would you worry about such a thing? However long it takes, I will always bring him home.”
    I was wondering if this implied that Chenovert had the capacity to upload Marce to his ship’s hardware, or if it just meant bringing his remains back should he die on their expedition? I guess I’m not expecting an answer from Our Gracious Host (but that would be cool!), but was wondering how other folks read this.

    Dave Branson: “I know that there are no more planned books in this universe at this point, but short stories of the continuing adventures of Marce and Chenovert would be a great spin off.”

    He’s the ex of the Emperox.
    He’s a living spaceship.
    And together they Fight Crime!

  49. Great stuff. Haven’t seen it mentioned, so: missed, really missed further time spent with Marce’s SISTER, who yes moved quite effectively into guerilla leader mode but was even more offscreen than the End-stationed commander of the Marines. She was cool, and it turns out we got basically the opening of Book 1 with her, and that’s it. I did like how Ghreni’s arc went, and was glad to see Marce’s dad before the close. But I missed her.

  50. Like others in this thread I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and found it a very satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy. I adore the bad ass women characters, both the protagonists and the villains. I love that there is no apology or explanation for women in high positions, such as archbishop or military commander. I want to know more about many of these characters. You made me so interested in them that I want to know what happens to them next. Oh, and really, the GRRM moves were well-executed. I gasped when Kiva was struck and cried when the bomb went off…well done!

  51. Ok, I’ll go there.

    I didn’t like the ending. I thought Rachella was out of the Memory Room playacting being Cardenia as a way to pretend to fall for the assassination attempt and was heartbroken to be wrong.

    Adored Kiva as always. Annoyed Cardenia wasn’t the last Emperox.

  52. I loved Kiva so much more reading this book!

    This is definitely a series I’ll read again! The end of Cardenia and continuation as a post-human Grayland II has me really questioning what make physical death so painful. I questioned why I got so worked up over something seemingly standard in science fiction, digital immortality. Cardenia gave up future possibilities which only happen if she were to remain human. Showing us that through Marce was genius and painful. No other piece of literature has done this to me and I read A LOT of science fiction.

    Also, the timing and abruptness was perfect. It never felt rushed but just fast enough to hook you until the last page. Definitely another Scalzi series my friend will get tire of me talking about 😂

  53. Great book, thank you John! Loved many passages and choices, fully support nearly all of them, also lol’d and gasped in several spots (a couple of times both at the same sequence). Certainly would have liked to read a book 2 or 3 times the length but then maybe that’s because it was so fast moving and well paced. Looking forward to digging out my copies of the first two and rereading the full whack.

  54. I was honestly expecting that the favors Cardenia asked of Rachaela to turn out to be something like “stand in for me during my assassination so I’m still alive after”. And then run off with Marce to be not-emperox together. As it was, I largely didn’t really understand what C asked of R at all, given that most of the digital shenanigans could have been orchestrated by either of them once they were both in that form. I had trouble understanding what to attribute to Rachaela–even Grayland’s appearance at the ceremony could have been her, given what we know of her ability to mimic the emperoxes. But if it was all Grayland’s doing, what was Rachaela responsible for?

  55. I’m glad others thought you were channeling Douglas Adams a bit. Not a criticism. I wanted Cardenia to be on the ship to Earth (at least a copy), but otherwise I respect your choices.

  56. Kiva’s reaction to each part of the prison break is priceless. And reminds me that Scalzi mostly does dialogue but can easily do descriptions.

    All 3 books had their WTF moments.

    I was also sad that Kiva’s death was fake, but Cardenia’s death was real. I should have known Kiva’s was fake because the killer drops a gun and then raises a weapon. Which I reread three times on first read – it jarred me out of the narrative- but could not decipher as I inhaled the book. It makes sense to switch equipment if one item was non lethal. Cardenia’s exploding music box is very clear that NO ONE survived the shrapnel.

    Cardenia’s telling Rachela that Rachela has to adjust to a life outside the memory room made me think Rachela would be the Last Emperox, but I forgot Rachela was exhausted from being Emperox while alive.

    Like others, on first reading I was “Cardenia and Rachela can share the memory room?” but on rereading it explicitly states Rachela COULD have uploaded the other Emperox but few people do well stuck in a single room for hundreds/ thousands of years ( Cardenia’s mission will help just like Rachela’s curiosity about the experiment of the Interdependency), Rachela thought most Emperox were bad people when alive and should not be made into immortal asshats, the memory room was Rachela’s cover and Rachela was being selfish watching over her experiment.

    This gave the whole trilogy an Isaac Asimov’s Foundation vibe to me. Interdependency is an awesome new government, actually trying to help people, but rulers are selfish so throw in a non selfish inhuman immortal guidance.

    I find I enjoy Avengers: Infinity War more when I watch it as Thano’s story instead of the Avengers ( who keep getting defeated ). I enjoyed rereading the trilogy as Kiva’s story. Partly because Cardenia’s ascension to the ultimate Wikipedia/ Snopes web bot does not hurt as much ( though I found it an interesting take on immortality and religious trans human icons ). Partly because the last sentence has more wish fulfillment power in Kiva centric story. Partly because Kiva’s mom really is the best. But mostly because I am more like Kiva ( selfish trying to be less during the real world pandemic) and less like Cardenia ( willing to sacrifice my personal happiness to save billions ).

    Marce and Chenevert adventures could end before they even start if their destination is isolated with no flow shoals. Or they could be a whole new series as the cavitation of the flow streams cause the collapse of all three political entities and Cardenia becomes the Barbara Gordon Oracle to Marce and Chenevert ( together they fight crimes against nature ).

  57. I liked the books and the whole series.

    However, I also think that the book could have been longer – which is of course good writing in the sense that the reader wants more. The End could have been more in the focus, too, but, well, there was enough story for a book here already.

    I was also disappointed at Cardenia’s death. It was the end of one version, but at least one of her will live on. Compared to the shooting of Kiva, it’s obvious to me that there were differences, and Kiva wasn’t dead. Narratively, we see Kiva shot in the face and then it goes dark, whereas Cardenia is explicitly stated to be dead. This made it clear to me already in the Kiva shooting that she’s not dead, especially because we don’t see the body anymore than anybody else, including her mother. Cardenia’s death was not wrapped up in such literary devices, and while we don’t see the body, it’d be in my opinion annoying writing if Cardenia were alive with such differences in the description of the events.

    It would be kind of pulling off a “she was dead, from a certain point of view.” Well, of course she lives on as an upload, but I got the impression that the society in the book isn’t ready to consider her alive, either.

  58. For a small change of pace from the discussion of Cardenia’s death – I have a probably trivial question; in the end, Cardenia tells Nadashe she’s get “What she always said she wanted”, but I couldn’t figure out what that was a reference for. The best I could get is “Live the rest of your life on End”. What am I missing?

  59. Honestly, sadly, not my favorite. The echo of Android’s Dream was nice, but I felt like I got more out of that single book or Redshirts or Agent to the Stars or Little Fuzzys than out of the entire trilogy. After reading those books, for example, I enjoyed action, humor, and a few tears combined. Can’t say the same here unfortunately. It lacked 3 times the action or humor of those, and no real tears. Still listening to your catalog repeatedly and love Wil Wheaton. Eager to preorder whatever comes next.

  60. I asked my question above but since there are quite a few people who are giving mini-reviews I thought I’d give mine:

    In my opinion, Scalzi novels deliver three things: great characters to love, really good worldbuilding and a fairytale plot line. This series gave me the above in spades. I think the characters are some of the best John has ever written – definitely, Nadashe was the best Scalzi villain, and both Kiva and Carden is/Grayland were top tier awesome (Marce is great too but he’s second tier and he knows it). The world was interesting and perhaps the most believable John ever wrote. As for the plot – well, remember how there’s a subplot about convincing the admirals to mount a strategically sound attack? And how that doesn’t matter because everything is resolved because the magic memory levels up again and gains new abilities that are perfect for resolving the situation? Well, that’s what I came to this series looking for, and that’s what I got. Practicality in a Scalzi novel will always take second place to Pure Awesome, and I read to be delighted and surprised, and I was both.

    I think the reason there is backlash to Cardenia’s death is because it breaks this rule – she was awesome and she was supposed to get the boy and magic talking ship and sail off to the sunset. Instead she got to die to redeem the sins of the interdependency, which is the wrong type of myth.

  61. So… was it a conscious decision to end with the trinity of father (Rachela), son (Cardinia) and holy spirit (Jiri) as de-facto leader of the empire or is it a coincidence?
    And to continue this though kudos for adding a new member to the Ethernal-God-Emperor-Club. There is a lot of Dune in the enitire universe and I like. It is also nice to see how you pick up ideas from your previous books (Human AIs from Androids Dream, living ships like Chenovert from The Life of the Mind, Earth isn´t the center of the human civilization from OMW) and letting them progress in different ways. I am very curious to see where this universe goes from here.

    PS Please no more dream sequences ;)

  62. As soon as I read what the Memory Room really was, I thought “Oh. She’s dead.” and then, BOOM! (literally) A few minutes later, she was. I’ll add my voice to those who had hoped that she and Marce could’ve had a happily ever after, but all in all, I really enjoyed the book and love that Kiva Fucking Lagos came out on top.

  63. So I was bummed when you whacked Cardenia but I gotta admit that in whatever’s next, I’m gonna take risks to the characters more seriously than I had been.

  64. John RR Scalzi going down a dark road. I’m still getting over Hatide Roynold, and now this.

  65. OK, yeah, Cardenia dying threw me off. When I read that part, my first thought was “Oh, but it’s OK, because that wasn’t really Cardenia, it was a hologram of Rachela. She’d said ‘get used to being outside’. So it’s all right.” But it wasn’t all right, it really was Cardenia, and she really was dead. But them Kiva was promoted, so it turned out mostly all right, anyway.
    To repeat a comment I’ve made earlier: Kiva Lagos is my new favorite bad-ass.
    And to disagree with another comment here, Kiva’s jailbreak wasn’t the funniest thing ever, it was the second. The funniest thing ever was:
    ‘Now I have _images_. They are in my _mind_. They will never leave me. I blame you.’
    from Redshirts. The first time I read that line, I was at work, and co-workers stopped by my office to see what was wrong. I couldn’t stop laughing.

  66. 1. You bastard!
    2. Too many uses of the word “tranche.” There are perfectly good alternatives, including “cohort,” for the purposes of the story.
    3. I read your explanation that both pronunciations, “emper-eau” and “emper-ocks” are valid. However, “emper-ocks” for me, takes the plural “emperoxen.” Not cool. So I will always use “emper-eau.” In my head. As you do.
    4. Like many others, I am not done with this universe. I’m hoping for far more exploration, re-connection with Earth, moving habitats through the Flow, etc.
    5. Quibbles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy. After Kiva got shot in the face, I was outraged. But it made me want to read Book Three very quickly, which I hate because I was trying to stretch it out. Given that so many other characters had been killed-but-not-really, I was expecting Cardenia to resurrect herself. And yes, “welcome to your jailbreak” is indeed funny as hell. I may have to get the Audio version just to hear Wil read that part.
    6. I found parts of the Acknowledgements quite apposite to our current situation. Seems lately we go into every new year saying “20xx HAS to be better than 20xx -1!” and then finding out, no, there are always new depths of chaos, stupidity and venality we can sink to. Enough already!

  67. I’m imagining a book –or a series– in the future that follows events on End during the civil war, that shows us much more of Vrenna, the count, and Nadashe’s useless brother.

    Hey, it could happen!

  68. Bitch you’re in my spot!

    Things I loved:
    -Kiva. I loved her overall story arc and I’m really glad I went back to re-read the first two books before reading the last book because it was really great to watch her grow as a person. And yet still retain her essence.
    -The jailbreak
    -The proposal
    -Archbishop Korbin’s final fuck you to Nadashe (was that part of the plan or a happy coincidence?)

    The one thing I didn’t really love was the ending both because it came too soon and because it was so damn sad. I could have used some happy right now, but I’m not angry because I thought it was well done. Just more emotional that I was expecting.

    I agree with whoever said they were more like Kiva and less like Cardenia for the same reasons and also because I say fuck a lot.

    And of course I’d love to see more stories set in this universe. My ideas:
    -More Kiva!
    -Marce & Chenovert go to Earth
    -End way in the future when the flows open again
    -Way in the past before the Rupture
    -The other two systems after the Rupture

  69. Thanks very much for a page-turning finish! I was savoring it,, but saw this thread and realized the posting window was going to close by the time my savoring process finished, so I gulped it. Next time.

    I was impressed with the lightly sketched vision of interstellar travel different from any I recall, and enjoyed the mathematical handwavium involved in making it all work to the story’s requirements. As a math guy I appreciate having serious modeling actually make a difference.

    On rereading the other two before TLE came out, I couldn’t help but miss the opportunity to close a loop with the Rules of Mutiny introduced in the opening chapter of the first book connecting to a scene that didn’t appear in Lady Kiva’s mutiny — I visualize her being Kiva AF with the Rules we saw earlier as she dictates Captain Robinette’s options. Speaking of Robinette, until I read the acks at the end I thought it was a nod to Robinette Broadhead of Pohl’s Gateway series, which featured very Jiri/Rachela/Chenevert-style characters. And speaking of ‘Chenevert, I have him figured for “chene vert”: ilex, or holly… Holly being the disembodied brain of the spaceship Red Dwarf from the British TV series.

    Like others, I thought the whole Easter connection was a bit on the nose; like the crying scene on the bench in the Memory Room just before the assassination and the Garden of Gethsemane. But hey – whatever works.

    So, death, then. On my re-read I was apprehensive and nervous before the scene I knew was coming: the death of Naffa Dolg, my favorite character from the whole trilogy. I can’t help thinking life would have been much more comfortable for Cardenia and enjoyable for me if Naffa had stayed with us to the bitter end.

    Regarding Cardenia’s death, I wan’t fooled, even if JS was. We have all the clues: how do we know what happens in history? Trusted historians record it on trusted media. Top people. How do we know who died? Well, biometrics. And look at the body… no, not the one in the coffin – that’s closed. Check the DNA! Fingerprints if you can find fingers! But of course it was pointed out to Marce that he shouldn’t trust those, since he himself had them fiddled for his escape from End. If that’s not enough, we have another example with Nadashe’s “escape attempt” and “death”, which were similarly fiddled. Well, we *see* and *are told* in omniscient narrator mode that she’s dead in the explosion. Oh? By whom? The entity recording this history? That would be Rachela and/or Jiri. On the other side we have Grayland II asking Rachela for a favor and telling her she’ll need to get out of the room. Oh? When? Maybe for the meeting with the exploding duchess? I still have to generate more of my head canon to allow Rachela’s Grayland II projection to actually pick up the music box and set it on the desk. I’ll work on that.

  70. I’d like to see at least one “Young Kiva Lagos” story, that shows us a little of how our favorite, profane, oversexed character got to be how she is. More F-bombs! More sex with anything that moves! More running things!

  71. I loved the book. The only thing I had trouble believing was that Nadashe didn’t kill Kiva when she had the chance. Nadashe certainly hated her enough. I also thought the book was leading up to a solution to the flows collapsing, but I’m glad it didn’t wrap up with a simple solution.

  72. To start I did enjoy the books very much, and also appreciated the plot turns in book 3.
    Just one question, which came to me on the first page of book 3: How many phonemes are in “I”?

  73. Jmjwe – depends how you count diphthongs, but I think the standard count would be two.

  74. Eytan, actually phonetically it is either /ˈī/ or /ə/, according to Webster, so I would count that as one sound.

  75. Jmjwe – /ˈ ī/ is at least two phonemes – the apostrophe indicates the glottal stop which is a phoneme. /ə/ is the reduced form which is one phoneme but not likely to occur in the beginning of speech, which is the context given in the book.

    More importantly, dictionary transcription isn’t an attempt to count phonemes, it’s a pronunciation guide. ī is a diphthong, and whether it’s one or two phonemes is really dependant on your linguistic theory. Note that in the International Phonetic Alphabet, at least when I last looked, it would be transcribed with two symbols (/aɪ/)

    (Disclaimer: I am a working linguist but not a phonetic Ian)

  76. I read the book in basically one day even with trying to stretch it out a bit. When I was done I went back and started the series over again and read all three books. One thing that surprised me on reading The Last Emperor a second time was how much I had missed in the last few chapters the first time through. I blame two things – it was very late when I read the last bit the first time and I was probably reading at somewhat over my usual pace so I could find out how things ended. It was definitely worth reading again and the ending was (to me) very satisfying (Bitch you’re in my spot).

  77. Loved the first book, was less enthusiastic about the second to be honest. The astro-political logistics and politics were fascinating. Also, I think ‘our FTL is going away, ohshit’ is a new concept in hard-ish SF. But I noticed in book two that so many characters defaulted to a low-key dry sarcasm. So much so that I was having trouble separating their voices. For some reason, “The Last Emperox” didn’t have that problem for me. Maybe because I was listening to the audio book instead of reading it. Wil is very good at making dry sarcasm a feature instead of a bug, and I was able to keep up better. I was very happy with the ending overall, in spite of the end of Cardenia and Marce’s romance. I’d be glad to read more in this universe if you wind up writing more.

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