Mild spoilers ahead.

(credit: Illustration by Sparth, via Tor Books)
In his new novel The Collapsing Empire, bestselling writer John Scalzi builds a fascinating new interstellar civilization in order to destroy it.

The Interdependency is a thousand-year-old interplanetary trade partnership in humanity’s distant future.
Its member planets were once connected to Earth by the Flow, a natural feature of space-time that allows ships to enter a kind of subspace zone. Once there, they can circumvent the unbreakable speed of light to travel between stars that are dozens of light years apart. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, nobody is asking that question. Humanity has created an entire civilization that relies on the Flow and its “shoals,” where ships can enter and exit. Planets are colonized purely based on their proximity to the shoals, not on habitability.

The result is not unlike a medieval trade guild society whose populace happens to live in domed cities, buried caves, and artificial habitats, completely dependent on trade for resources.
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