First Look At – The Corroding Empire by Johan Kalsi

This book came to my attention thanks to Castilla House author Vox Day back on the 13th of March.

The description of Kalsi’s writing in the post as ‘more Asimovian than Asimov himself’ made me think ‘parody’ when I saw it. (Kalsi is likely a pen name under which, if my reading is correct, several Castilla House authors wrote for this book.)

As it happens, the true parody of the book relates to The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, someone whose work consists of ‘re-imaginings’ of works from older authors, which the titles and cover art, like The Android’s Dream, often give away, or in the case of Redshirts, fan-fiction. A type of writing that, since my high school days in the early 00’s, has been frowned upon by many, when published for monetary gain or not.

Best example: the response to the Fifty Shades trilogy from people who know it’s Twilight fan-fiction, just with the character names changed.

Concerning The Corroding Empire itself, for the first few chapters, which make up one of the four ‘books’ this novel contains, this feels like an homage to Asimov’s Foundation. The earliest example of this is how every chapter starts with an Infogalactic Entry, not unlike the Encyclopedia Galactic entries Asimov wrote.

And then there’s the homage to Hari Seldon, the man who would found The Foundation. In that series, he was a mathematician and psychohistorian, someone skilled in numbers and what they could mean when applied to the social order and potential events. The first person we see for a long period in Corroding Empire is First Technocrat Jaggis, someone whose job it is to study and analyze the algorithm systems that govern billions of lives. His current issue? Anomalies within those same algorithms, and what those could do to society and many other aspects of life if left unchecked.

These same early chapters also introduce Servo. (Not that one.) A medical robot that was given sentience due to an accident and, at the time he’s introduced, is written as one who is obsessed with the anomalies Jaggis is also looking into.

The drama and dialogue between them is pretty good, and something I expect in good sci-fi that deals with AIs and humans. Both characters could be considered homages to Hari given what they do, though I think Servo will have more life, so to speak, than Jaggis for the whole of the book. If so, then he’s the more likely homage to Hari.

Overall, liking it so far. Looking forward to the rest.