With The Last Emperox arriving next week, it’s time to jump back into the universe of the Interdependency. John Scalzi’s space opera is a series where an ancient, little-understood space-time highway called the Flow has begun to deteriorate, leaving the different settlements of the Interdependency cut off from one another and, for the most part, unable to survive on their own.
Scalzi has created a rich cast of characters for us to follow during this tumultuous time. Most of them are part of the 1%—rich and powerful members of the mercantile families who oversee all trade and commerce in the system. As we gear up for The Last Emerpox release, let’s revisit those Houses and the characters who are members of them.
Warning! Spoilers galore for The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire below.
The House of Wu
The House of Wu is at the top of the food chain in the Interdependency. Over a thousand years ago, this family lay claim to the Flow network by having a member of the House become the emperox (AKA political and spiritual head of, well, everything). At the beginning of the series, the latest Wu to take the throne is Cardenia, who takes on the crown and the name Emperox Grayland II after her father unexpectedly dies.
No one, Cardenia included, expected her to become emperox—her brother was in line to take the throne, but he died suddenly in a car crash, which we later learn was orchestrated by the House of Nohamapetan (don’t worry, we’ll revisit that House in detail below). In the second book in the series—The Consuming Fire—we also learn that others in the Wu family aren’t so happy she sits on the throne either.
In The Consuming Fire, two of Cardenia’s cousins, Jasin and Deran Wu, vie to take the throne from her. They conspired with the House of Nohamapetan to remove her from the throne throughout the book but (Warning: big spoiler!) were outmaneuvered by Cardenia at the end of the book. At the beginning of The Last Emperox, Cardenia is still Emperox Grayland II, and still in charge. At least one of her long-time enemies, however, remains free.
The House of Nohamapetan
The House of Nohamapetan is a major rival to the House of Wu, and has long been contriving to bring the position of emperox under their control. In the first book of the series, The Collapsing Empire, Nadashe Nohamapetan tried to assassinate Cardenia. She failed, and ended up in jail, though she has since escaped and remains hidden but free at the end of The Consuming Fire. Nadashe has two brothers: Amit, who was conspiring with her and was ultimately killed in the first book, and Ghreni, who is stuck on End—the only self-sustaining planet in the Interdependency—although their connection to the Flow has broken down (at least for now).
But it’s Nadashe’s mother, Countess Nohamapetan, who becomes more directly involved in the political machinations in the second book. She conspires with the Wu cousins to try to overthrow Cardenia, which ultimately fails and leaves her, along with all the other Houses who supported her, under imperial arrest. The House of Nohamapetan has been weakened, but with Nadashe free and Ghreni in a position of power on End, we’ll be sure to see more from this family in The Last Emperox.
The House of Lagos
There are other Houses, of course. Most of them don’t get much word count, but the Interdependency’s most colorful character, Kiva, is from the House of Lagos. Along with having a monopoly on citrus, the House of Lagos—through Kiva—also takes control over some of the House of Nohamapetan’s assets when the family falls into disgrace after Nadashe’s failed assassination attempt in the first book. Kiva’s no-BS approach to managing these assets is a highlight of the second book, and her close relationship to Cardenia likely means we’ll see more of her in the third book as well.
The Houses are different in many ways, but there’s one thing they have in common: they’re all very complex, complicated, and messed-up. But let’s be honest—aren’t all families complicated and messed-up in their own ways? The difference here, of course, is that the Houses’ squabbles often result in murder and also will have geopolitical ramifications that impact millions. We’ll have to wait until April 14th to find out how their squabbles will sort out (or not) in The Last Emperox. But in the meantime, we can reminisce and/or re-read the first two Interdependency books to get our fix of the complex political and personal intrigue that great space opera is known for.
Vanessa Armstrong is a writer with bylines at The LA Times, SYFY WIRE, StarTrek.com and other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog Penny and her husband Jon, and she loves books more than most things. You can find more of her work on her website or follow her on Twitter @vfarmstrong.