John Scalzi's new novel is The Collapsing Empire.
From his interview with NPR's Petra Mayer:
You've said that the book — and its title — aren't a reference to any kind of current events in the U.S., but as I read it I kept thinking there had to be some kind of historical parallel, some great empire that fell when its trade routes failed or its ports silted up. What was your inspiration?--Marshal Zeringue
In fact I did think very generally about the "golden age" of European exploration, roughly corresponding to the 15th through 17th centuries, in the sense that the empires that rose out of that era were wholly dependent on natural forces (wind, ocean currents, rivers) to move their ships and shape their destinies with regard to trade and exploration. We're so used to having at least some mechanical control of our travel that it's hard to put oneself back into a mindset where travel took months, not hours, and was not always a safe and predictable thing.
So there was no one particular empire in our past I was borrowing from, but rather, a whole historical gestalt, and...[read on]