Friday, October 05, 2007

Book review: THE LAST COLONY

Speaking of dystopias, which I was late last week, it’s time I acknowledged John Scalzi’s superb science fiction novel, The Last Colony. It’s the third book set in a universe first introduced two years ago in Old Man’s War, then revisited last year in The Ghost Brigades. Scalzi claims in an afterward that Colony closes out the series, which is bullshit since Zoe’s Tale, a fourth novel set in the same “world,” is scheduled for release next August. But I’m here to talk about The Last Colony

As I mentioned, it’s superb, particularly if you enjoy Scalzi’s brand of political and military sci-fi. Unlike the two earlier books, Colony is pretty much planetbound. And it doesn’t offer the high-velocity action of the other novels. But that’s not a bad thing. This time around, John Perry from OMW and Jane Sagan from GB are married and in semi-retirement with their adopted daughter when they’re conscripted by the human Colonial Union to settle and run a new colony unpromisingly named Roanoke. What the colonists discover shortly is that they’re no more than dispensable pawns in a CU plot to annihilate the Conclave, an alien confederation. So The Last Colony is an interstellar cat-and-mouse survival story, with Perry and Sagan trying to keep Roanoke’s head down while working both ends of the galactic conflict.

As usual with John Scalzi, what really makes this novel sing is its sense of humor and its engaging characters. I don’t want to lose touch with John Perry or Jane Sagan. And I appreciate the fact that, even as part of a series, The Last Colony stands on its own; reading the first two books isn’t necessary, although it will add to your enjoyment.

I can’t wait for Zoe’s Tale.

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At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Last Colony's an excellent book, and stands on its own.

I also think that it's even more worthwhile to read as the third volume of a trilogy, since it changes the apparent thrust of the first two books.

Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades were fine SF novels in their own right. But, to me at least, they carried an implicit message: shut up and soldier. That conscience and judgement are fine things for individuals, but of no consequence compared to the will of the State. Don't you know there's a war on? Follow your orders.

Pretty much the same as Heinlein's paean to Bolshevism, Starship Troopers, in other words.

Last Colony reverses the spin. The war is no longer all-encompassing justification but at best a mistake, at worst a scam, and in either case likely to result in the suicide of the human species. Our hero and heroine follow their consciences, do not shut up and soldier, they disobey orders; and they save humanity.

While I wouldn't call them perfect from a freedom perspective (Scalzi still indulges a bit much in leader-worship) the concluding volume turns the whole trilogy into a sort of extended debate upon the conflict between individual and state - and comes down squarely for the individual.


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