The Last Colony – John Scalzi

The follow up to Old Man’s War, and The Ghost Brigades, this book is sort of military/diplomatic science fiction, telling the story of a new colony and its colonists.

The main (continuing) character is John Perry, a decorated war hero. He is ably assisted by his wife Jane Sagan, former special forces officer, and their adopted daughter Zoe. The daughter has two members of the alien Obin race in permanent tow, because her real father – reviled as a traitor by his own people – gave the Obin the gift of consciousness. That family is recruited to lead a new colony.

In short, from the moment the colonists are due to land on their new home, things do not go according to plan. There are disasters, double-dealing, and treachery afoot. There’s also adventure, problem solving, and some neat plot twists to entertain the reader.

The good stuff includes some clever solutions to the problems faced by the colony, a believable background, and a grand, sweeping, deadly universe. The less good stuff includes some stodgy mono-paced dialogue, and occasional slackening of the tension.

In essence the problem the book has is that the previous two – which should be read before you tackle this – were good, strong military science fiction. This has less of the military, and more of the Space Family Robinson about it. So there is less action, and sometimes the story fails to take up the slack, and keep up the excitement level. Sometimes. It’s by no means bad, and you could argue it is a refreshing change of pace from the earlier books. I enjoyed it, and may well read more of the author’s work in this series. Apparently The Last Colony was supposed to be the last, but Scalzi has gone on to do more in the same setting.

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Redshirts – John Scalzi

redshirts

Think of a wold close to that of the classic Star Trek universe.

Think of a world with certain recurring themes:

  1. Away Missions are dangerous. Every single one becomes a deadly encounter with an alien force or two.
  2. The captain, the chief science officer, and the (battered, bruised, but resilient) Lieutenant Kerensky, always survive.
  3. There’s always at least one lowly crew member – a ‘redshirt’ – who dies.

Now imagine you are actually in that world. You are an ensign, newly assigned to a spaceship where these themes are a reality. What the hell do you do?

This strange and intriguing concept is the platform for the author to boldly go where, er, no author has gone before. Whatever I was expecting was not what I got. It is a strange, sometimes challenging, and often amusing novel. There are some cultural references (like Star Trek) that I connected with, and this probably enhanced my enjoyment. If you are not a fan of ST, you might be disappointed. However, if you can put your prejudice aside, you might find you enjoy the ride. For Scalzi’s book does indeed go places, and is a pretty good page turner.

Looking back, I realize how many serious themes go through this combination of comedy, parody, and fantasy. You may think differently about the world around you after reading this. That’s as much as I can say for fear of spoiling your enjoyment. And I think you will enjoy it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a cracking attempt at something new. It’s a good standalone science fiction novel, well worthy of your attention.

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