The Last Colony

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I plunked this into by TBR pile … whoa … must have been back in 2008 or so, when I read the first novel in John Scalzi's trilogy, Old Man's War. I followed up by reading the second entry in 2009, The Ghost Brigades. And now, nearly six years later, I'm finally getting around to the third book in the (then-)trilogy, The Last Colony. This delay was due to the randomness in my book-selection algorithm and the depth of the particular sci-fi sub-pile.

So (bad news), the details of the first two books in the series had faded. Fortunately, this didn't matter too much, although I wouldn't recommend the delay to others.

Here, John Perry, the hero of Old Man's War, and Jane Sagan, the heroine from The Ghost Brigades, have married and adopted a teenage daughter Zoë (who has her own story). The previous books were heavy with mind-blowing levels of genetic engineering and consciousness transfer, and all three are a product/victims of those technologies. Talk about an untraditional family! They reside on the colonial planet of Huckleberry, where John is an administrative bureaucrat. A very peaceful existence, but things change when they are persuaded out of semi-retirement to establish a new colony, Roanoke.

Problems abound: earthlike planets in the reachable parts of the galaxy are rare, and hundreds of different species are willing to fight for them. Setting up on a new world is inherently risky. It doesn't help that the government that's sending John, Jane, and Zoë to the new world is lying through its teeth about everything involved: the risks, the opposition, its own motives, and the nature of the world itself. It doesn't take long before the risks develop into actual danger, not only for Roanoke, but for the entire human race.

But… (quibble) it takes awhile to get going. On page 110 or so, Zoë complains about how boring things are for her. I thought: you and me both, little girl. Things pick up shortly after that, but a lesser writer couldn't have brought this plot off at all.

Scalzi is a gifted writer, and the people who compare his storytelling technique to Heinlein's aren't wrong. I need to add at least one more book of his to the TBR pile: Redshirts, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel.