Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?
Logo designed by the wonderful KMont
In March 2013, we asked YOU for your favorite old school suggestions – and the response was so overwhelmingly awesome, we decided to compile a goodreads shelf, an ongoing database, AND a monthly readalong/book club.
This month, we continue our EPIC Old Man’s War Review Extravaganza with a joint review of book 3, The Last Colony
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Publication date: First published 2007
Paperback: 336 pages
Retired from his fighting days, John Perry is now village ombudsman for a human colony on distant Huckleberry. With his wife, former Special Forces warrior Jane Sagan, he farms several acres, adjudicates local disputes, and enjoys watching his adopted daughter grow up.
That is, until his and Jane’s past reaches out to bring them back into the game–as leaders of a new human colony, to be peopled by settlers from all the major human worlds, for a deep political purpose that will put Perry and Sagan back in the thick of interstellar politics, betrayal, and war.
Stand alone or series: Book 3 in the Old Man’s War series.
Previously on the Old Man’s War Readalong:
- Old Man’s War (Book 1)
- “>The Ghost Brigades (Book 2)
How did we get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Print
In the third installment of John Scalzi’s Old Man War series, we are back inside the viewpoint narrative of Old Man John Perry himself. Now retired from the Special Forces, him and Jane Sagan are fully human, working as farmers and raising their adopted daughter Zoe. But then they are offered a leadership position – Perry as a managers and Sagan as a law enforcer – in a new colony. Roanoke (in retrospect, we should have known) is the answer from the Colonial Union to the Conclave’s (an alliance of alien races bent on stopping unregulated colonisation) attempt at stopping humans from stomping around the known universe. The new colony is to be founded by members from a number of different human colonies but things go wrong pretty soon – when the colonists arrive at the new planet, they are told it’s not Roanoke. That the Conclave had been ready to kill them all had they set foot in that planet, and that they need to colonise this new place, without any help, any advanced technology and any in-depth information. They have no choice if they want to survive.
But that’s not the only surprise the colonists have waiting for them…
In terms of a series’ overarching plot, The Last Colony continues to beautifully develop the themes of humanity, freedom, free will. It’s also a series about the politics of Space, the politics of the human Colonial Union that relies on misdirection, miscommunication and outright lies. Earth for example, remains the seat of humanity and the main farming field for soldiers and yet it also remains wholly ignorant of the truth of what’s out there. The Colonial Forces and the Special Forces are also not above sacrificing people or doing things to them they have not agreed to (see Jane Sagan in this book). Add to that the mystery of what truly happened at Roanoke, John’s plan to get back at the Colonial Force, the internal politics of colony-settling and the ultimate climax of the novel and what we have is a super fun, thoughtful novel.
But… I read primarily for character rather than for plot and I have a problem with these books from John Perry’s viewpoint: John Perry as a character is incredibly boring to me. I feel an enormous distance when reading from his perspective for some reason and I wish we had a book from Jane’s viewpoint instead as I would have loved to read her struggles with what was done to her from her viewpoint to feel her anger and disappointment first hand. Or from Zoe’s – although I am about to get that wish with the next book, I am told.
OK. So all cards on the table… I really like John Perry as a narrator.
And so it follows that I really, really like The Last Colony as a book in this series, narrated by John Perry, starring some of my favorite characters in the series thus far (JANE!). My bias will always be towards plot and worldbuilding–I will forgive a bunch on the character front as long as these other facets are well-served. And in The Last Colony? Oh, you better believe they are well-served.
So let me talk about the things in this particular novel that I loved:
First, John Perry. I love the original Old Fart’s dry sense of humor, and the fact that–finally–we get to see some open discourse against the CDF (who we, as readers, have distrusted from the very start). I totally understand why people don’t like Perry, or the sort of straightforward, dare I say vanilla narrative he provides–everything is clear-cut, from the humor to the antagonists. Everything is right on cue, from the laughs to the action–I read a review somewhere that called this particular series and John Scalzi’s early work sitcom-esque. That applies very much to The Last Colony.
To me, this isn’t a bad thing–especially considering the arc of this book, some of the other amazing characters (Jane and Zoe), and the overall satisfaction factor with the plotting. So: a new colony world is settled and is doomed from the outset. Hint: You don’t name a colony world Roanoke and a town Croatoan. (Talk about your classic harbinger of doom.) I love the examination of the politics of colonizing a planet, and the dangers–and boredom–therein. John, Jane, and Zoe are tapped to lead this new colony and are quickly suspicious of the CDF and their motives, and it becomes very clear early on that they were lied to, in many ways, by their former employer. I love the breakdown of skills between Perry and Sagan–sarcastic wit and strategeur, versus super-soldier badass, respectively.
I have all the high hopes for the next book, starring Zoe. Hell yes.
Ana: I am torn, I love everything about the book but Perry really does bore me. 7 – Very Good,I think
Thea: 8 – Excellent