Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: The Last Colony

John Scalzi. The Last Colony. New York: Tor, 2007.

The Last Colony is the third book in John Scalzi's Old Man's War universe and it continues the characters and conceits of the series impressively.

Personally, I love this series and Scalzi's unique voice in it - the sardonic humor and genuineness of lead character John Perry bring humanity to a scifi novel about space exploration and war, subjects that don't inherently excite me. What I love most about this series is the fact that despite that this is a novel strongly focused on a male hero, there are several strong female characters fleshing out the world and that they clearly have the admiration and appreciation of the male characters. In addition to Perry's (kickass awesome) wife and daughter, this novel adds the character of Savitri Guntupalli, Perry's hilariously sarcastic assistant. I totally want to know what happened on Savitri's one abortive lesbian date. Perry, and by extension Scalzi himself clearly appreciates and respects women, and for that I can't help but love the novels.

This third novel in the series follows Perry and his wife and daughter as they lead a new colony settling on a distant planet. In addition to the struggles of establishing a brand new settlement (with some fun references to the original American colonies), soon the colony is facing hostile natives and worse: colonial politics and interspecies warfare.

This book reads really quickly and I never felt compelled to put it down; I was engrossed from beginning to end. The plot moves rapidly with quick changes of alliance and power which accentuate our main characters' roles as both leaders and functionaries trapped between greater powers. Throughout it all, the characters impressed me as incredibly real and genuine as people placed in difficult situations. I believed Perry's voice all the way through. The writing style is incredible straightforward and as such it may put some people off - there's a lot of action and voice and very little description. For me, that totally works. My only complaint is that Scalzi left some loose edges, particularly the colonists' encounters with native species seemed abrupt and left dangling. There are certainly several questions I would have loved to have answered that Scalzi left unresolved - yes, sometimes bigger problems come up and life doesn't answer all questions, but I still prefer my fiction to resolve all of its issues. But really, this is a minor issue for a largely extremely compelling scifi novel that makes fascinating subjects I wouldn't always find compelling. This novel has all the strengths of classical scifi with aliens, exploration, and politics without having the misogynist voice or missing female characters that plague so much scifi from the '50s to '70s.

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