I really should have written this review last week. I’ve been on a Scalzi kick, and finished The Last Colony last Wednesday. Then I started and finished Zoe’s Tale on Saturday, and started The Human Division Saturday evening. I’m afraid that things have gotten more than a little jumbled in my mind at this point. That said, I’ve still got enough details in order that I can tell you for certain that The Last Colony follows in the footsteps of its predecessors and offers up a fabulous read.
Also, I know that it shouldn’t matter to the book itself, but John Harris’ cover art for the book is just gorgeous.
Ok, what else can I tell you about the story without ruining things? First of all, it’s just as easy to fall into this book as it is to fall into the other books in the series. Or really any book by Scalzi that I’ve read. The characters feel well realized, and they clearly build on the material that you’ve seen them in before. You won’t be totally at sea if you start with this book, because John Scalzi is a good author and makes sure to give you some sense of the characters regardless of how often you have seen them before, but if you want to really understand what’s going on you’d do best to read everything in order. Just like what I said about The Ghost Brigades.
I really think you should read the book, but go ahead and keep reading if you want to know more.
There’s a moment of deus ex machina towards the end which might give some people pause; in fairness, it reads more like there was a lot of stuff going on in the background that was very exciting but which didn’t fit in the main story. As I understand it, this is part of the reason why the book Zoe’s Tale even exists. Given the necessities of moving things along and maintaining a consistent narrator, I’m perfectly willing to accept the way that this works in this story, particularly because it sets up an even more dramatic and awesome final reveal for the very end of the book.
I also quite like the character of General Gau; I want more scenes with him, and I’m happy to see him have as large a role as he does in The Last Colony.
Oh, and I love seeing Scalzi bring up the issues of loyalty, treason, self-determination, and what being human implies. I’m glad to see Scalzi doing more with this, especially since it seems like he’s been moving slowly towards it the whole time. Making sure that other alien races are both actually quite alien and yet still relatable is an important element of all this, and I’m not going to say any more because then this would belong under the topic of…
I’m very curious whether Scalzi knew what would happen at the end of The Last Colony when he first named his protagonist in Old Man’s War, or whether he stumbled upon the historical reference in a case of fortuitous happenstance. Either way, I’m glad to see him addressing the problems of the hydraulic empire he established for his setting, and seeing his referencing (even in a small way) the incipient conflict between the allegorical Shogunate and Emperor leaves me very excited to read more in the setting. I can tell you that The Human Division begins to address this conflict in a very satisfying fashion, and I’ll leave any further commentary for once I’ve finished that book.
*END OF SPOILERS*
I could keep going, but I really want to get back to reading The Human Division. Go ahead and call me greedy, but don’t forget to read these books.