Zoe’s Tale is the parallel novel that accompanies The Last Colony. I’m impressed that Scalzi even attempted to write a second book covering much of the same temporal territory, and I’m even more impressed that he was able to write something that stood on its own despite the fact that I already knew (almost) exactly what was going to happen.
I understand that some people (like my friend Ben) don’t like Zoe’s Tale as much as they like the other books in the Old Man’s War universe. And I can see why: if you were looking for a totally new story, Zoe’s Tale isn’t the place to go. On the other hand, if you are just looking for a good read and are ok with covering some ground that you’ve already been over before, Zoe’s Tale is perfectly solid and enjoyable. My opinion of the book may be influenced by the fact that I didn’t have to wait for it to come out and didn’t have to wait for the next book in the series; there are a number of failings which instant gratification will fix.
But I don’t think it’s fair to call the repetition in Zoe’s Tale a failing. Maybe I just feel this way because I’m impressed by Scalzi’s ability to weave a second story in behind all the elements that I already knew, but I really do think that Zoe’s Tale is quite excellent. Scalzi manages to take a story that I’ve already heard before (right down to many of the essential details, and occasionally even the conversations) and offers it back up in an exciting fashion, following a character that I’ve only ever seen moving around on the sidelines before. It’s great. Also, damn, what a climax.
Enough of generalities! Let’s get down to some specifics, shall we?