Friday, June 9, 2017

The Last Colony (Old Man's War 3#) by John Scalzi review

    American pioneer heritage is something which has kind of a sordid history once you peel back the legend and myth-making which was deliberately added to it. Disease, exile of religious dissidents, slaughter of locals, and shameless land grabs are the least of it. I was hesitant about John Scalzi's take on the subject with the story of Old Man War protagonist John Perry taking up the role of a colony head in a book series primarily about the evils of colonization. I shouldn't have doubted Scalzi as the book takes the series to a satisfying conclusion even though I know it continues past this point.

    The premise is John Perry, his wife Jane, and his adopted daughter Zoe have been offered the position of overseers for a new colony called Roanoke. The mysterious disappearance of the American colony is so far in the past no one realizes this is a joke on our hapless colonizers. The alien races of the galaxy are organizing, in part due to humanity's brutality, and they are trying to bring galactic peace. Unbeknownst to the Perry family, Roanoke is part of a massive plan to make sure that peace never materializes.

    I've got to say, I enjoyed the politics of this book a great deal. I've been accused of doing too-complicated space politics in my books but this was just the right amount of it for me. I like how the Colonial Union is ruthless, corrupt, and maybe even evil but you have to root for them just a little because they're the home team. I also like how we're finally personalizing the aliens of the universe so we can see what their perspective of humanity and its aggression is. I, for one, am entirely comfortable with humanity being the bad guys in the universe and lagging behind while everyone else is getting their crap together.

    There's some really impressive moments spread throughout the book. General Gau's speech regarding why the colonies have to either surrender, join the Conclave, or die is the highlight of the book. So is the repetition when he tries to make the same argument to Roanoke. I also love the various scenes involving Zoe and her alien bodyguards (due to being the messiah to their race--long story). The comedy is a lot lower-key than in Old Man's War, feeling more like a serious science fiction story but still humorous.

    As mentioned, The Last Colony does a good job of wrapping up all of the major plotlines of the series. It even ends on a triumphant note, making sure all of the brutality and cruelty we've witnessed so far is repudiated in the most badass yet pacifistic way possible. John Scalzi has been building up to the end of the Colonial Union's tyranny for a long time and the way our heroes strike at their power is awesome. I wish I could talk more about it but I've probably alluded enough to qualify as spoilers.

    There are a few flaws with the book. Frankly, I felt the story on Roanoke proper wasn't very entertaining. There's some interesting plotlines like the fact there's a sapient species on the planet other than humanity but they disappear midpoint through the book, never getting referenced again. I also note Zoe alludes to an assassination attempt on General Gau which is off-camera despite its importance to the plot. Both these plots get picked up in Zoe's Tale but that just means their exclusion here was noted by the author as having been a mistake. The real problem with the book is the protagonists are often just hanging around waiting for the next galactic development to happen.

    So is it good? I think it's very good but not a book without flaws. While colonization is supposed to be boring, that doesn't mean the plot should be boring when they're colonizing. There's also the aforementioned plot holes. Despite this, I still strongly recommend the book and am very glad to have read it. I'll also be following up with the subsequent books even though I think a complete story has been told.



  1. This is a great series. Good review C.T.. My audible account has all Scalzi, Grisham, you, Meyer, Baldacci, Alanson, Clines and more...let me know if you are looking for suggestions!? lol I always am. Thanks

    1. I'm always interested in suggestions! I wasn't a big fan of the Scazli books after this but am a big fan of Clines (I haven't read the Fold yet, though) but would love to hear some more about the others.