Novel Review: The Last Colony

John Scalzi concludes the trilogy, started in Old Man’s War and continued in The Ghost Brigades, with this novel, which has been nominated for a 2008 Hugo.

Title: The Last Colony

Author: John Scalzi
ISBN-10: 0765316978
ISBN-13: 978-0765316974
First Published: 2006

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John Perry and Jane Sagan, protagonists of the first two novels of the series, have settled into their latest lives on a peaceful colony with their adopted daughter Zoe. When asked to administer a new colony, they reluctantly accept and find themselves in the middle of a battle between an alliance of mostly-hostile aliens and their own duplicitous government.

High Point

The novel presents a messier and more complex universe than Scalzi’s earlier works. Alliances and motivations are not always what they seem, and even when the motives are noble, the methods often prove highly suspect.

The trilogy makes for a great SF summer read, and I recommend it for that reason. It has a page-turning SF plot and some reflections applicable to real-world politics.

Low Point

The novel features an excellent opening—- after several pages of background that would have been better presented gradually and in a less heavy-handed manner. If you’ve read the previous novels, start with “The story of how I left Huckleberry begins—- as do all worthy stories—- with a goat.” The conclusion also suffers from an excess of explanation.

I am left wondering how many of these passages the publishers demanded.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6. Scalzi works with many established tropes of SF. To his credit, these have been handled with increasing depth as the trilogy has progressed.

Imagery: 4/6. Scalzi has a number of strong concepts for aliens and future technology, and I continue to wish he would provide a little greater sense of how these look.

Story: 5/6. We have an accessible story (many non-SF readers would enjoy the trilogy) which nevertheless continues the trend of complicating the alien shoot’em-up universe we thought we encountered in Old Man’s War.

Characterization: 4/6 Characterization is fine, but the humans still lack real diversity in their speech and personality. I keep feeling as though humanity seems too unaffected by fundamental changes to our situation. This is an important point, give that the novel’s thematic concerns include thoughts on what it means to be human.

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Editing: 5/6 Scalzi’s writing is often very good, but he makes heavy use of expository dialogue and direct exposition in places.

Overall score: 5/6.

In total, The Last Colony receives 32/42.

Additional Comments

Although this novel concludes the trilogy proper, more will be revealed in Zoe’s Tale, due out this coming August.