Book Review – The Last Colony by John Scalzi
I almost did not pick up the first book in this series, Old Man’s War, because I am not a big fan of military science fiction. The blurb on the book cover intrigued me, though, and I found both this book and the sequel, Ghost Brigade, enjoyable with much better characters with more admirable traits than you normally find in this particular subgenre of science fiction. The Last Colony, in my opinion, provides a satisfying conclusion to the tale of John Perry, the former genetically altered soldier.
He is in semi-retirement with his wife (a former Special Forces soldier and clone of his dead first wife on Earth) and his adopted daughter (who is revered by an alien species), when he is called on to lead a new colony being established on a distant planet. It soon becomes clear that they have been lied to. The planet they arrive at is not the one they were told they would be colonizing. In fact, they are told they must remain hidden, which means the crew of the ship that brought them there cannot leave, the ship will be destroyed, and they are not to use of anything that can transmit an electronic signal.
To say much more about this would involve spoilers, but it soon becomes clear to Perry that their government is misleading them. What he does not know at first is that the survival of humanity depends on him figuring out what he has not been told, taking a stand against established authority, and countering some of their incredibly poor decisions regarding an alien led federation of species known as the Conclave.
A few things about this book distinguish it from others in this subgenre and make it deserving of a five-star rating. The first is the characters. There is a clear distinction between the main characters in this book. None are cookie-cutter ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys.’ Each has understandable motivations. Some are admirable, and you care about what they do and what happens to them. Those that aren’t, are at least believable.
The second thing is the story. John and his wife (as the main characters) recognize that what they have been told doesn’t quite make sense. There are gaps, possibly distortions, and they attempt to figure out what those are (i.e. they are not stupid and credulous). Through their actions, they question, they discover, and they act, not with mindless violence, but with thought and well consider planning. This is not a simplistic ‘action’ story.
The third thing about this book that I especially liked is the mood. This is a work of positive science fiction in that it is hopeful. Humanity, despite some shortcomings, can progress and advance. Our biggest challenge is not some alien presence that wants to eat or enslave us but ourselves and how we view our place in the universe. Prejudice and jingoism are greater threats than the other species sharing the stars and John Perry realizes this.
The only negative aspect to the book that I saw was that it introduces a sentient species native to the planet John and the colonists have been sent to but little is said about them or the humans’ interaction with them other than a brief and unpleasant encounter.
If you are looking for comic book heroes and action adventure, this is book is not for you, but if you appreciate a thoughtful story with admirable characters, I recommend this with one caveat – read Old Man’s War and Ghost Brigade first.
Posted on February 25, 2012, in 5 Star Reviews, Book Reviews, Positive Science Fiction and tagged Book review, positive science fiction, Scalzi, The Last Colony. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.