This is essentially the same story as told in ‘The Last Colony’ but from a different point of view. So why would I give it five stars? Simply because it is done so well. It caught my interest, made me smile, jerked my emotions, and reintroduced me to people and places that I became well acquainted with in Scalzi’s other ‘An Old Man’s War’ books.
Technically, this should probably be considered a Young Adult novel because of the teenage protagonist. There is nothing wrong with this. Other authors (myself included) have written YA spinoffs set in the same world and with overlapping characters from their adult novels. This, however, is not a spinoff. This is the same story related in ‘The Last Colony’ but from the perspective of John’s and Jane’s adopted daughter, Zoe. She was a great minor character in previous books and an exceptional protagonist in this one, which is told in first person, giving us insights into how she deals with being an orphan, the adopted daughter of the colony leaders of the planet Roanoke, and something like a goddess to the alien species known as the Obin.
The aspect of the book that feels a bit unnatural is some of the dialogue between Zoe and her friends. They are almost too witty, and Zoe and her friend Gretchen have more self-confidence than seems likely for two teenage girls. Of course, they are not normal teenagers. After all, who wants to read about hormonally powered, angst driven, girls whose major concern is how to attract a boyfriend? … Oh, right. Those. Do yourself a favor and read this instead. Zoe has angst, she has hormones, she even has a boyfriend, but she also has intelligence, common sense, and wisdom beyond her years.
Scalzi has become one of my favorite authors, and I would love to see more stories set in this universe he has created. How does Roanoke fare? How does the Colonial Union deal with the Conclave? Do they join them? Do they oppose them? Is the C.U. overthrown? And what about Earth? It’s an interesting world and there are many more story possibilities here. If he does continue with this thread, though, it will leave him with less time for his other writing, which would be a shame. Perhaps he could be cloned…