Much was made about John Scalzi’s recent $3.5M deal with Tor books (10 years, 13 books) and I can think of few authors as deserving. While I haven’t read all of Scalzi’s work everything I have read has been somewhere around fantastic. I am a particular fan of the Old Man’s War universe and have thoroughly enjoyed each successive work set there. The End of All Things is the hardcover release of Scalzi’s latest Old Man’s War novel which was previously serialized on Tor.com. I greatly enjoyed Scalzi first serialized Old Man’s War work in The Human Division so I eagerly snatched this up when Tor sent me a review copy. It should be said that for anyone new to the universe first seen in Old Man’s War, The End of All Things is not necessarily the place to start. It primarily builds on the events in The Human Division but a general knowledge of past events seen in Old Man’s War, Zoe’s Tale, and The Last Colony will definitely help readers.
The Human Division is at equal measures a thrilling absolutely engaging novel and at other times wholly frustrating. By and large the latter wins out over the former and I’m willing to say that The Human Division is Scalzi at the top of his game. Originally published as a series of e-book “episodes” from January through April of 2013 The Human Division was released in its entirety in May. The Human Division encompases both the tradition of the serial novel and the advances in the series format prompted by the changing world of media entertainment (primarily television but there is a moment here and there that reminded of “the issue where the X-men play a team sport”). The Human Division typically follows a stable cast of characters with relatively few diversion from the core protagonists typically Colonial Union’s diplomatic outcasts of the Clarke advised by CDF officer Lieutenant Harry Wilson.
Yes, I said I’d have this up last week. I forgot. I blazed trough Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades back in June but the library’s copy of The Last Colony had been missing until just recently and I’m loathe to buy a book in a series if I don’t already own the previous volumes. While I think the middle novel, The Ghost Brigades, was the strongest of the three main novels (I’ve yet to read Zoe’s Tale) it is at least as strong a novel as Old Man’s War and fitting endcap to this chapter of the story. The Last Colony brings us back to John Perry and former-Ghost Brigade soldier Jane Sagan who have taken administrative positions on a colony world and are raising the now teen-aged Zoe; daughter of The Ghost Brigades’ Charles Boutin. Convinced by the Colonial Union to head up a new colony, the first to use colonists from other colonies, Perry and his family head off to the ominously named Roanoke colony. Of course all is not as it seems as forces larger than Roanoke have plans to use it as a pawn in deadly game intergalactic politics.
The Ghost Brigades
I tore through The Ghost Brigades, sequel to Old Man’s War, on a Friday evening and found it as engrossing and entertaining as its progenitor. The Ghost Brigades focuses on the the titular soldiers, the elite special forces charged with the defense of the colonies and whose bodies are created out of the DNA of the dead who receive the experimental edge of enhancements from the military they serve. Born as adults the average special forces soldier isn’t more then a couple of years old, born as adults but with personality to speak of their reliance on their BrainPals as a form of communication isolates them from regular troops and keeps them apart from the rest of humanity.
The God Engines
Subterranean Press, 2009
First Line: It was time to whip the god.
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that, despite being something a genre fanatic, that this is the first John Scalzi book I’ve read. I’ve always had every intention to read Old Man’s War but that intent has never manifested itself into action; this is a fact I’m going to have to remedy. The God Engines is a horror/fantasy novella that happens to take place in space; mostly. Our protagonist, Ean Tephe, captains a spaceship whose main means of FTL propulsion just happens to be a god bound in chains. Captain Tephe is part of an interstellar religious empire almost directly guided by their actual god. Tephe’s God just happens to have subjugated and bound other gods. The God Engines is an absolute page turner with vibrant living characters in a vividly depicted landscape. While the ships in the novella are never discussed in specific detail my brain certainly saw them as something straight out of Battlefleet Gothic (or maybe the Universal Church of Truth with their penchant for worshiping formless squishy things); an image aided by the ominous tone of the novel.