Last night, I finished reading John Scalzi's third novel in his Colonial Defense Force series, The Last Colony. As some of you may recall, I was a big fan of The Ghost Brigades, which I only read recently as well. And though it took me until long after it had been published to read that one, I'm thrilled to have actually read The Last Colony pre-publication, and especially to have been able to read both works so close together, as events and characters from the middle book return in interesting ways in the finale.
(Hey, how does the busy editor find time to read another book, you ask? Well, I read about a third on the flight out to John & Traci Picacio's wedding, a third on the flight back, and the rest of it in fits and starts until giving it one late night yesterday.)
But back on the book, which - I won't hold you in suspense any longer - I thoroughly enjoyed: What Scalzi wisely does in this trilogy is that he introduces a very interesting future world in the first novel, veers off with some new characters for a deeper look at the workings of this world in book two, in which he pulls back the curtain a little bit on the darker side of his future's politics as well as raising some questions on the nature of identity, and then brings back the central character from the first novel - John Perry of Old Man's War - in a novel in which the political underpinnings of his universe are front and center. The complexity & moral ambiguity of the novels build with each one, though they all retain his very readable and distinctive narrative voice. I also think that I like each novel better than the one before, though it may be that I simply like returning to the universe of the Colonial Defense Force and am carrying my previous joy forwards and compounding it with new joy. Joy squared. Joy to the third power.
Now, some things of possible interest (possibly only to me) have occurred between my reading of Old Man's War and The Last Colony. One is that when I read Old Man's War, I hadn't a clue who Scalzi was. Since then, I've become a dedicated reader of his blog, Whatever (one of the few blogs I check every single day) and I've spent a good deal of time talking with John himself, both online and recently in person. Now, John's said many times that the character of Jane Sagan is based in part on his wife Krissy, no secret there. Add to this- minor spoiler coming up - the fact that his daughter Athena keeps popping up on Whatever in hysterical YouTube shorts like this, where she's seen by the myriad of John's readers, and it's hard not to see her as sharing certain similarities with the character of Zoe - minor spoiler now - who shares her life experiences with an entire devoted alien race. With the result that in my head as I read, John Perry, Jana Sagan and Zoe simply are John Scalzi (slightly taller), Krissy (slightly more indestructable) and Athena (slightly older, and, inexplicably, with shorter, darker hair). Now, nothing wrong with this, and of little relevance to most of the readers of these books - it just strikes me as interesting. I know a lot of writers and I read a lot of books, but none of them were ever the exact stand-ins for their characters in my mind before. (Certainly, I never conflated Chris Roberson with Akilina Chirikova, for example.) I found myself, towards the end when John Scalzi was saving the universe in a moment not un-reminiscent of the close of the fourth season of Babylon 5, wondering how I would have read this book if I'd never met John. I am sure my enjoyment and appreciate level would have been the same ("tremendous"), I just wonder what the lead character would have looked like. Perhaps a dashing, blue-eyed bald-headed man with two hoop earrings in the left lobe? Alas, I'll never know.
The other thing is that I read the manuscript for the third book in Mike Resnick's Starship series Starship: Mercenary (after the previous books Mutiny and Pirate) right between The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. And I suddenly realized that I like both Scalzi and Resnick for very similar reasons. They both have a distinctive, easily-readable narrative voice. They both write a damn good story well told and peopled with interesting, likable characters. They are both reasonably quick reads (important for the busy editor). And, as I realized when I read Mercenary the week before Last Colony, they both have written military SF space operas that grow in complexity with each book. I definitely think my reading experience was enhanced by reading Last Colony on the heels of Mercenary. Unfortunately, since we won't be publishing till next December while The Last Colony is out next month, there isn't much you can do with that! Sorry, you'll have to wait.
But there you have it. Lou on The Last Colony. I came, I read, it kicked ass.