The Last Colony

Let's finish this puppy off and get to my review of The Last Colony, by John Scalzi. This will be a follow-on to my reviews of Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades. There are two minor "chapbooks" set in the same universe and I have one of them (The Sagan Diaries), but I'm not planning on talking about it unless people specifically are interested. Short version of that review is that I liked it fine, but I'm don't think there's enough meat to warrant a separate topic.

I'm going to handle this review the same way I handled TGB - I won't spoil anything in The Last Colony, but I'm going to feel free to spoil OMW or TGB. It's just impossible to discuss the third book in a trilogy without talking about what occurred in the first two books. So if spoilers about The Ghost Brigades would make you sad then stop reading now.

The third book picks up with John Perry and quite a bit of time has elapsed. At the end of TGB Jane Sagan had unexpectedly ended up with responsibility for a child - Zöe Boutin. TLC opens years later, after both Sagan and Perry have retired and are raising Zöe on a human colony world. There seems to be no real conflict but it's not long before the entire family are drawn into effords to found a much more dangerous colony. As I said I won't spoil it, but the struggle between the "Conclave" and the Colonial Union is explored in depth.

I liked TLC better than The Ghost Brigades, but I think Old Man's War is still my favorite of the trilogy. I think TGB just gets the short end of the stick - middle books of a trilogy often do. By the start of TLC I had a lot of open questions about the universe, and a lot of specific questions about how the Colonial Union even operates. TLC does a great job of satisfactorily resolving those, so as the finisher as a trilogy it turns in a solid performance. But there were so many dangling threads that I think the book suffers as a standalone story. There are some really odd notes in the story - conflicts or subplots that seemed rushed. So much of the book is answering the big questions that some of the small questions it wants to ask get short shrift.

One of the things that I think is strange over the whole trilogy is that Sagan's and Perry's relationship changes so dramatically in between books. At the end of Old Man's War they have a tentative relationship, and Perry is hardly mentioned in The Ghost Brigades. Then, by the start of The Lost Colony they are married and have an adopted kid. It's a big jump and the transition from really weird and twisted maybe-dating (based on the creepy fact that Sagan is basically a clone of Perry's wife) to "we've resolved all those issues and are now happily married" is abrupt. I can see an argument that fans of the universe wouldn't want the love story that these two characters have, but I don't think in the end I agree. I would have liked to see more about Sagan deciding to leave everything she knew to be "normal" and Perry adapting to a woman who both is and is not his wife of many years. There are some references to Sagan's adapting to living with "the Realborn", but this is what I mean about the low-level story getting shorted so we can focus on the larger conflicts. I think having someplace across the trilogy where their personal problems amounted to a hill of beans in this crazy universe would have been nice to read.

I reread these last two paragraphs and my review is reading as more negative than I intend. I like the book, and if you've read TGB you're going to want to read TLC, no doubt. Everything else is nitpicking really. I enjoyed TLC, and I'm happy to put it on my shelves - I just didn't like it as much as I liked OMW, or even The Android's Dream. But it does put the capstone on the trilogy, and it goes into the political workings of the Colonial Union for the first time. Ever since I first read Old Man's War I've wanted to know more about how the Colonial Union is set up and how it relates to the rest of the galaxy, so seeing the answers to some of these issues was very satisfying. All in all, if you liked OMW and TGB then you'll be satisfied with reading The Last Colony.

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