Summary: Fun read, but not as good as the previous two.
This is the sequel to Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades. I really enjoyed those books and pounded through this one as well. It’s just as easy to read and picks up with the same two main protagonists. John Perry narrates in first person as he did in the first novel.
Unfortunately, it just isn’t as good. Not that it’s bad. It’s a fun read. John and Jane, no longer nano-engineered soliders, get recruited to lead a new colony, and are swept into a high stakes game of Alien politics. It just seems sillier. There’s less specific action, more political explanation. That might be half my problem with this novel. A lot of the big stuff takes place off screen and/or is just summarized in narrative instead of being told in scene. The plot also tries to tackle way too much, leading to loose ends like a newly discovered sentient alien species — introduced, and totally never resolved or explained in any way. The political action happens too fast, and on such a large scale, with fairly crazy solutions. I just didn’t buy it, so I was left feeling a bit empty.
The fourth book in the series is apparently the same story told from the point of view of Zoe, John and Jane’s teenage daughter. I’m not sure I want to read this story again — although I did like Zoe as a character.
Since I enjoyed Old Man’s War so much I jumped right in and pounded this out last night. I might have liked it even better. The characters are a tad less likable than the first book, but there is more plot, and more aliens — remember I like aliens. The book starts off with a great prequel that holds your interest (and I’m not a prequel fan), slaps you with a nicely done twist, and is immediately obvious to the real plot that develops. This involves a Special Forces space marine who is a complete genetic construct. He is born an adult, learning to be a solider and human all at the same time in a frantic computer-in-the-head rush. There is some good Sci-Fi in here, and some really fun aliens, but it doesn’t get in the way of a really fast fun story. I’m very much reminded of a lot of my favorite authors from my High School Sci-Fi reading: Robert Heinlein, David Brin, Larry Niven, etc. but Scalzi‘s books (at least the two I’ve read) don’t feel derivative in any negative way. He maintains a good balance between character, story, action, and Sci-Fi elements without letting any of them overshadow the rest. I’ll read the third book soon.