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.
Summary: Top notch fun! If you liked Avatar and want to see how much better a good Sci-Fi novel can be, read this.
This novel borrows heavily from classics like Starship Troopers and Forever War, but who cares. It’s great. A flawlessly breathless read from start to finish. Basically it’s about a normal (for the year 2200) 75 year old man who volunteers to leave the sheltered Earth, gets upgraded, and is thrown into the maelstrom of interstellar alien combat. It’s action driven, idea driven, AND character driven. Not that the characters are painted with some kind of world shattering mastery, but they’re good, and likable. The atmosphere and action are all great. I also enjoyed seeing aliens again in my Sci-Fi. By that, I mean weird and tentacled out hostile aliens. I like my aliens alien.
There are also a lot of good newer Sci-Fi ideas packed into the book, plus a healthy dose of classic 60’s-80’s ones that have been nicely updated. I have a few little bones to pick with the author’s vision of the future. Particularly on Earth where things seem to have barely changed. Hell, there are even magazines in a waiting room. We won’t have magazines 20 years from now. In addition, the alien planets seemed to too often have the coincidental breathable atmosphere. This is common across Sci-Fi but always bugs me. The space marines have combat suits, it could just mention the suit dealing with the issue. And several of the aliens liked to eat humans. Now I liked the gruesome touch, but the reality is that alien biology would be way too different. The odds of them having the same amino acids, salts, etc as life on Earth are astronomical. But as I said, I liked Scalzi’s aliens, particularly the weird militant advanced religious nut warrior bugs.
But still, these complaints are just nitpicks. I loved the book. I downloaded the next two sequels already (via Kindle to my iPad). Enough said.