Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Last Colony by John Scalzi


You know what? It's hard to review later books in a series. All the terribly witty and/or interesting things you thought up to say have probably all been said, and you feel like you might just be repeating yourself. Of necessity, most series have many of the same characters and setting, so it's more a review of what the author is doing with them now than it is an entirely fresh slate on which to comment.

So, with that in mind, we come to The Last Colony, the last in the trilogy that started with Old Man's War, (although not, as it turned out, the last in the series/universe.) One of the things I vaguely remember mentioning in my reviews of the first or second book was how I hoped later books would go more into the politics of colonization, as it is touched upon and seems vastly interesting and complex, but is not really a developed theme.

This time, I got what I was looking for. This is all about human colonization policy, and how it conflicts with other alien races out there in the stars, as well as being about who's controlling the process and who's being kept in the dark. John Perry and his wife Jane are enlisted to lead a new human colony, and they take along their daughter Zoe. What they're not being told at first is that this is a deliberate provocation to an alien coalition that proposes to stop colonization utterly for races not in the coalition (or Conclave, as it's officially known), and within the coalition to allow coalition equally, and, it seems, to try to settle worlds with multiple species instead of doling them out one planet per species.

Humanity doesn't want to join, but the Conclave is getting powerful, and they see a chance to break it before it began. Of course that means the Perrys' Roanoke colony is a pawn in many games, and John and Jane have to keep everyone alive while trying to find a way out of this morass. (The name of the colony may foreshadow some things.)

This, of course, entails a lot of consideration of what human colonization policy is, and who is making the decisions, something John has never been particularly happy about, but now has a goad to explore further. We meet some of the Conclave, who are not necessarily what you'd expect, but neither are they easy to take at face value.

I was a bit perplexed at the werewolf subplot, as it was barely explored and then disappeared. Not long after landing on the planet, the new colonists become aware that there might be an intelligent species, even a hostile one, although the way things turn out it's hard to tell if they were attacking or defending. There's a showdown in the woods, and the barest of understanding of how they might migrate in time with their prey animals. (And they look like werewolves).

But then...nothing more happens. We never have any more firm contact with the werewolves. They don't play into the denouement at all. They just seem to be forgotten, even as it seems like they might be a threat to the colonists on a continuing basis, at least until the two groups come to some sort of agreement. And, of course, this would raise all sorts of questions about colonizing a world already inhabited by an intelligent species. It just doesn't pan out. It feels like a subplot that was mostly cut, but the part that's still present feels out of place because so little is done with it.

Other than that, however, this was a very fun read. I always know when I sit down with a Scalzi book, it's going to be at very least thoroughly entertaining. And in this one, I finally got the more in-depth look at colonization policy I wanted from the previous books in the series, told through the story of engaging characters. I wouldn't read this first, but it's a worthy sort-of conclusion to the trilogy, back when it was just a trilogy.

Booklinks:

I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees

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