Could John Perry, be satisfied with the peaceful life as the Ombudsman of a peaceful colony, after spending the previous years of his life in constant danger, as a soldier of the Colonial Defense Forces?
And what about his wife, Jane Sagan, who—in a sense—was born in that life full of danger?
The Colonial Union ask them to embark on a new adventure. The list of candidates was not very long, and the two of them were not right at the top, but they were candidates nonetheless, and they had the right spirit and attitudes.
The mission? Supervise the start of a new colonization with elements taken from different colonies, the top ten even. An experiment never attempted before. A challenge.
But of course things are not as they seem, and many dangers come from any source, even the most unexpected.
John Scalzi returns to his fictional universe of the Old Man’s War, soon to be made on TV, apparently.
John Scalzi presents the ordinary world of John, made of small disputes, placid pace of life, and brings us seamlessly into an adventure, a series of twists and inventions that greet you almost at every turn of the page.
It’s difficult to get into the detail of the story without giving too much away, and there are so many narrative twists. When we think we have it all figured out, that you understand what the rip-off is, when we begin to despair for the fate of John and Jane and the adopted daughter Zoe, Scalzi pulls off the right trick, a trick that solves the situation and continues the story, answers the questions, but also poses new ones.
Actually, not really tricks á la Deus Ex Machina, of course, but interlocking logic, surprisingly simple in hindsight.
Continuing to exploit stylistic elements from various genres, Scalzi begins with almost comedy tones, then draws the handful of western epic, stirring well with all the intrigues of political and legal thrillers, and adds in the background some military science fiction.
In fact, if the SF military relationships between the characters are essentially related to the various ranks and having to accept and respect orders according to a hierarchy, this time John (the character, not the author) has to earn respect on the basis of his actions, his decisions pulled out in a short time and in extreme situations.
The novel is—once again—narrated in the first person, from the point of view of the old man, John, but Scalzi manages to detach from the limitations of the 1st POV with narrative skills in a few moments when the protagonist reconstructs what happens around him. The result is of a greater understanding than what you would normally achieve in a novel written with the narrow point of view of the protagonist.
In conclusion, The Last Colony (Old Man’s War) is read with pleasure. A good science fiction entertainment, regardless of gender. It is true that it stirs many already-seen situations, many ideas seen since ever in the history of science fiction, but as always, how they are presented makes a difference. And in this case the mixture seems to work.