Wrapping up the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi (books 4 – 6)

Finally, after threatening to read these books for oodles of year, I’ve done it! As of this past week, I’ve finished the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi. I’m definitely feeling a sense of satisfaction over seeing this through — but what will I put on my reading resolution list for 2019, now that this perennial favorite has moved to the “already read” shelf?

After finishing the first three books in the six-book series, I wrote a wrap-up post (here) to share my thoughts from the halfway point. So now, I’ll dive back in and focus on books 4 – 6, which take the series in a decidedly different direction.

Book #4, Zoe’s Tale is THE EXACT SAME STORY as the one told in The Last Colony. The catch is, this time around we see events through the eyes of Zoe, adopted daughter of John Perry and Jane Sagan, and biological daughter of a man who came close to destroying all of humanity. (Spoiler alert: he failed.) Once again, we journey with the family to the new colony of Roanoke, where things go spectacularly badly for the human colonists.

Zoe is a fun point-of-view character, giving us the teen girl take on being dragged across the universe by her parents, being forced to leave her friends and technology behind, and engage in the dirty, difficult business of building a new home out of practically nothing.

Zoe is smart, and a smart-ass, and it’s exhilarating to see her come into her own and make a difference in intergalactic politics and intrigue. Plus, Zoe — by virtue of her birth father’s contributions — is a hero to an entire alien race, and seeing Zoe interact with her Obin bodyguards is worth the price of admission all on its own.

As a side note, throughout the series, Scalzi excels at creating multitudes of alien races and making them distinct and endlessly entertaining. Some are weird, some are scary, some are practically beyond description… and it all just adds to the fun of the Old Man’s War books.

You might think it would be dull to read about the same events in a second book, but trust me, it’s not. It’s kind of a blast to hear Zoe’s take on what happened, and to see how her version dovetails (or not) with her parents’ side of the story. Really, Zoe’s Tale is a great read — and I think best appreciated if read immediately following The Last Colony.

Zoe’s Tale is, in a way, an end of the main piece of the story, at least if you consider the series to be specifically about John Perry and his family. The next two books continue with events in the Old Man’s War universe, but have a very different format and focus.

Books #4 and 5, The Human Division and The End of All Things, are written (and were originally published as) a series of interconnected stories. John Perry’s actions at the end of the previous books pretty much blew up the uneasy coexistence of the Colonial Union (representing humanity) and the Conclave (an alliance of 400+ alien species). In these two books, we see what happens next.

Previously, Earth was kept isolated from the Colonial Union. Earth humans had the option of joining the CDF (Colonial Defense Forces) when they turned 75, but it was a one-way relationship. Earth was kept mostly in the dark about the goings-on out in space, and had no say in how humans interacted with the various other species they encountered.

John Perry broke through that barrier, and in The Human Division and The End of All Things, we see the fall-out. Earth is no longer willing to be merely a supplier of people and goods to the Colonial Union, and wants its own voice heard. In these two books, we meet diplomats — lots and lots of diplomats — from Earth, from the Colonial Union, and from the Conclave, each of whom represent their people’s interest, but carry layer upon layer of secret agendas as well.

Of course, these are John Scalzi books we’re talking about, so in addition to diplomatic negotiations, we have daring space rescues, lots of things blowing up, a brain in a box (yup!), wise-ass soldiers wielding mighty weapons while discussing ancient pop culture, descriptions of very interesting and sometimes scary alien beings, and more snark than might seem possible to fit into two paperback books.

As I said in my wrap-up of the first three books in the series:

Ever since discovering John Scalzi’s amazing books, I’ve know that I needed to make time for this series, but after talking about it for so long, it started feeling like a huge undertaking — and I’m not quite sure why. Now that I’ve dived in (and read three books in the space of a week), I can tell you that this series contains all the trademark Scalzi wit and smart-assery (is that a word? it should be a word) that we know and love from books like The Android’s Dream, Redshirts, and Lock In. I was afraid that Old Man’s War would be all hard sci-fi, serious and full of space battles, and I’m happy to say that that’s not the case. I mean, yes, there are space battles and the eradication of planets and species… but these books are funny, dammit, even while containing moments of deep emotion and moral dilemmas.

Now that I’ve reached the end of Old Man’s War, I can say that I’m 100% happy to have read the series! John Scalzi is consistently smart and funny in everything he writes, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m a fan for life. I haven’t started his newest series, The Interdependency (which consists of two books so far, The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire) — so I guess I do have something Scalzi for my goals list for 2019 after all.

_________________________________________

The details:

Zoe’s Tale – published 2008; 325 pages
The Human Division – published 2013; 431 pages
The End of All Things – published 2015; 380 pages

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/19/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Still in the midst of family stuff, but all is well. How’s that for vague? The upside of the semi-craziness of the past week is that I ended up with a lot of sit-around-and-wait time on my hands, which of course translates to sit-around-with-a-book time for me.

What did I read during the last week?

The Human Division (Old Man’s War, #5) by John Scalzi: This is a set of interconnected stories rather than a novel, but it’s still set in the Old Man’s War universe and quite fun. I have one more book left in the series, and then I’ll write up some thoughts to wrap things up.

Pulp by Robin Talley: A terrific YA story set in both contemporary and historical time periods. My review is here.

Elevation by Stephen King: A surprisingly moving novella. My thoughts are here.

In graphic novels:

Saga, volume 9: Wow, this one really hurt me. That ending! And I’m more than a little heart-broken that the creators are taking a one-year break before returning to the story. I need more Saga, now!

Runaways: Best Friends Forever: The new Runaways run, written by Rainbow Rowell, continues to be light and fun.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 401, “America the Beautiful” (aired 11/4/2018) – check out my thoughts here.
Episode 402, “Do No Harm” (aired 11/11/2018) – my reaction post is here.
NEW: Episode 403, “The False Bride” (aired 11/18/2018) – my reaction from last night is here.

Pop culture goodness:

I saw TWO movies this weekend!

Quick take: I loved the music and the performance scenes, but wish there’d been more actual insight into Freddie as a person. A lot, whether about Freddie himself or Queen as a band and family, felt too surface-y. Actually, this movie made me realize that I’d be perfectly happy with a 2-hour long movie of Queen’s performances! *scurrying off to watch Queen videos on YouTube*

Quick take: Hmm. Quite a lot of spectacle, but I’m not sure what the movie was hoping to achieve. It’s pretty dark, losing most of the quirkiness of the first Fantastic Beasts movie in favor of dark-wizard doings. My copy of the screenplay book arrived this week, but I didn’t want to read it until I’d seen the movie. And now that I have, I’ll pick up the book and see if reading the story gives me a different feeling. Overall, my issue with the Fantastic Beasts franchise is that they’re kind of kids’ movies (or so it would seem), but since all the characters are adults, we lose the sense of wonder that the Harry Potter films provided as we saw this incredible world through young, unjaded eyes. The Hogwarts scenes in this new movie stand out as lovely little moments, but they’re really just minor snippets. (But hey, it was fun to see a different take on Hogwarts robes!) Overall, the movie is very dark and crowded, and definitely the middle of a story that’s still has plenty left to unveil. Maybe it’ll take a repeat viewing to find the charm that must be there.

Fresh Catch:

This week’s new book arrivals:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: I’m at about the half-way point. It’s fascinating to read this book about the Trojan War so soon after reading The Song of Achilles.

Now playing via audiobook:

Squire (Protector of the Small, #3) by Tamora Pierce: I do most of my audiobook listening while out walking, and there just hasn’t been much of that this past week… hence a lack of any real progress with this book, despite loving it. I hope to get back to it this coming week.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — getting close to the end for both!

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week, aiming to finish in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December.

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/29/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This month’s book group book! My thoughts are here.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult: My review is here.

The Walking Dead, volume 30: New World Order: The newest trade paperback volume in the Walking Dead series. Even though I don’t retain much from one volume to the next, these books are always a good time.

In audiobooks, I finished my re-read/listen of Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn. My original review from when I first read the book is here. The story really holds up, and I enjoyed the audio version very much. Can’t wait to read the sequel!

Fresh Catch:

I bought myself a present!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak: The public library comes through for me again! I started this book with very high expectations… but unfortunately, as of about 50%, it’s just not working for me. I’ll continue, but it’s feeling like a slog.

Now playing via audiobook:

First Test (Protector of the Small, #1) by Tamora Pierce: Back to Tortall! I’m diving into Tamora Pierce’s next quartet of books. I do love the worlds she creates.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Slow but steady!
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/22/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

I read three library books — ones YA, one middle grade, and one picture book. My wrap-up post for all three is here.

Zoe’s Tale – book #4 in the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi: Another great volume in a terrific sci-fi series. Review to come.

In audiobooks, I finished listening to The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Simply beautiful.

Fresh Catch:

One new book! Of course, I should probably read the first book (Akata Witch) before reading the sequel…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: I was really tempted to just keep going with Old Man’s War… but my book group discussion of Little Fires Everywhere starts this week, so I’d better get moving!

Now playing via audiobook:

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn: I read this book last year (review) — but I was about to start the sequel, and realized I needed a major refresher! I’ve just started the audiobook, and I’m liking the narration so far.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Slow but steady!
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/15/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

One Day in December by Josie Silver: A bit of romance, to break up my sci-fi heavy week. My review is here.

Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi: I’ve made it halfway through the series! My thoughts so far, here.

Pop culture goodness:

I saw this:

And now I’m obsessed with this song:

Fresh Catch:

Bookish goodies! I treated myself to the Subterranean Press edition of one of my very favorite novellas by Patricia Briggs, Alpha & Omega.

I also picked up these two used books, which just happened to catch my eye:

 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Pride by Ibi Zoboi: The public library comes through again! Hurray for my hold request getting processed in record time — I’m so happy to be starting this Pride and Prejudice retelling.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: I LOVE this — but I’m getting super frustrated by how long it’s taking me to get through it. My week has been crazy, with so little listening time. Must correct that this coming week!

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Slow but steady!
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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A view from the halfway point of the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi

The Old Man’s War series has occupied a place of honor on my TBR list for years now… I almost feel like I’m breaking with tradition by actually reading these books, rather than featuring them in yet another January post about my reading resolutions for the year.

Ever since discovering John Scalzi’s amazing books, I’ve know that I needed to make time for this series, but after talking about it for so long, it started feeling like a huge undertaking — and I’m not quite sure why. Now that I’ve dived in (and read three books in the space of a week), I can tell you that this series contains all the trademark Scalzi wit and smart-assery (is that a word? it should be a word) that we know and love from books like The Android’s Dream, Redshirts, and Lock In. I was afraid that Old Man’s War would be all hard sci-fi, serious and full of space battles, and I’m happy to say that that’s not the case. I mean, yes, there are space battles and the eradication of planets and species… but these books are funny, dammit, even while containing moments of deep emotion and moral dilemmas.

The series kicks off with Old Man’s War, which sets up quite a neat bit of world-building. From the opening lines, we know we’re in for a treat:

I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited by wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.

John Perry is the main character — a nice, decent man who misses his late wife, and has nothing much tying him to life on Earth. So, John enlists in the Colonial Defense Forces, a space-based military whose purpose is to protect human colonists across the depths of space, as they fight other species for possession of habitable planets. Why would a 75-year-old enlist? Because the CDF only accepts senior citizen recruits, enticing them with the prospect of technology that can make them young again. Sure, there are a few catches, like never being able to return to Earth again, and — oh yeah — going out and killing aliens in battle after battle, but the elderly recruits are all eager for a new chapter in their lives, so off they go.

What follows is an intriguing story of warfare, military training, the bonds between squad-mates, unimaginable danger from unimaginable aliens, and a rip-roaring good adventure. The morality is decidedly grey, and John Perry becomes more and more aware of the fallibility of the CDF powers-that-be. Danger, adrenaline, and even love come into play. It’s an awesome start to the series, although Old Man’s War can certainly stand on its own as a single-volume story, for those not looking to make a long-term investment in a series.

 

Book #2, The Ghost Brigades, shifts gears and perspectives quite a bit. While some characters cross over into this book, for the most part, The Ghost Brigades introduces a brand new cast of characters and a new set of dilemmas and conflicts.

The question of free will and consciousness is front and center. What does it mean to be a person? Are you still a person if your consciousness has been manufactured? Can a non-self-aware species become self-aware through technology? And if so, should they?

The adventure here feels much more personal, as it focuses on a few key people and their struggle to do the right thing, even when the right thing isn’t always obvious. The technology in this book expands on what we know from Old Man’s War, and is quite fascinating.

I did feel that the first third or so of the book was rather slow-moving, as it throws us into a new situation amidst new people and species, and spends a lot of time laying out the framework of the current conflict. I missed John Perry quite a bit (he’s absent from this story), although by the later sections of the story, I found myself just as invested in the new characters’ lives.

Things definitely pick up by the end — I couldn’t put this book down, and had to immediately move on to the next book to see what happened next…

Which brings us to The Last Colony, the third book in the series. As you might guess from the title (and as is clear from reading the author’s acknowledgements), The Last Colony was meant to be the end of the story. And a great end it is! Although apparently enough people loved these books for the author to continue the story for three more books, but I haven’t gotten there yet!

In The Last Colony, we’re reunited with John Perry, who’s once again at the center of a galactic battle for domination between the CDF and the non-human species who have allied together to put a limit to non-authorized planetary colonization. John is sent to head up a new colony on a new planet (which the CDF names Roanoke, not that that’s ominous or anything).  But the aliens aren’t particularly happy with this bold move by the humans, and they’re willing to do something about it.

I won’t give away too much about what actually takes place. It’s quite a good story, full of military maneuvering, intelligence gathering, high technology… and also domestic drama, snarky colonists, and plenty of awesome wordplay and quippy, snippy arguments. I was completely engrossed by this book… and now that I’ve finished, I’m trying to force myself to hit pause and read something different before diving into the 2nd half of the series.

Yes, there are three more books in the Old Man’s War series, and at this point, I can safely say that I’ll be reading them all… probably very, very soon.

_________________________________________

The details:

Old Man’s War – published 2005; 351 pages
The Ghost Brigades – published 2006; 347 pages
The Last Colony – published 2007; 320 pages

 

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/8/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I just spent a lovely weekend in Boulder, Colorado with my wonderful daughter! It was a very quick 48-hours, but so much fun. We saw an amazing production of Pride and Prejudice, featuring a small cast where most of the actors and actresses played multiple roles, often across gender lines. It was fresh and funny, and we loved it!

Besides wandering and exploring, we also took a tour of the Celestial Seasonings tea factory — the heavenly smells alone made it worthwhile, not to mention all the variety of tea sampling that we indulged in. A couple of restaurants, coffee shops, and an awesome little used book store just added to the fun. Also, Boulder has a beautiful public library that made me want to move in and never leave.

Of course, best of all was doing all this in the company of my lovely girl.

And now… back to the books!

What did I read during the last week?

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner: I loved this beautiful tale! My review is here.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: I finished this book on the plane on the way to Boulder. Finally, after talking about it for years, I’ve read it! I really enjoyed this book, and will try to write up a quick review later in the week, once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath a bit.

Fresh Catch:

So many wonderful books arrived this week! First of all, yet another Tamora Pierce hardcover, one-volume edition:

I also received excellent bookmail from Amazon:, including:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi: The second book in the Old Man’s War series — I haven’t gotten very far yet, but consider me intrigued.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: I’ve listened to about 25% so far. Just beautiful — can’t wait to continue after a weekend away from audiobooks.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Slow but steady!
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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