Ahoy there me mateys! Welcome to the fifth broadside – the John Scalzi edition. I have read every novel except one. Must remedy that. His novels are known for their humor. So is his blog. One of my favorite aspects of his website/blog are his Big Idea posts. As Scalizi says, “What’s the Big Idea? Authors explaining the the big ideas behind their latest works, in their own words.” Super fun. So onto the books!
Please note: All book descriptions come from Goodreads. Other quotes come from the author’s website/blog. Click a book title to be taken to Goodreads.
Old Man’s War Series
This series is what led to my love of Scalzi. Except I started with book #4 in the series – Zoe’s Tale. I found it in a used book store sci-fi section and didn’t know it was part of a series. The time period of the novel overlaps with books #1 – 3 and is told from the perspective of 17 year old Zoe. I am so glad I read it in the order I did. As Scalzi says on his blog:
it’s meant to be a standalone novel for folks who have not had previous contact with the universe (i.e., younger readers) and a continuation novel for those who have (i.e., the adult readers of the series)
I adored Zoe. She was fun, easy to relate with, and had a wonderful voice. I was amazed at how well Scalzi captured a teenage girl. And it was funny and lovely and made me happy. I immediately lent it to me best friend to read (she loved it too!) and went to read books #1 – 3. I loved them all.
As the years have passed, this is one of the series I give to people who don’t read a lot of sci-fi. I feel it’s a good introduction to the genre. The books are also just plain fun. I love getting other people’s takes on this series.
The blurb for Zoe’s Tale:
How do you tell your part in the biggest tale in history?
I ask because it’s what I have to do. I’m Zoe Boutin Perry: A colonist stranded on a deadly pioneer world. Holy icon to a race of aliens. A player (and a pawn) in a interstellar chess match to save humanity, or to see it fall. Witness to history. Friend. Daughter. Human. Seventeen years old.
Everyone on Earth knows the tale I am part of. But you don’t know my tale: How I did what I did — how I did what I had to do — not just to stay alive but to keep you alive, too. All of you. I’m going to tell it to you now, the only way I know how: not straight but true, the whole thing, to try make you feel what I felt: the joy and terror and uncertainty, panic and wonder, despair and hope. Everything that happened, bringing us to Earth, and Earth out of its captivity. All through my eyes.
It’s a story you know. But you don’t know it all.
Now if ye want to be traditional and whatnot and read book 1, Old Man’s War, first then here is the blurb:
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.
The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.
Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger.
Side Note: “Old Man’s War, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale were each nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in their respective years. Zoe’s Tale was additionally nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.”
While the Old Man’s universe is me favorite, I have read five of six stand-alone novels. Some are weirder than others. The more recent ones are me more favorites.
This is a funny, plot-twisty, goofy happy book. I loved it. I am not a major Star Trek fan (though me bestie has tried) so some of the depth of the jokes were lost on me being as it spoofed the series. But this seems to be one of people’s favorites. The blurb:
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:
(1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
(2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.
Lock In was an interesting book. I have some reservations about it because some of the world-building didn’t exactly make sense to me. But the concepts were fun and I certainly enjoyed it. Other readers really liked listening to the audio versions narrated by Wil Wheaton or Amber Benson depending on your style. Oh yeah and it won the Hugo Award. The blurb:
Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.
A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “integrator” – someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.
But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery – and the real crime – is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It’s nothing you could have expected.
So that is my introduction to John Scalzi. If you haven’t read any of his novels I would suggest you hoist those sails and get moving!
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