Review: The Last Colony

by Tom Ingram

Thirty years from now, when we’re all looking back nostalgically at the great science fiction writers of the beginning of the twenty-first century, John Scalzi is a name that will come up a lot. From the humble origins of writing an online serial novel, he became one of the big names in modern SF. I’ve previously read Agent to the Stars, The Android’s Dream, Old Man’s War, and The Ghost Brigades and highly recommend them.

The Last Colony picks up where TGB left off. John Perry and Jane Sagan have both retired from the military, and have cushy government jobs on a backwoods colony. They’ve adopted Zoe, the daughter of the villain from the previous novel. Long after they’ve settled in to life on the colony, a Colonial Union general convinces them to take charge of Earth’s latest colonization effort, Roanoke. From the beginning, it’s clear that a lot of political manoeuvring is at play, and when they finally get there, things get interesting.

The Last Colony has the same theme of pessimism about politics as the other books in the series. Galactic relations are nothing more than large-scale playground disputes, with the Conclave as the gigantic bully and the Colonial Union as the shifty kid who wears trenchcoats to school. Perry refuses to get drawn into the politics of either side. He protects his colony skillfully, culminating in an exciting sequence near the end.

The book is slow to start, with a couple of chapters of nothing happening. When actual action takes place, a lot of it is offscreen and doesn’t involve any main characters. An entire plot thread is completely dropped midway through (it’s probably picked up in the tie-in novel Zoe’s Tale). There are funny moments, but the laugh-out-loud humour of the first book isn’t present. A lot what’s supposed to be “cutting sarcasm” falls flat–remember Scalzi’s Law, “the failure mode of ‘clever’ is ‘asshole'”.

Once the ball gets rolling, we’re treated to a tense political thriller with a surprising ending. This isn’t one of Scalzi’s best works, but it’s worth a read.

You can find The Last Colony online at Chapters, McNally, or Amazon if you’re internationally inclined.