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Zoe's Tale (Old Man's War) Hardcover – August 19, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In the touching fourth novel set in the Old Man's War universe, Scalzi revisits the events of 2007's The Last Colony from the perspective of Zoë, adopted daughter of previous protagonists Jane Sagan and John Perry. Jane and John are drafted to help found the new human colony of Roanoke, struggling against a manipulative and deceitful homeworld government, native werewolf-like creatures and a league of aliens intent on preventing all space expansion and willing to eradicate the colony if needed. Meanwhile, teenage Zoë focuses more on her poetic boyfriend, Enzo; her sarcastic best friend, Gretchen; and her bodyguards, a pair of aliens from a race called the Obin who worship and protect Zoë because of a scientific breakthrough made by her late biological father. Readers of the previous books will find this mostly a rehash, but engaging character development and Scalzi's sharp ear for dialogue will draw in new readers, particularly young adults. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
At the close of the widely admired Old Man’s War trilogy, Scalzi hinted he would take a long break from his saga of seniors rejuvenated for interstellar battle. But reader demand has extracted one more installment. Zoe Boutin Perry is the adopted daughter of John Perry and Jane Sagan, heroes of the first and third installments (Old Man’s War, 2004; The Last Colony, 2007). Complicating her life as an otherwise ordinary, wisecracking 15-year-old is her status as a venerated idol of the Obin, an alien race who owe their self-awareness to an invention of Zoe’s late biological father. Accompanied everywhere by her overprotective Obin bodyguards, Hickory and Dickory, Zoe quickly realizes how critical the Obin are to her family’s survival when the Colonial Defense Force overseeing the Perrys’ colonization of a new world underhandedly pits them against a murderous alliance of alien races. Scalzi takes a calculated risk in adopting Zoe’s adolescent viewpoint, but it pays off in a captivating story. --Carl Hays
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Here she is. You learn the backstory first. This young girl has some reason to be jaded or suffering from a sense of victimhood, but is happy and well adjusted to life with her odd parents. Dad is an ancient American, but not as ancient by a few hundred years as he needs to be for this story. Formerly a modern warrior himself he would be capable of wiping out the entire colony personally. Her mom is an artificially created human who sprang full grown into life as an elite warrior, capable of laying low entire Seal teams and dad. How does Scalzi make them loving and caring parents modeled from the days of Leave It To Beaver? I don't know. He sort of slips into it in his previous books, but it makes sense in Scalzi's Old Man's War series is as curious a blend of political corruption and idealism triumphant as you would ever read and believe. These people belong in that universe as he pulls that off again. They all must be from Iowa. And the two alien bodyguards? Bodyguards who would easily kill everyone she knows, including her mother, to keep her from any harm and are the representatives of a powerful alien race that worships her. The threat of displeasing her keeps them in line, barely. Now, you may wonder how any adventure could come to a girl surrounded by such an array as this. You don't know teenage girls.
From a teenage girl's point of view of her life on the Last Colony of Roanoke you have: intelligent and dangerous pet alien monsters, slobbery dog, benign neglectful parents with just the right touch of mature wisdom, boys, girls, boys and girls again, politics, an alien planet complete with more aliens, and one other revered meta, keeping important secrets from the adults. You have to love that last one, from Tom Sawyer to Harry Potter, untold secrets are where the drama is.
There's a story for you. Yet you still believe she is just your average middle class 1960's midwestern American girl with an iPad.
She is immediately thrust into an adventure from her agraian life right into the rigors of colonizing an alien planet. Typical of a teenage girl, she discovers the terrible secret of the the mission before her parents, the leaders of the colony. Not by much, but a coup none the less that begins the story of how she and her friends are working their way to the same conclusion of the story as her parents and the rest of the colonists. The story is about her, her female and male friends and how life with the powerless develops parallel to the powers-that-be. She eventually becomes the story and the proud progeny of her parents. Although she's not, really. You may not notice that until you think about it.
She is believable to me in the context of the story, There are some jerks and stops as the story gets started, but then Scalzi has to make this work and he does.
Zoe is sort of like a midwestern Podkayne. The similarities between the two jumped out at me as I started this book. Not that the stories are anything alike other than teenage girl heroines written by male writers. But I think she is the teenage girl men who like women think of, when they are not designing killer aliens and enhanced humans with neat hardware to deal with them.
Definitely worth the read and completes The Lost Colony nicely.
I've read all the "Old Man's War" books and enjoyed them as well, but Zoe's Tale is personal as I have a soon to be teen who's wonderful in every way, and I hope that she too will grow to be as considerate, thoughtful, resourceful, and intelligent as Zoë Boutin Perry.
However the last half of the book was worth it. The story at that point was worth it and I'm looking forward to where it goes next
While it does a decent job of standing on its own, it really should be read right after reading TLC. It does a great job of adding value to areas that were glossed over in TLC without over re-hashing them. I never felt like I was re-reading TLC even though we know what is coming next.
This kind of writing is incredibly hard and the author pulled it off well. Zoe has her own life and voice, brings in some unexpected story lines, ties up others and improves upon some areas from TLC. For example, the death of a family in TLC was a fairly unemotional piece of the story. In Zoe, it's a critical part of what makes Zoe the person she is.
I would love to see a whole new series with Zoe as the main character. Scalzi created a memorable leader with her and it seems like a waste of potential story to let her end now.
That said, the book got 4 stars instead of 5 for the occasional boredom and the semi hokey ending. Parts of the end felt a little rushed and unrealistic, depending too much on TLC to fill some gaps. None of which ruins the book, just takes it from 5 to 4 stars.
Thanks for a good read!