Tuesday, September 08, 2015

What We're Reading: The Old Man's War Series

At the end of The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale, the third and fourth books of John Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” series, the Colonial Union (CU), the human political/military force that has been farming the Earth for more than two centuries for humans to utilize as soldiers and colonists, is suddenly--and seemingly irreconcilably--cut off from the Earth. This is a blow of nearly unimaginable proportions to the CU; something that they have been trying to prevent, by restricting industrial, technological and economic growth so that there would always be a steady supply of human “resources” at their disposal. And they never saw it coming...

The CU and the Colonial Defense Force (CDF) are thus required to rely upon diplomacy, rather than military might, to resolve the many and varied issues that come from being part of the larger cosmic community. In The Human Division, readers were allowed to follow some previously established minor characters from the series (as well as some new ones) as they make their way through the minefield of galactic politics. At the end of that novel, the CU was once again left in the midst of a situation that threatened not only its existence, but that of the Earth and The Conclave, the CU’s primary challenger in terms of intergalactic governments.

The End of All Things picks up shortly after the occurrences that ended The Human Division. The cliffhanger that ended that novel is swiftly resolved in this new one. The remainder of the book follows these now familiar characters as they attempt to prevent the book’s title from coming to pass. The stakes are high, and the existence of four political movements/governments are at stake. All of them will not survive; the question is, which one(s) will prevail, and how?

Book #6 is another enjoyable and satisfying chapter in the “Old Man’s War” saga. While still incorporating some elements of space opera and buddy adventure/comedy, The End of All Things is primarily a galactic thriller, exploring political hows, whys and what ifs on a galactic scale. Scalzi should be commended for questioning the political force he created at the beginning of the series. While it made this series possible, it has also seemed to embrace the shadows and stand on questionable ethical ground with its actions and motivations. This novel addresses questions many readers have expressed over the years. 

Like its predecessor, The End of All Things was initially released in a serialized format as four e-novellas during June, 2015. Now the stories have been collected into a single volume. As before, each story stands nicely on its own as an individual episode in a larger story and, when collected, the stories form a satisfying and enjoyable venture into an established universe.

Surprisingly,  the book also ends on a positive and optimistic note. While there is certainly room for another entry in the “Old Man’s War” saga, this is the first book of the last four that isn't a cliffhanger, but instead concludes with a sense of accomplishment and resolution. This does not mean that there aren’t questions left unanswered, but the largest, most pressing ones have been addressed. Even so, this reader was left wanting to know what happens next! We can only hope Mr. Scalzi will someday return to this universe.

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