The Last Colony
The Last Colony by John Scalzi is the third entry into his Old Man’s War series. There are two more books so far (The Sagan Diary and Zoe’s Tale) so I’ll term it a series. I enjoyed this entry also and enjoyed all three books quite a lot. I think that Scalzi did a good job in what he set out to do–write a fun and entertaining series of semi-hard SF.
This book picks up with John Perry again. He is now retired from the CDF and living on a colony world with wife Jane and adopted daughter Zoe. Their bucolic bliss is soon interrupted as a CDF general visits and asks them if they would be willing to be the colony leaders of a newly forming colony. The Perry’s decide to take up the offer fairly quickly. There are a couple of problems though. First, the colony is being colonized with people from 10 different colony worlds rather than directly from Earth. This makes for logistical and political problems different than the usual colony formation.
The next big problem arrives when they skip to their destination planet. More on that after the cut (some spoilers):
When they arrive from the skip they quickly discover that the world they (all the colonists) have arrived at isn’t the one to which they thought they were going. It turns out the Conclave (think interstellar UN) has actually been formed (it was discussed in book 2) and it has banned any non-Conclave race from establishing colonies. Humanity, in the form of the Colonial Union, has not signed on as part of the Conclave. Thus, any colony they establish will be removed (forcibly if needed) from the planet.
Thus, the CU has decided to do a bait and switch. They announced to the galaxy at large that the colony would be going one place, but then sent it to another hidden location. Not only are they to be hidden, but they are to be isolated. Once they have transferred to the ground, the crew has to transfer also and they ship is destroyed (into the sun.)
Scalzi adds a nice touch in that one of the groups of colonists is Mennonite in origin and so can help the other colonists with low tech. This is especially useful as part of hiding involves not using any form of wireless communications. This is all good, well written and enjoyable. As I mentioned at the start, I liked the book. I also quite liked the final resolution that the book ends at.
There were, however, a couple of things that seemed to be left kind of dangling as this book concluded. Or, if not dangling, Scalzi decided to go off in a different direction. One thing that started off quite interesting was that the colonists discovered that there was another sentient species on the planet. The initial survey wasn’t very good and had overlooked this. There is a very well done initial encounter, but that is really all there is. Maybe he’s saving more for later, but that part felt a bit unfinished.
There is also the whole “why hadn’t the vicious aliens discovered Earth and eaten them before” question that I mentioned in book 1. Scalzi does address this a bit in that a particular alien explains they were too busy fighting each other to do much exploring. Possible, but it seemed like there could be more there.
There is also a fair amount of uncovered background for the Colonial Union. Where did they get their technological leg up? Are they really bad guys as is implied or is something else going on? These last could be intended to be addressed in some future volume.