The Last Colony is a science fiction novel, the conclusion to author John Scalzi's trilogy of novels set in the universe of John Perry and humanity's Colonial Union.
In Old Man's War, the first novel, Scalzi introduced us to a fictional universe in which many different intelligent races compete to colonize the relatively few habitable planets. The Ghost Brigades, the second novel, explored the lives of the highly augmented human soldiers that defend the Colonial Union.
The Last Colony is a direct sequel to both novels. The main protagonist is John Perry, hero of the first novel. Perry has retired from the Colonial Defense Forces and has married the hero of the second novel, Jane Perry (née1 Sagan), also retired. Their adopted daughter, Zoë, completes their family. The Perrys are asked by the Colonial Union to lead a new human colony — a situation complicated by a ban on the founding of new colony worlds. This ban is imposed by the Conclave, an alliance of non-human species which humanity opposes. When their colony ship arrives at its destination, the Perrys quickly find themselves in a web of conflicting agendas, many of them hidden and not all of them human.
The Last Colony is less of a 'military SF' novel than its predecessors. Although this element remains present, the book explores the political and social dynamics of Scalzi's universe. As the novel progresses, John Perry progressively discovers more about his situation, and the dynamics of the various forces acting for and against his new colony. Yet the physical threats to the Perrys and their colony are very real, and Scalzi retains his deft touch at creating gripping battle scenes when they're needed.
The progressive reveals of the novel keep the dramatic tension high, and the twists are often suprising without feeling forced. They lead to a satisfying conclusion, and one which I didn't expect. I truly enjoyed the novel, and would rank it as my favourite of the three books.
The book isn't without a few flaws. On his blog, Whatever2, Scalzi talks about how much the novel changed as it was written, dropping its original main character and altering its narrative structure. Artifacts from this transformation seem to remain, including a plot line involving Indigenous species that seems to stall. As well, an unusual mix of colonists is set up but never really used to drive the plot. These loose threads don't detract from the story in any way, but I was left wondering about them when it was done. I was also disappointed in Jane Perry's part in the story. Much as in The Ghost Brigades, I felt that Scalzi had trouble writing Jane, not coming to terms with her otherness. She felt less like a character and more like a plot device as the novel went on, leaving the book largely to be John Perry's story. We meet again a few alien races from the preceding books, but few new ones, and none of them realized in any detail.
But these quibbles aside, the story is rich and intricate, and the reader follows willingly along with John Perry as he struggles to establish and protect his colony and its citizens from numerous threats and pressures. The ending is satisfying, yet leaves us to wonder what will happen next.
Scalzi has said that The Last Colony is the last book in the "Old Man's War" series, but that he may return to its universe with other characters. Whether he does or not, The Last Colony is a fitting capstone to an excellent series of novels, and well worth a look.
- In the sense of 'was before' if not precisely in the sense of 'born'...
- http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004477.html (An external link. (Duh.))