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on 16 February 2009
This is the fourth book set in the Old Man's War universe, but it's not a continuation of the story arcs he established in the first three, but rather a retelling of the events of the third book, The Last Colony, but told this time from a very different perspective, that of sixteen year old Zoe Boutin-Perry, daughter of a traitor, the object of a major treaty between the Colonial Union and the Obin, and adopted by John and Jane Perry.

Now doing something like this is fraught with peril, as readers of the earlier books will certainly know how everything ends, and will therefore have little sense of suspense throughout this work. It is even more perilous for a middle-aged man to attempt to find the correct `voice' for a teenaged female, one that rings true and will appeal to younger readers, and still engage readers of much greater ages. I'm happy to say that Mr. Scalzi quite deftly succeeded very, very well with both the characterization and being able to still hold at least this reader glued to the pages, even without the suspense.

Zoe herself is a full-bodied person, one you'd definitely like to meet, someone you come to care about a great deal over the course of this work. She's not perfect, she makes mistakes, occasionally her sarcasm and biting comments might make you grimace, and there is an element of unthinking `me-ness' to her, an attitude that she's unique. But in this case, she really is unique - not many girls can say that they are the goddess-object of an entire alien race. But besides her, several of her close friends also come alive as real people, something that's a little rare in first-person perspective works. Gretchen, Magdy, and Enzo are very much real people, and even better, real teenagers.

Certain aspects of other major players are given better backgrounds, most especially the Obin and Zoe's two Obin bodyguards, Hickory and Dickory, and a certain story `hole' in The Last Colony gets a better, fuller explanation. These are nice touches that help hold your interest.

Scalzi's writing style has much to do with your enjoyment of this book. It's witty, sarcastic, funny, thoughtful, and incredibly easy to read, a trait he shares with a writer he's often compared to, namely Robert Heinlein. But beyond this, in this book he also grabs your jugular of emotional response, expertly playing you like a harp, and making you at time furious, sad, and very strongly up-lifted to the point of tears. It's just this strong emotional content that makes me think this book is better than The Last Colony, and on par with the first book of this series, Old Man's War.

All in all, a great accomplishment, one that should appeal to both teenagers and old codgers like me.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 20 May 2014
It was a pleasant enough read, if you had time to while away, but not very inspiring. Not what you would call a page turner. Mainly because, having read the original account of Roanoke, we all knew what was going to happen. It therefore seemed more like a slightly silly, gossipy girlie witness statement of events rather than a story in its own right.
If we are going to do this again, let's get Hickory's version of events. The interpretation might be a little more stretching than this.
By the authors own admission, it was a convenience to tie up a few loose ends, but I think I would have been happier with a one page list of 'tied off loose ends' sent to each Kindle reader who had bought Last Colony.
Read it, set complete. Done.
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As a huge fan of Scalzi since Old Mans War, I really do have to get these books in the series as soon as they land. So when the latest offering landed I was interested to see how this latest hero of the future would fit into the Hienlinesque universe to which Scalzi writes.

What appears is a character of great heart and warmth and whilst she won't be to everyones cup of tea, the tale wouldn't work if it wasn't for the sheer likability as well as full roundedness of her. She's a breath of fresh air in the Sci-Fi genre and hopefully a character that will have many other adventures so that we can get to see more of her. Add to that fully rounded supporting characterisation along the wonderful world building and the only thing that you do know is that no matter what happens you're in for a real roller-coaster ride as the characters within try to find a way to cope with the changing needs of them not only socially but emotionally as well as communally. Great offering to the reader and make Scalzi a must own for all Sci-Fi fans.
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on 7 October 2009
This was reviewed in the latest issue of SFX magazine, and it sounded so interesting that I immediately bought the book. I'm really glad I did - I absolutely loved it. It's the best new book I've read in quite a while.

It's actually the fourth book in a series, but since it's based around a new character, I didn't have the slightest problem understanding it (though I do now intend to track down the earlier novels, and possibly even more of the author's work). Apparently it retells the events of "The Last Colony" from another character's perspective, which is a bit of a weird idea I suppose but presumably there's a lot going on that the main characters in each of those novels don't know about. Zoe's an engaging main character; sarcastic, intelligent, flawed but likeable, and surprisingly convincing as a teenage girl despite being written by a 38-year-old man.

The first thing that drew me to the novel was Zoe's status as icon to an entire race, the Obin. Essentially, her biological father gave the species consciousness, and after his death they kind of revered her, and also studied her as a way of teaching themselves how to live. On the one hand, she has a hell of a lot of power over them; on the other hand, she lacks freedom as almost everything she says or does is recorded and transmitted to the entire species. What I liked about it is that the Obin are not pushovers or timid beings reaching out for instruction; in fact, they're rather feared by most species for being deadly warriors. Watching Zoe's interaction with her two Obin bodyguards, Hickory and Dickory (who she named as a child after the nursery rhyme, a fact she feels somewhat embarrassed about) is the highlight of the novel for me.

I believe that much of the Old Man's War series is military sci-fi; this novel had elements of that, but on the whole it felt more like maybe an Anne McCaffrey novel, a little bit similar to her Catteni series perhaps. Zoe's parents are the leaders of a new colony, which is being used as a pawn by the Colonial Union - essentially as bait, to create a chance to attack their enemy, the Conclave. Zoe has to play a crucial role in defending the colony, Roanoke, despite being just 17 years old.

The main thing, though, is that John Scalzi's writing is absolutely excellent. There isn't a single moment I can think of where I would say "I wish this had been done differently"; I didn't find a single typo; and it was incredibly easy to sink into, and very gripping. I greatly recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading light science fiction.
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As the author himself explains in his acknowledgement at the end of this book, “Zoë`s
Tale” was written as a parallel novel to “The Last Colony”.

I won't trouble you with the plot, as it is essentially the same as TLC; what it does is to bring a different perspective to the proceedings of that novel told by Zoë herself, so naturally the tone is different, the narrative conveyed in the slightly smart-alecky style of a teen-age girl, though Zoë of course, through circumstance has a bit more maturity and responsibility than most seventeen-year-olds.
The book serves to clarify and explain a few of the episodes from the TLC plotline and to provide a deeper and more rounded picture of events and some characters as they appeared in the original book.
Is it essential reading if you`ve read TLC? No, not really, but if – like me - you enjoyed TLC it isn`t a trial to re-immerse yourself in it`s world a second time; just be prepared for a rather more Young Adult approach to the storytelling – otherwise it`s a fairly entertaining, engaging and fast read. It does get a little saccharine in places - given the emotional currents of Zoë`s character - but otherwise it provides a fairly decent supplement/coda to both TLC and the first trilogy in the series.

I enjoyed it, reading it a few months after bingeing on the first three “Old Man's War” novels; a minor deviation from Scalzi`s usual approach in storytelling perhaps, but it is certainly no literary disaster.
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on 22 February 2014
Too neat and tidy, lost ends and conflicts resolved so,ooo easily at every turn and the twist to the story happy ending NOT was transparent early on. A book to read just to complete the series.
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on 16 August 2010
One of Scalzi's best. Happily it is not all soldiers and wars. Zoe is a real charecter; one to enjoy. I will probably read it again. That is how I define 5 stars. This book which looks at Scalzi's previous novel from Zoe's perspective. Zoe is John and Jane's (the heros of Last Colony) adopted daughter.It really opens your eyes to how much isn't written down in lots of novels. Read The Last colony first then this.
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on 7 April 2013
This is a pleasant book to read and one I would give 3.5 out of 5 to.

It is Sci-Fi - set on a colonist ship and colony frontier world, but from the viewpoint of an important 17 year old girl. That is, to my mind, a refreshing, different, approach to this kind of story, and makes it more human and less fantastical, which in turn is a nice change for this kind of book and setting.

The Sci-Fi isn't too way-out, and super-technology is kept to a minimum. Yes there are starships and several alien races, but there is not much future-tech to bend the readers mind and make it all seem too whacky. Scalzi doesn't try to impress us too much with his intricate vision of future life and so the book feels surprisingly real and normal, considering.

The teenage-girl focus is in places a little soppy school-girl (to my mind) combined with heavy dollops of Daria (the cartoon series) cynicism and sarcasm, but not too much and not so that I wanted to stop reading. She (Zoe, the main character) finds her steel and reconciles her central place in all the events by the end of the book and overall it reads well and the plot twists and developments are satisfying. I liked it.

I think it is a nice quiet, fitting end to the John Perry and Jane Sagan series.
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I will confess that I approached Zoe's Tale with some trepidation. How much entertainment value, I wondered, would there be in having the plot of Scalzi's novel The Last Colony retold? Surely knowing how the tale panned out would rob it of any drama. Plus was I, a thirty something man, really interested in an already familiar story told from the perspective of a teenage girl? For these reasons I put off tackling Zoe's Tale for several months.

As it turns out I needn't have worried. Scalzi's skills as a writer are more than enough to cope with telling the story successfully through the eyes of a teenager and to make it engaging for all ages and sexes. He even succeeds in making the plot feel fresh and entertaining despite it being a retread of The Last Colony. In fact Zoe's Tale complements its predecessor, providing additional depth to events.

By the end, despite my initial doubts, I was totally wrapped up in events on the page. At times I even found I had a lump in my throat, which is not a common occurrence for me when I'm reading.

John Scalzi is a fantastic writer who manages to bring real humanity to the science-fiction tales he writes. Zoe's Tale is a perfect demonstration of his skills. If you're not familiar with his work I would suggest picking up one of his earlier novels, such as Old Man's War or The Android's Dream before tackling this novel. I would definitely say to read The Last Colony first and possibly take a break after that before picking up Zoe's War, but you will not be disappointed when you do. Like me you may be very pleasantly surprised.
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on 28 December 2014
As a writers exercise this is fine, but basically it's a repeat of book 3 from Zoe's perspective, doesn't seem to take the over-riding story arc any further.
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