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Another great one from Scalzi
on 1 September 2008
The Conclave, a collective of over 400 alien species, has declared any attempts at colonisation by non-conclave members on any planet will be met with the removal of the colony. The CDF, not a member of the conclave, plans to make a mockery of the conclave by setting up a new colony and leaking false information about its whereabouts.
To run this colony a family is chosen, one with a history and capabilities that can help it succeed. John Perry, a CDF veteran with a decorated history; Jane Sagan, a former CDF special forces intelligence officer with knowledge usually reserved for the highest ranking CDF officers; and Zoe Boutin, daughter to the traitor Charles Boutin and now worshipped by the Obin for her fathers work in bringing them consciousness.
But the colony is not told of its secret until they arrive at the planet and find themselves unable to use technology for fear of bringing the conclave to them. Will the colony survive and, more importantly for the CDF, will their plan to break the conclave work?
We once again return to the Old Man's War universe, this time with familiar characters from both the previous novels. John and Jane are already well flushed out characters, but put in a new situation it gives a new light to them. We've seen them in the Colonial Defense Force but now we get treated to normal family life, at least for a while, before they're thrown into the situation of being cut off from civilisation.
The rest of the characters, ranging from politicians to farmers and all in between, are nicely flushed out. The motivations and ideals they hold are well defined and interesting to see mixed together. The situation they are in gives Scalzi a good stage to develop them further than I would have thought, and by telling people they can't use technology it explores what a lot of people these days would feel very uncomfortable with. He does it with ease and style, a couple of the reasons that his books are so readable.
What I've noticed the most about Scalzi's writing is the way it has developed through the three books. Old Man's War was all first person and although there was good description at times, it wasn't about that. It was about telling the story. The Ghost Brigades stepped away from that point of view and included some info-dumping sections that sometimes felt a little, well, info-dumping. This time we have some first person, some third person and the info-dumping is a lot less obvious. It's there, don't be mistaken, but this time it just feels smoother.
All the things I've come to expect from a John Scalzi novel were here again this time, although the humour to a lesser extent (and that's something I really did enjoy about Old Man's War). I wasn't disappointed, and with the high expectations I had I can't praise it any more than that.