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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 18 January 2017
Zoe’s Tale is an odd book for one major reason. The whole novel is a re-telling of the previous book in the Old Man’s War series - The Last Colony, but told through from the viewpoint of a different character - in this case Zoe Perry, 17 year old daughter of John Perry and Jane Sagan.

Zoe is no ordinary 17 year old girl, being the adopted daughter of two ex genetically engineered super soldiers (now given ‘normal’ bodies again) and worshiped as a God by the Obin, an alien race gifted with consciousness by Zoe’s scientist father.

Caught up a galactic conflict against various hostile (and in some cases flesh-eating) alien races, Zoe’s Tale isn’t the best introduction to the Old Man’s War series (start at the beginning with Old Man’s War, you won't regret it) and is best thought of as a sort of ‘Director’s Cut’ of The Last Colony. Zoe’s Tale fleshes out some plot points that were underdeveloped in that book, as well as giving some background to a rather deus ex machina solution to a problem that occurs at the end of The Last Colony.

The book could easily be a rather pointless exercise, save for one thing. The character of Zoe Perry is someone I enjoyed spending time with. Balancing the fine line between teenage life and galaxy spanning conflict, Zoe has a well developed and rich personality . One of John Scalzi’s strengths as a writer is that his characters are as interesting as his plots and this book is no exception

Whilst not an essential read, and not adding a huge amount to the Old Man’s War saga, Zoe’s Tale is a fine distraction, and if you’re a fan of the previous books, you will want to read this one
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VINE VOICEon 4 April 2016
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 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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on 6 August 2009
Zoe's Tale is the fourth novel from John Scalzi set in his Old Man's War universe (Old Mans War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony), although this time we have another viewpoint. Previously we've followed either John Perry or his wife, Jane, but in Zoe's Tale we get what the title make obvious - the story of Zoe, their adopted daughter. We also have another first in that the events of Zoe's Tale run parallel to those in The Last Colony. So, does Zoe's Tale live up to the promise of Scalzi's previous novels? Is Scalzi able to write as effectively as a 17 year old girl? Does the book work when we're getting a story re-told? The answer to all of these is a resounding yes!

I won't lie - I'm a big fan of John Scalzi and find his writing compulsive reading, but the thought of reading a story following events that I had already followed didn't do much for me. Perhaps this is why I didn't import the US hardback when it was released last year, although I feel that the wait I had between The Last Colony and Zoe's Tale was needed. If I had read both of them back to back I think I would have been a little less likely to enjoy it as much with all events fresh in my mind. The break between them allowed the time needed and it let me come to this with a fresh perspective.

Basically, John and Jane are asked to lead the first colony world founded by current colonists (rather than Earth natives). With a threat from the Conclave - a gathering of races now turning towards more peaceful solutions than the fighting that has gone on for many, many years - to all other races not a member that any colony founding will be dealt with by, if necessary, deadly force. John, Jane and Zoe are thrown into the deep end of the Colonial Union politics. Zoe, a person regarded by the Obin as a figure of near-messiah status due to her fathers work, is seventeen year old trying to settle into new colony life after leaving everything she knew behind. And this is how we see it - through her eyes, seeing things that a teenager does that adults don;t necessarily pick up on.

As we see things from Zoe's side it gives the opposite viewpoint to the military one we had in The Last Colony. We also get to find out a little more about events that took place during The Last Colony that weren't fully covered in the book, or events in the previous book that have some follow on side-events here. These are mainly minor, from the children's point of view of the strange attempts at breaking into the village, the attacks on the village and, ultimately, the arrival of the Conclave. The biggest addition is the time Zoe spends apart from her parents in trying to find a solution to the whole Conclave/Colonial Union problem. This is outlined in The Last Colony, but getting to see it first hand and experiencing everything properly certainly adds to the story.

Scalzi once again delivers an excellent story with great characters. Yes, the viewpoint is not one you'd expect from an author who has given us some pretty great military sci-fi books, but it works. In a book where the main downside is that it's reliving previously told events - which isn't as bad as it sounds, not by a long shot - John Scalzi has given us a story with everything he's known for in his typical flair. Very highly recommended!
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on 18 November 2017
The fourth book in the Old Man’s War series is one of the strangest novels I’ve read. Not because of anything in the novel itself - it’s the tale of a young girl on a new colony, settling in and learning about herself and the world she’s arrived in. Instead because of how it fits into the series. This is the same story as told in the previous book, The Last Colony, just from a different point of view.

While in some ways this is a fascinating idea, and somewhat typical of the adventurous approach to storytelling taken by John Scalzi in his novels (Redshirts and Lock In which I’ve read both play with novel ideas too), it gives the reader a strange sense of déjà vu, particularly as it’s some time (nearly two years)( since I read the previous novel.

Despite that, it’s still a great story that works really well, and I felt that Scazi captured the voice of a young sarcastic girl well. The range of characters that we get to see is different, and this helps to build a richer world, and there’s still a river of politics flowing through that even a 12-year-old girl can get involved in.

And enjoyable read, if a weird experience. Definitely a world I want to return to and an author who’s on my must-buy list.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 February 2010
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 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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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 11 October 2013
I have enjoyed the first three books of Old Men's War very much, so it was with much trepidation that I approached the 4th book thinking to myself
A) why did the author write the 3rd book again? How lazy is that?
B) I had a bad experience with the rewrite of my beloved Ender's Game. This can only fail
C) From the viewpoint of a teenage girl, is this guy insane?

I shouldn't have worried. The book is brilliant and moving, and most importantly doesn't feel as rushed as the third book but nicely explains all the missing bits - as if John had planned to write this book all along (the acknowledge at the end claims otherwise ). I very much look forward to passing this book to my daughter when she is a teenager in a few years.

Read it, love it.
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