Author: John Scalzi
I picked up this book thinking it would be a stand-alone novel within a universe Scalzi had created and to which I already read the main introductory material (Old Man’s War).
Yes, Scalzi did write every novel as a stand alone… except this one… which is actually the second part in a two novel arc.
Well done me for not even doing the slightest bit of research on that one.
Thankfully, while it would have been nice to know what happened before, I still found I could get into it quite easily.
First things out of the way, if you haven’t read anything by John Scalzi before, he is the most accessible and fun science-fiction writer today. I don’t say that lightly because I read a lot of science fiction.
You can just tell that he has a lot of fun while writing and it shows on every page.
John, if you actually find writing to be the most mind-bending wreck of an activity that causes you to pull the hairs from your cat, it doesn’t show.
Without giving too much away because, again — I didn’t read the first book in this two novel arc — it’s a story told in four novellas about fractured political organizations trying to patch together chaos across the universe of alien factions.
It starts with a scary form of torture of what it would be like to be nothing more than a brain in a box and keeps you gripped from there.
While there is a lot happening, the novel still moves at a quick enough pace that you never feel bogged down reading it. The characters also have more than enough personality that you never get lost in the dialogue, which is much appreciated. There’s nothing worse than having to constantly ask, “Who said that?”
As a first book in the Scalzi library, I wouldn’t recommend this one. However, if you’ve read Old Man’s War and The Human Division (the book before this one), you’ll enjoy it.