Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek (Inspector Rebus, #2)Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin
Published: 1991
Series: Inspector Rebus #2
Length: 224 pages

I’ve finally gotten to the second novel in the Inspector Rebus series. I enjoyed the first one, Knots and Crosses, but I wasn’t in love, so I thought I should try one more just to see.

Since the last novel, Detective Rebus has been promoted to Inspector. It feels like he’s still getting used to the position and is maybe somewhat insecure, because he can act like a complete ass at times, and it seems unprompted and against his usual level nature. He’s also fully in classic detective mode now – living alone and single, his partner having recently left, and a borderline alcoholic. The amount of drunk driving he does in this is impressive, although obviously not recommended.

A junkie is found dead in an abandoned house, and it looked like a clear-cut overdose case, but something compels Rebus to investigate further. At least, it’s said to be a clear-cut case by other investigators, but the body was bruised, obviously posed, and surrounded by satanic symbols and candles. I know I’m not formally trained, but I was right there with Rebus on this one.

The nature of the crime, after some investigation, suggests that a lot more people could be hurt by the same killer, so Rebus takes on the case. His investigation leads him all over the city and the story is anything but predictable. In fact there’s really no way you’d be able to see the ending coming, and I can’t decide if I like that or not. On one hand, it’s great when you reach the climax and all the little pieces throughout the novel click together perfectly, but on the other hand it’s probably near-impossible to pull that off without it feeling contrived. The ending here was a bit abrupt and unsatisfying, though.

This novel began with an introduction from Ian Rankin apologizing for Rebus not being fully realized yet as a character. He says he’s too well-read in this and listens to jazz and classical, when he shouldn’t be interested in such things. This bothered me a bit, as a bookish detective is exactly what I want, and it seems a little condescending to assume that someone in a blue-collar position couldn’t be well-read. We’ll have to see how that works itself out in the later books. If he replaces his bookshelves with some golf clubs I’m finding a new detective series.

Overall I really enjoyed this, probably more than the first book actually. It had a tighter, much less ridiculous plot, and more interesting secondary characters. I enjoy his writing style, but I have to admit there were some incredibly cheesy lines in this. I wish I wrote down the quote, but at one point Rebus says something along the lines of “there was something fishy about this, and that fish was a herring. A red one.” And I was like, Ian no. Take that back.

I’ve picked up the third novel. I’m still unsure about the series, but I’m going to try at least one more. There’s something about the character of Rebus and the setting that just draws me in.

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Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat: A MemoirFresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang
Published: 2013
Narrated by: Eddie Huang
Length: 07:55 (288 pages)

I haven’t seen the sitcom of the same name that was created from this book, but I have seen clips of Eddie Huang’s show on Vice. I wasn’t sure if I liked him then, and now after reading this I’m still not entirely sure what I think of him.

Eddie Huang is a restaurateur and a chef, with a successful Manhattan restaurant called BaoHaus that specializes in baozi, which are steamed Chinese meat buns. He became a known food personality after hosting a few shows on the Cooking Channel and, more recently, on Vice. He’s loud and brash, sometimes obnoxious, but he does have some interesting views and knows his way around food.

Huang grew up in Orlando, for most of his youth, and then moved to New York after university. His parents immigrated from Taiwan, and this autobiography deals largely with him growing up Asian in America, living in two worlds and feeling as if he doesn’t really fit either. He encountered a lot of racism growing up, both from students and teachers, and his home life with his parents was pretty bad at times as well. He started fighting a lot, getting into trouble at school, and selling drugs.

His life definitely had its obstacles, but he had a lot of breaks as well, and he doesn’t really seem to acknowledge that. His family was able to put him through law school, which he did just to prove he should be taken seriously. It feels like he wrote this before he reached that stage in life where you realize everyone else has problems too. So much of this felt like unwarranted bragging, and so many of his stories were juvenile to a cringe-worthy degree. If you’re young enough to think that stealing a tiki statue from someone’s yard or crashing a party and covering the host’s bunny in Doritos dust is prime material for your autobiography, you’re too young to be writing an autobiography.

It was American kitchen culture. Shit, it was American food culture. People would take pride in having hands covered by buffalo wing sauce or BBQ stains on their face. I remember watching meat heads in the dining room eat thirty-two-ounce porterhouses, challenging each other to see how much they could eat. The way those people experienced food didn’t make sense; it was gross to me. I always loved food, but it didn’t bring me any extra enjoyment to eat it or cook it like a frat boy.

I read this mainly because I thought it would be about food, having listed it as one of my Foodies Read 2016 picks, but that’s definitely not the main focus of the book. Food does play a large part, many of his memories are tied to the food he ate at that time, and it’s a major theme in his life, but you really have to pick through the corny high school stories to get to it. When he does talk about food, it’s fantastic. He describes it so well, adding just enough technical detail while letting his passion for the food shine through in every word. I really wanted more of that.

Eddie Huang feels like one of those friends that you’re slightly embarrassed to introduce to your other friends. They act like idiots, but if you get to know them they’re actually pretty cool. He can be hilarious at times, brutally honest, and is clearly a smart and passionate guy. His next book is out this month, Double Cup Love, and it looks to be a Chinese, food-centric travelogue, which I think could be much more up my alley.

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The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of WrathThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Published: 1939
Narrated by: Dylan Baker
Length: 21:05 (464 pages)

I’ve read two other Steinbecks, Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row, and I really enjoyed them both. The subject matter in his novels, typically people struggling to get by in the Great Depression, isn’t really something I find myself craving, but once I start reading I can’t stop. I’ve only read these few novels, but he’s slowly becoming one of my favourite authors.

At the beginning of this novel, Tom Joad is let out of jail on parole and returns to his family home, only to find it abandoned. He learns from his old neighbour that the banks evicted everyone from their land, replacing tenant farmers with mechanised agriculture practices, leaving thousands with no work and no place to live. This novel was Steinbeck’s angry response to the greed that cause the Great Depression after hearing the stories of these poor families. Tom Joad meets with his family, and they set off to California after hearing that there may be fruit-picking jobs there. Thousands of others do the same, and the situation becomes more and more hopeless. Those without homes can’t find work, and if they do it’s not for a fair wage, and the residents of California are now having their jobs taken and their wages undercut by these displaced farmers, which obviously creates a lot of conflict between the two groups.

“[…] But them sons-a-bitches at their desks, they jus’ chopped folks in two for their margin a profit. They jus’ cut ’em in two. Place where folks live is them folks. They ain’t whole, out lonely on the road in a piled-up car. They ain’t alive no more. Them sons-a-bitches killed ’em.”

Steinbeck writes some of the most vivid and fully realized characters I’ve ever come across. In just a few paragraphs, the reader is already starting to understand what they’re all about. His dialogue is a large part of it, and he does that brilliantly, but a lot of it is just the little touches in observations or actions that manage to speak volumes about how they think. You’re interested right away, and you care about them, so it doesn’t take long to get invested in the story.

Every now and then there’s a short chapter that is a complete tangent. It might be a description of Route 66 or a lyrical monologue from a used car salesman, and it’s in these chapters that it really jumped out at me how fantastic a writer Steinbeck was. Finding random chapters that read like writing exercises when I want to find out what’s happening with our characters is something that would normally drive me insane. I typically hate that, but I loved these side-passages. They were so beautifully written that it was just a pleasure to read, and they really expanded the reader’s understanding of the country’s situation. I particularly loved the car salesman chapter. It felt like something Tom Waits would write, which does makes sense as they have some parallels – quintessential American artists and voices for the downtrodden. I really wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Waits is a fan of Steinbeck.

“I ain’t gonna baptize. I’m gonna work in the fields, in the green fields, an’ I’m gonna be near to folks. I ain’t gonna try to teach em nothin’. I’m gonna try to learn. Gonna learn why the folks walks in the grass, gonna hear em talk, gonna hear em sing. Gonna listen to kids eatin’ mush. Gonna hear husban’ an’ wife a-poundin’ the mattress in the night. Gonna eat with em an’ learn.” His eyes were wet and shining. “Gonna lay in the grass, open an’ honest with anybody that’ll have me. Gonna cuss an’ swear an’ hear the poetry of folks talkin’. All that’s holy, all that’s what I didn’ understan’ All them things is the good things.”

There is a lot going on in this novel. It’s about a family with no home, a preacher with no faith, an expectant mother with no future, a father with no power, and a country full of people with no hope. It’s heartbreaking knowing that families went through such a thing, asked to leave their lives behind them to wander aimlessly, looking for any work they could find. Steinbeck’s writing really brought it all to life, and Dylan Baker’s amazing narration of the audiobook brought it to a new level. Hearing the dialogue spoken the way it’s meant to be spoken, for someone who isn’t that familiar with the accents of the southern US, was a real treat.

I really loved this, right through to the haunting final sentence. I think my next Steinbeck will either be East of Eden or Travels with Charley.

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The Alchemist

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Published: 1988
Translated by: Alan R. Clarke (from Portuguese in 1993)
Length: 167 pages

I’ve been hearing about this one for a long time now. At first I was excited to get to it, but as the years passed I started thinking it probably wasn’t for me. My girlfriend had a copy, though, and really loves the book, so I thought I’d give it a go.

This is the story of a young Shepard who discovers that his Personal Legend is to travel to the Egyptian pyramids to find his fortune. He is met at the beginning of the book by a king who tells him that if you want something bad enough, the universe will help make it happen. The boy sells his sheep, catches a boat from his home country of Spain down to Morocco and eventually sets out to cross the Sahara on course to Egypt.

This is written very simply in the style of a fable, which is something that often puts me off, but in this novel it worked quite well. It gives it a surreal tone, and the rhythm of how the story is told is almost mesmerizing. It really made me want to keep reading.

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

I knew the novel was never going to live up to its outrageous hype, so I tried to go in with that attitude. Anything described as life-changing puts me a bit on edge. My life remains seemingly unaltered, but I get why the idea of believing in a Personal Legend resonates with people. When you are so focused on accomplishing something it can feel at times like the universe is helping you along. I think it’s very similar to believing that writing affirmations down each morning will magically re-align the universe in your favour. I think both beliefs can be extremely beneficial, but not because they invoke otherworldly powers.

Both ideas involve setting a tangible goal and staying focused on it. If it’s constantly at the forefront of your mind, you’ll naturally head in that direction. You’ll make small unconscious decisions towards your goal, and those will lead to opportunities you may have otherwise overlooked, which you’ll be able to take advantage of at a moment’s notice because you’ll have already put the thought in. It’s like how you’re always told to look to where you want to go when learning to snowboarding or mountain bike. If you stare at a tree you don’t want to hit instead of down the trail, you’ll end up hitting that tree. You won’t even realize why, your body will just naturally turn you in that direction, so it’s important to focus down the path.

Personal Legends, or affirmations, are the same concept in my mind – just a focal point to move towards. It always bothers me a little that some people are so eager to pass off their own accomplishments to mysterious or higher powers. Take credit for it, even if you don’t fully understand every step you took. It’s more than a little self-centered to think the universe is bending to your will.

Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to the places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decisions.

Despite this gripe, which really is easy to look past while reading, the core values in this book are great – believe in yourself, control your own fate, don’t let fear keep you from happiness, pursue your dreams, and enjoy the journey. I think if I had read this in my early twenties, I would probably be a lot more in love with it, but it did still provide a lot to think about. I fear I’m probably more crystal merchant than I am alchemist these days.

Even if you don’t completely connect with the philosophy behind the book, it’s still an interesting read and a fun story of a boy on an epic journey, which I can always get behind.

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April in Review

Books Acquired:
Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel by Scott Adams
Exiles on Asperus by John Wyndham
Blankets by Craig Thompson
The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud
Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The Massacre Of Glencoe by John Buchan
I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
So, Anyway… by John Cleese
The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes
The Tenth Man by Graham Greene
Congo by Michael Crichton
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Books Read:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang
Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin
The Fold by Peter Clines

Everything except the first three books in the acquired list came from the used book sale last weekend. Someone left the Dilbert book in the lobby of our condo, and I thought it might be an interesting read. Exiles on Asperus and Blankets I picked up at the beginning of the month from a used book store in town. I want to eventually read everything by John Wyndham and I’ve been hearing about Blankets for ages now, although I’m not entirely sure it’s my thing.

I’ve been quite sick for the last couple of weeks, so I’ve done a whole lot of nothing, not even much gaming or reading in that time. Just a lot of staring off into the distance and hating life. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think I’m finally on the mend.

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My girlfriend managed to beat me at the book sale, picking up 18 books to my measly 14, so I thought I’d include a picture of her haul. I might steal and read Cloudstreet and The Bookseller (which I initially had in my basket before somehow tricking her into buying it instead, mwahaha).

Movies watched:
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015) – I really like Nina Simone and have been randomly listening to her music a bunch lately, but I had no idea the kind of life she led. This documentary was great, and shows just how troubled she was.

TV watched:
House of Cards: Season 4 (2016) – This series is still fantastic, although there were some weird and cheesy choices made in this season. Why does anyone with computer knowledge have to be a complete lunatic in this show? Not on the level of the first couple seasons, but still fun.

Girl Eat World: Season 1 (2015) – Not sure about this one. I love food travel shows, but something about the host just didn’t sit right with me. Most of her guests felt more natural in front of the camera than she did.

Games played:
Rocket league (2015) (PS4) – They came out with a basketball update to this, so I’ve been sucked in again. Such a great game.

Clash Royale (2016) (iOS) – I can’t believe I’m still playing this, but it’s a lot of fun. Quick matches with lots of depth.

What have you been reading/watching/playing this month?

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Times Colonist Annual Book Sale Haul

It’s that special time of year again. Christmas, you ask? No, much better than that. This weekend was the 19th annual used book here in Victoria. Every year they receive thousands of books by donation and sell them for one to three dollars. The proceeds go towards local literacy programs, and any remaining books are then made available for schools to pick up for free.

This means guilt-free book shopping! I also donated about nine of my own books, so I don’t even really have to worry about space.

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The only book I really had in mind going in was Tooth & Nail by Ian Rankin, as his books are always easy to find and I’m still undecided on the series, but I actually wasn’t able to find it. I think I came across every other book he’s written, but this one was nowhere to be found. I find that’s often the case with this sale. I never find what I’m specifically looking for, but I always still come home with a full box.

  • The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud
  • Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
  • Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
  • The Massacre Of Glencoe by John Buchan
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • So, Anyway… by John Cleese
  • The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes
  • The Tenth Man by Graham Greene
  • Congo by Michael Crichton
  • Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
  • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

All this for $34, and that’s actually more expensive than usual, but I picked up more hardcovers this year. I nearly bought John Cleese’s autobiography last month and then waited, so I was happy to pick that one up for $3. I’m also quite exited to get to The Salzburg Connection, as I love early to mid 20th century espionage and detective fiction, and I spent half a year in Salzburg during university. I plan to start with Gentlemen of the Road first, though, as I’ve been meaning to read a Michael Chabon novel for ages now.

Let the countdown for next year’s sale start now!

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Wishful Drinking

Wishful DrinkingWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Published: 2008
Narrated by: Carrie Fisher
Length: 03:08 (163 pages)

With the latest Star Wars release a few months back, I went down a black hole of interviews on YouTube and was reminded of how hilarious Carrie Fisher is. I knew she had written an autobiography, so I thought this would be the perfect time to check it out. It turns out she actually has three autobiographies and a number of novels, and after reading this I think I’ll eventually make my way through them all.

This first autobiography is based on her one-woman stage show, and it’s basically an overview of why she is so messed up, starting right from the beginning with being born the child of two celebrities, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.

Carrie Fisher has dealt with fairly severe bipolar disorder her entire life. Before she was diagnosed, as happens with many who suffer the same, her use of drugs and alcohol got out of hand and she found herself essentially self-medicating without knowing it – uppers for when you’re down, and downers for when you’re manic. It got bad enough that she underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) a few years before writing this, and I read somewhere that she has continued to use it to treat her depression since, which she goes into more detail about in later books.

ECT has come a long way from how it’s portrayed in the movies, even current movies, where someone is strapped to a table as punishment and the lights dim and flicker in the room as the patient’s body convulses. It is now done while the patient is medicated, they feel no pain, and it can apparently have incredible results in some people.

One side effect it can have is memory loss, which Fisher experienced, and she writes this from the perspective of regaining her memory after receiving ECT and seeing her crazy life from the outside – a fictional, drug-addicted princess with parent issues who not long ago awoke to find a dead gay Republican next to her in bed.

Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.

This is dark and hilarious, and Fisher’s narration of the audiobook really added to the experience. Her delivery was perfect. One of my favourite bits was her telling the story of how George Lucas explained to her his scientific reasoning of why she couldn’t wear a bra in space.

This is mainly stories from her childhood and her struggles with mental health, so you won’t get many Star Wars anecdotes in here. She’s actually been very outspoken about mental illness and the stigma around it for years now. It’s clearly something that’s affected her life and something she’s passionate about, and she tackles it with a lot of humour, which is always the best way to talk about potentially awkward topics.

I thought I would inaugurate a Bipolar Pride Day. You know, with floats and parades and stuff! On the floats we would get the depressives, and they wouldn’t even have to leave their beds – we’d just roll their beds out of their houses, and they could continue staring off miserably into space. And then for the manics, we’d have the manic marching band, with manics laughing and talking and shopping and fucking and making bad judgment calls.

Fisher is brutally honest on this. I don’t know how people can write so scathingly about their family and still be on speaking terms after, but she definitely doesn’t hold back anything here. At times it felt like she was trying a little too hard with her jokes, and presenting stuff as a little more scandalous than they came across, but it was never enough to take away from the experience.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Her next is Shockaholic, which I’ll be keeping an eye out for at the book sale next week.

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The Sculptor

The SculptorThe Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Format: Graphic Novel
Illustrated by: Scott McCloud
Publisher: First Second Books
Published: 2015
Length: 496 pages

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, but I kept hearing excellent things. I know Scott McCloud from, but haven’t yet read, his trilogy of non-fiction graphic novels on the topic of comics: Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics.

David Smith is a struggling artist who achieved minor fame early in his career and then watched it crumble away. He’s broke and facing possible homelessness, feeling like he’s hit rock bottom in his life, when he’s presented with a deal: his life for his art. He will be given a short amount of time to live, and in that time he will be able to create anything his imagination can conjure. Most people would not make such a trade, but for a depressed, selfish, fame-obsessed artist it seems perfect – a way out and a chance for his vision to live on. Of course, he meets an impossibly cool artsy girl along the way, and it complicates things. This is a tale of finding oneself, of the plight of an artist, and of an ill-fated romance.

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I thought this was fantastic. There were quite a few cliches in the storytelling, but because it was told in a whimsical way (both through the art and the plot), I found that easy to overlook. He balanced the two sides of the story, falling in love and pursuing his art, perfectly, adding tension in a way that didn’t feel too contrived.

This is the sort of story where the reader really needs to completely buy in from the beginning and just go along with it. Questions will arise, and it’s best to just smile and move on. Would someone willing to give their life for their art really spend what little time they have to selfishly pursue a new relationship, knowing that the best case scenario would only leave her, and his art, worse off? Would a sculptor receive the same pleasure from his art if it took no skill to create? Wouldn’t more people question how quickly he was able to produce his art or why they didn’t hear any hammering coming from his studio?

I also really didn’t like how he romanticized bipolar disorder. Perpetuating the tortured genius ‘I must suffer these lows to continue living a creative life’ cliche is both lazy and unhealthy. He did have characters who who took the side of medication, but he fell back on the idea of pushing through it with love, which is just silly.

I found myself able to easily brush these issues away while reading and just enjoy the story, which is strong enough to overcome these fairly minor problems. It was paced extremely well for such a chunky graphic novel, sometimes hectic and sometimes meandering, and I absolutely loved the art – his illustrations and the art the character creates. There is something really fun in watching someone vandalize a city in such an extreme way in the name of art.

I don’t know if McCloud has done much other fiction, but this has definitely given me a push to pick up his famous Understanding Comics soon.

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Golden Son

Golden Son (Red Rising, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Published: 2015
Series: Red Rising #2
Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 19:02 (464 pages)

Red Rising was one of my favourite books last year. I marked it as my first favourite, but I made the list right after reading it, and I might have still been coming down a bit. Either way, it was a fantastic novel. This is the second of the trilogy, and it easily lived up to the first book.

He always thinks because I’m reading, I’m not doing anything. There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extroverted.

I had a couple of small problems with the first book, mainly that the protagonist, Darrow, was a bit of a Gary Stu. He was fantastic at almost everything, which I could overlook since there were valid story elements that made that possible, but things seemed to come a little too easy for him. In this novel, outside of the ‘academy’ environment of Red Rising, not everything goes as smoothly, and that does serve as an interesting contrast to how he was used to being treated.

The first novel mainly took place in a training, clan-based, Hunger Games scenario, which was fun, but it left you feeling like not much happened. The scenario had real-world consequences, such as death and the forming of future alliances, but in a way it didn’t feel like it furthered the overall plot of Darrow’s mission. That turned around in this book, though, as he left the academy environment and made huge strides not just on Mars but throughout the galaxy. It made the stakes feel that much higher, the victories far more important and the failures even more painful. With this wider scope it did unfortunately meant there was less of the specific Ender’s Game like analysis of his tactics and motivations, which was my favourite part of the last book, but it made up for that in other ways. There are some brilliant scenes in this book

I will die. You will die. We will all die and the universe will carry on without care. All that we have is that shout into the wind – how we live. How we go. And how we stand before we fall.

This managed to avoid becoming the awkward middle child of the trilogy. I thought the plot had a strong fresh start, built off the first book, finished in a great place, and left the reader curious about what’s next to come. Everything a middle book in a trilogy should be. In many ways this improved upon the first, in some it fell a bit short, but overall this has been a fantastic series so far. Tim Gerard Reynolds’ narration of this is extraordinarily good as well.

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The Last Colony

The Last Colony (Old Man's War #3)The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Published: 2007
Series: Old Man’s War #3
Length: 336 pages

I’m a big fan of John Scalzi, and the Old Man’s War series are some of his best. This is the third novel, and in this we return to John Perry, the protagonist from the first book, and Jane Sagan.

This is a tricky one to summarize without giving away parts of the first book, but in a nutshell, the Colonial Defense Forces have decided to colonize a new planet despite pressure from a coalition of hundreds of races not to do so. John and Jane are chosen to lead the colonization efforts, and not only must they guide the settlers to thrive in a new environment and protect them from any dangers on the surface, but they also have to help the colony survive extraterrestrial threats.

This wasn’t my favourite of the series, but it was still a blast to read. I love Scalzi’s sarcastic dialogue, and the universe he’s built in this series is endlessly interesting, filled with different races and government intrigue. This definitely could have been a bit of a slower read, compared to the plots of the first two books, but it does turn out to be quite action packed. I was as equally interested in the managing of a new settlement as I was in the space opera-ish side of the story, which is a testament to how well he paced the plot. I also like how each of the novels in this series feels like a serious departure from the previous story, while still maintaining an identifiable tone and cohesive feel.

It’s good fun, but I did feel like it lacked some depth, as some parts of it felt underdeveloped. There’s a species on the planet that the settlers spend some time investigating, and confronting, and it felt like it led nowhere at all. I suppose the point was to add tension, and to drive home the fact that they were left on this planet without sufficient information, but by the end it just felt like an unfinished subplot or some action for action’s sake. This entire plot was also put into place because the Colonial Union, the human organization in charge of space expansion and defense, has apparently turned both stupid and evil, willing to sacrifice thousands of humans for recruitment purposes as a seemingly first option, and we don’t really get much background on that. It’s not one man with a mad scheme, it’s apparently a tactic agreed upon by all of the leaders.

There was a lot going on in these few hundred pages, which did cause them to fly by, but it also left us with some unexplored plot elements and flat main characters. This was supposed to be the last novel in the trilogy, but he’s written two more since this was published. I feel like if I thought this was the end, it would have been a fun but slightly disappointing end to a great series. The next book is actually a retelling of this same story, but told from another character’s point of view, which is an interesting idea. It’s hard to imagine that it’ll grip me the same way if I already know the outcome. It does sound like many of the underdeveloped plot points in this book will be expanded upon in Zoe’s Tale, so I’ll have to see how that goes.

Despite its minor problems, this was a lot of fun. If you’ve enjoyed any of his other books, definitely give this series a try, because it’s fantastic.

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